Help on what to plant on retaining wall

menace73April 27, 2012

I have a 75' retaining wall at the rear of my yard. I am going to dig the mulch out and replace with stone and plant new trees. Here is a picture of what the last owner left us (don't mind the homes behind, you get the idea, I stitched together a few pictures and it didn't do a great job).

I may leave the plum trees on the ends but will remove the juniper and the dead bushes. They are about 10' tall and growing nice. I want something that will grow at least 12-15' to block the homes behind us, but not get too tall so it makes the yard like a "prison." Also want something low maint. that looks nice (color would be nice). I was thinking of these two options:

A solid wall of Emerald Green Arborvitae. They would start at 6' tall and grow from there. I would need a lot of trees, every 3-4 feet.


Put a 6' solid vinyl fence up, and plant more plum and some pear trees on the wall about every 10-12 feet. Eventually they will make a solid wall and add some color in the spring. The only issue is that I don't want anything too wide because it will extend too far over the wall into the grassy area of our yard.

What else should I consider? Open to all ideas.

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Could you tell us the exposure (north, south, etc.), amount of shade and sun, prevailing wind (if strong, a fence may be troublesome), what kind of soil is in that spot(particularly important if this neighborhood is new construction, as you may not have a whole lot of topsoil), and how wide is "too wide"? That way you will get meaningful advice, not just a list of plants. If you haven't been in that house long, a guess is good enough.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 1:40PM
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Hi, thanks for the response.

Soil is rocky and drains well. Southern exposure so the sun will be on them all day. There will only be about 4' between the top of the retaining wall and the fence, in which the trees will be planted. Wind shouldn't be an issue normally. i wouldn't want the tree's to stick out more than 5-6' on each side ( I would be willing to prune yearly).

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Sorry for the delay in answering - major computer problems.

Looking at the picture, what you may want is 3 or 4 more small trees, so you get some high privacy. Then you can fill in underneath with some interesting shrubs. I'm not a big fan of arbor vitae - sometimes it seems like it's the state shrub of NJ - but even if I were, I think that 75 feet of it would feel like a prison. And it's really boring. I am also not a big fan of everything being completely balanced, with two hydrangeas on the left and two hydrangeas on the right, and so on.There are so many beautiful trees and shrubs; why should my choice be restricted to those that balance? What if one of the hydrangeas died?

If it were my yard, I would look at Serviceberry (amelanchier laevis or arborea; a small native tree), one of the bigger viburnums, native or otherwise, fringetree (there are many more small trees, none of which I can remember at this moment) and for the shrubs, well, the choices are endless. If you've got kids, maybe you can stick in a pussy willow, or even if you don't have kids - it's one of my favorites. I think that's too much sun for a dogwood or redbud, but the people in the Tree forum here may have other opinions.

Four feet widthwise is not a lot of room for something that will hopefully live for many years; you don't want to squeeze them lengthwise as well.

Speaking from experience - please don't plant any tree with the expectation of pruning to keep it in bounds: that way lies madness. There is enough pruning with shrubs that you don't need to add on pruning your trees. Also, trees can be unforgiving if not pruned correctly; a forsythia will bounce back - a tree may not. If the low branches of a small tree will be in your way, you may want to get trees that get slightly bigger, or get some columnar trees.

You got some real work ahead of you, but it will be great when it's done - have fun with it.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 9:20AM
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