Privacy needed, at least 8ft and grows fast.. pics

lindsrocFebruary 6, 2012

Good evening,

I posted a similar question in the landscape design forum but thought I would ask here as well since you all may know of trees/shrubs that will do well locally.

I have NO experience with any form of gardening, my kids actually make fun of me because I cant even keep an indoor plant alive. So, I will need something fairly low maintenance. We recently bought our home and there is NO landscaping at all. We have someone coming out next week that is going to either repair or take down the front retaining wall and lay sod. Thats going to be the current extent of our landscaping. lol. We are on the corner of a busy road and are looking for the following:

Tall, dense shrubs for front left corner of house.

Bushes in front of the house, to the left of the entrance in front of the window- for privacy.

A row of tall, dense, hedges / evergreens / trees along the fence in the yard- as you can see in the pic, the neighbors are higher than us so even though we have a 6ft fence it doesnt help.

Any help would be appreciated. I know 100% in the front left corner we want something dense and tall that we can plant in an L shape. On the inside of the fence we dont know if we should do trees or leyland cypress or green giant (also considering those for front).

In addition to these questions I would love any suggestions for what else we can do. I was thinking a nice tree in the front right corner, something with color. And a row of bushes along front of house by walkway. Thank you so much!

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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

Before you go out and spend a fortune on landscaping, you want to make sure that what you buy will be happy where you want to put it. You also want to think about how this landscaping is going to eventually look as it matures. I would also abandon the notion of buying plants that are going to rocket up to 8 ft and then stop. There is no such thing. A very fast growing plant is usually an aggressive one that can cause more problems than it solves.

Let's take the first issue of your plants being happy where you want to put them. Your house has a substantial amount of shade in these pics and this is with the leaves off of the trees. When these trees leaf out again, the amount of shade will be more than most plants can handle at least in front of the house. That means that most evergreens are a no-go. You want to look for plants that are thrive in understory situations. For trees, this would include japanese maples, dogwoods, redbuds, serviceberries as examples. For shrubs, some examples would be rhododendrons, azaleas, dogwoods, and maybe some types of viburnums. If you must get some evergreens then yews might work but it's going to take several years for them to reach several feet in height. A few varieties of holly (look for plants in the genus "ilex") might work, too.

The second issue to think about is how your landscaping is going to look relative to your house especially as it matures. It is also important to consider how well it is going to provide you with the screen that you want. One thing to keep in mind with this last issue is that you don't have to have a wall of foliage in order for a plant to be an effective screen. I think if you planted an understory tree like a dogwood or japanese maple at the front left corner, it would provide you with a very adequate screen and it would also look very natural in that setting. A row of Green Giants would not look natural there at all and would adversely affect your property value. You could also plant some other understory plants around a tree such as large hostas that would provide additional screening. Small understory trees would also look right in proportion to your house. Tall evergreens like Green Giants do not look good next to a one story house. I would consider a few well-placed rhododendrons around your property, too. The old ironclad varieties grow relatively fast, are evergreen, have beautiful blooms in the late spring/early summer, and get somewhat tall after a few years although they would still be in proportion to your house. Yews would look nice in various places around your property but as I said before you will have to wait a while for those to get big in size.

After your new plants are put in, they will grow fastest with the right amount of water and fertilizer each year (but not too much).

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 6:51AM
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Wow, that's some really great info....thank you! Does it seem like there is enough room on that left corner for a Japanese maple? I was actually thinking of putting something like that on the right corner. How much sun do they require? Is there another tree that would do ok in the shade of that big tree? The reason I was hoping to go the evergreen route is for winter privacy. What are your thoughts about the leyland cypress along that fence in the backyard? I was also reading that a Nellie Stevens holly might be a good choice. I just reread your post and saw that you also recommended dogwood for the front so I will look into that.
Our house is facing south, and it seems like the sun comes up to the left when facing outside from inside and goes across the front of the house all day. The shade is from the monster trees that surround us. I'm not complaining... That's why we moved here. I'm going to research some of those plants and trees thank you again.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 8:06AM
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Not really any answers, but some things I think you need to think about to help you come up with the best plan of action for your yard.

