Best Trees for Privacy Screening and Hedges
Your yard should be your sanctuary, your escape from the worries of the day, a place to relax and unwind. Essential to this special space is a degree of privacy. Even though it’s in an outdoor setting, we still want our yard—especially our backyard—to seem secluded. None of us wants to feel like the neighbors are watching while we kick back on the patio.
If your current landscape leaves you feeling exposed in your outdoor living space, consider using Trees to give you the privacy you desire. There are many wonderful Trees that can help you turn your backyard into your own private Eden. Here are a few ways you can go about making that vision a reality.
A traditional evergreen hedge will give your outdoor living space needed privacy, while supplying fresh greenery and a clean, polished look all year-round. It will block views into your property and help to dampen noise from the street. A well-tended hedge will grow more substantial with each passing year, adding curb appeal and value to your property
Hedges are typically shaped from small-leaved, densely growing evergreens, such as Arborvitae, Boxwood, Hemlock, Holly, Leyland Cypress, or Yew. Trees are planted closely together, either in a single or a double row, so that over time the plants will weave together to form a thick wall of foliage that will shut out the nosiest of neighbors. Regular shearing will encourage the densest growth and will also control the size of the hedge.
A hedge doesn’t have to be evergreen. Any plant that responds well to shearing can make a serviceable hedge, and there are many deciduous Trees and shrubs that fit the bill. European Hornbeam, for example, makes an elegant, long-lived deciduous hedge, and it grows thickly with pruning, providing some sight blockage after the leaves have fallen. Of course, you won’t get full privacy coverage in winter with a deciduous hedge, but if you’re rarely in the garden during the cold months, you may not need much screening at that time anyway.
A lower maintenance way to make your outdoor living space more private is to plant Trees in strategic places—whether in rows or in small groupings—to block views into your yard. This type of living privacy screen doesn’t need to be sheared into a formal hedge. Each Tree may be allowed to assume its natural size and shape. Careful attention to mature sizes will ensure that no Tree outgrows its allotted space.
For small to moderately sized properties, compact evergreen Trees like Chesapeake Japanese Holly, Dragon Lady® Holly, Emerald Green Arborvitae, and smaller forms of Hinoki Cypress are excellent candidates to be called upon to make a sitting area feel more secluded.
For large properties, Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), Eastern Hemlock, Green Giant Arborvitae, Leyland Cypress, Colorado Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, Serbian Spruce, Limber Pine, and White Pine will supply your yard with year-round sight blockage, not to mention food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
Of these, Leyland Cypress, Green Giant Arborvitae, White Pine, and Norway Spruce are the fastest growing Trees, rewarding you with good coverage in a hurry.
Mixed Plantings – Painting with Trees!
Perhaps the most satisfying type of living privacy screen you can have is a mixed planting of evergreen and deciduous Trees. This arrangement can give you 365-day sight blockage where you need it most with evergreens, while the other areas may be filled in with Trees that offer seasonal coverage along with a parade of blooms, ornamental fruit, and colorful fall foliage that will delight you throughout the year.
Magnolia Trees like ‘Jane’, ‘Butterflies’, and ‘Dr. Merrill’ and Cherry Trees such as ‘Okame’, ‘Kwanzan’, and ‘Accolade’ will grace your mixed border with beautiful, fragrant blossoms in the spring. Hot Wings® Maple, Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas), and European Mountain Ash offer showy fruits in summer. Fall stars like Amur Maple, Japanese Stewartia, and Sassafras bring on the heat with fiery autumn leaves. And some overachievers, like Kousa Dogwood and Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, will light up your garden with flowers, fruit, AND fall color!
The changes a mixed planting undergoes throughout the seasons is a pleasure to witness for you and your neighbors alike. Whoever said that good fences make good neighbors didn’t weigh all of his options!
Trees with Fences
Speaking of fences, maybe a privacy fence is already in your landscape plans. Certainly a fence is the fastest way to get six feet of solid coverage between properties. But keep in mind that in most cities and towns, six feet is the usual height limit for a new fence, and you must get permission to put up a fence that’s taller than that. If you want to block the view from your neighbors’ second-story window or from the kids’ trampoline next door, six feet won’t cut it.
There’s normally no restriction on how tall your Trees can be, however, so you can usually plant tall-growing Trees to fill the space in time. Conifers like Japanese Cedar, Blue Ice Cypress, or Green Giant Arborvitae will eventually form an evergreen wall of privacy well above where the fence stops.
If only seasonal coverage is needed, then the wait time for Trees to reach a sufficient height and spread can be greatly reduced by choosing fast-growing deciduous Trees such as Autumn Blaze® Maple, Red Sunset® Maple, Autumn Fantasy® Maple, Purple Leaf Plum, Zelkova, or Tulip Poplar.
Enjoy Your Backyard in the Shelter and Seclusion of Trees
Your backyard should be an extension of your home, and it should feel as comfortable as a room in your house. Trees can help to form the “walls” of this outdoor room, making the space feel cozy and private. There are many ways to use Trees as living privacy screens, and the list of Trees you can choose from is probably longer than you think. Take some time now to find the best match for your site and your lifestyle, and your back patio will soon become your favorite room in the house!