1) What is the issue with the retaining wall? Removing it seems like you would end up with a sloping lawn. Unless the wall is going to be rebuilt.

2) Maybe others can advise but I'm not sure if February is the proper time to lay sod.

3) I'd be very hesitant to use dense shrubs so close to the house. It looks like your house is made of wooden shingles. Havign shrubs so close creates moisture problems - which can lead to algae, mold and milde, and rotting. Also using shrubs in front of your window will make the interior of your house quite a bit darker. At least with blinds or curtians you have the option of opening up the curtains and letting light into the house.

4) What type of privacy are you trying to achieve? Do you want a safe yard for your kids to run around and play? You've achieved that with the fence. I don't think any amount of fencing or shrubbery will alleviate noise issues. Trying to add too many visual barriers may create issues with the neighbors.

5) If you intend to add a tall hedge along the front left corner - how will that impact traffic visibility on the corner? Will you be blocking views? You may want to check with your local DPW to see what you are and are not allowed to do. I know in our town people are not allowed to plant shrubs or build fences within 10 feet of the road at intersections.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:48AM
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Thank you for your input.
1, I hadnt really planned on removing the wall- but the landscaper we had that came out to give us a quote suggested it as he said it would be very expensive to rebuild it. Its kind of falling apart right now.
2, We would probably hold off on the sod till next month.
3, The house is actually cedar impression vinyl siding.
4, We are mainly just looking for privacy from passing cars etc. I agree, i dont think anything will help with the noise.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 1:13PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

A wall that size doesn't really have to be structurally sound. If parts fall down, somebody goes out and puts it back up :-) If nobody thinks they can deal with a few rocks, we should know about it. Because that probably means nobody is going to weed, or mow the lawn, or rake leaves, or any of the other gardening tasks we take for granted. Issues become quite different when things are hired out.

My honest opinion, is get grass growing somehow. Do NOTHING else until next spring. NOTHING! If you feel like planting some annuals, or starting a vegetable garden, fine, but you aren't ready for anything major and irreversible. There are sun/shade issues once the trees leaf out. The entire character of that lawn is going to change once those trees leaf out, and where you might want something large and looming now, will just be too much of a muchness with the trees. Then there are maintenance issues. What do you like to do? What do the local landscapers like to do? There are a lot of things you need to learn before making big decision.

Now am I the only person who finds privacy questions reminiscent of Monty Python? The third example is quite relevant because of the obviousness of the shrubbery.

Here is a link that might be useful: How Not to be Seen

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 1:37PM
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I love Monty Python. lol. And I appreciate all the advice. I am pretty sure nothing will be growing in the spring, but I do see where you are coming from...once we have grass and the tree grows in it will be a lot different. Someone else asked me if its as much a privacy issue as it is an issue of not wanting to look out at the street...which I think hit the nail on the head. I would much rather look out the window at nice trees, bushes etc than at cars passing by. This is a view from the living room window.

Maybe our main goal is more about creating something beautiful and also adding a little privacy than just about closing ourselves in.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 2:43PM
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I would like to suggest that you quickly fire or otherwise cancel the guy who is going to remove the wall. Then STOP, as Mad Gallica suggests! Then there are just a couple of things to do while you wait for spring.

First is to measure your lot and draw up a plot plan that you can use for testing designs. This isn't hard to do, if you have a measuring tape, a straight edged ruler, and some graph paper (use 4 squares to the inch, it works best). Basically you'd want to include all the existing trees and structures, the location of the driveway & walks, utilities and the septic system components. Make copies of the base plan and then get some colored pencils and try different arrangements for "blocking" masses of plants. This will really help you to figure out where you really need borders, how wide you want them to be, and how tall the plants should be. Selecting the plants should come much later in the process.

At the same time, go get a copy of one or more of Gordon Hayward's books; The Welcoming Garden is a good one. It describes how to get from square one (where you are) to having a house in a garden. It's got lots of useful techniques for deciding things like placement and depth of borders, selecting a style you'll be happy with, and how to make your design complement the locale.

These little "passtimes" might get you interested in gardening to an extent you can't even imagine at this point. If that happens, we'll be here - egging you on.

And by the way, welcome to the forum! Nice to see someone who has a blank slate - so many possibilities ahead of you.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:11PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

To give you more info on Japanese maples, they come in just about every size, shape, and growth rate imaginable. They come in a variety of leaf colors too including red, yellow, green, gold, orange, peach, and chartreuse and this is in the spring and summer in addition to fall. The various leaf shapes of different varieties creates additional interest.

I missed the sod comment in your original post. I cannot believe that any reputable landscaper would lay sod in February. I wouldn't go the sod route at all. It's very expensive to buy sod and most grasses are going to have a tough time growing in the shade of your lot. You can try to seed when the weather starts to warm up in April or May with a grass that tolerates shade but I wouldn't expect a really thick lawn in the areas that get little sun throughout the day.

Another option to circumvent the shade issue is to have a professional thin out the canopy of the trees around your house to let in a little more sun. That would open up some more landscaping possibilities.

I agree with the others about the wall. It looks nice and it should stay. In addition, it is actually retaining the soil behind it. It's not clear to me what the landscaper had in mind for this issue once he removed the wall.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:42PM
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We have calls out to a few other landscapers in the area to come by and give us a better idea of what we can do. The guy that came out last week is the one who suggested removing the wall, he brought by his quote yesterday and I literally almost fell over when I saw it. Needless to say, we are shopping around.
I really appreciate all the info. I think Im going to pick up some graph paper today! Im excited, we have waited a long time to have our own house- we have been renting for a while and never wanted to make the investment of landscaping until now. I cant wait to get started!
Its good to know about the sod. Does anyone have an experience with "Hydroseeding"?? We have someone coming to give us a quote for that. We had planning on doing it just in the backyard but now Im thinking do it in the front as well.
Oh and thank you for the info on the Japanese Maple, thats something we are definitely going to plant, Im thinking front right corner. My husband had one in front of his house growing up and he loves them. I will have to look into the different varieties as we want something that will grow fairly fast.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 8:43AM
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molie(z6 CT)

I second all of the great advice that you've been given. I absolutely agree with those who told you to hold offâ¦.don't tear down that wall (it's a nice feature that you can improve upon over the years), don't put in sod and, most importantly, don't start planting right away.

Take your time. Your home is lovely so you're excited to get going and make it more wonderful. I know it sounds hard to not do something right away, but it would be wiser to wait a season. Live in the house and notice how the sun travels across the property as it changes its position with the seasons.

Definitely do some research before you buy any expensive trees or shrubs. Look at other people's landscaping to see what you like. Visit local garden centers to learn what trees, shrubs, and perennials are best for your zone. Ask questions and take pictures of what you like and then do some reading at home. A "small" tree that starts out at 3 or 4 feet can end up being 25 feet tall.... and just as wide.

There was so much excellent advice in the posts that all homeowners should follow, like draw up a plan, don't put any plantings close to the house, and have a professional come over to advise you on thinning out the trees or just evaluate their health. Trees are the largest and often most expensive plantings in a yard, but many homeowners just plant them and let nature "take its course." As we found out after we moved in, there are many critters (carpenter ants and borers) that had taken up residence in our trees and had gone unnoticed for years.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 6:41PM
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One more thing you can do this winter is to start a compost pile. You'll never have enough compost if you plan to garden.

Try to find a find a spot in the yard that's not going to be visible from the house or from the areas where you intend to have seating ... this can be tricky, and I know from experience that it's not much fun to move these once they're started. You can start asking around for sources of farm manure, wood chips, etc, too.

Check the composting forum if you have time, or just use google - there's lots of helpful info on this subject. Some people DO become compost fanatics (oh, but no, not me, I swear!)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 10:54PM
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