Help! Need trees for a semi-urban garden!!!
We live in Brookline, Massachusetts, in what I would call a semi-urban environment (lots of apartment buildings, lots of old houses, small yards, good city parks, the trolley 50 meters behind our house, etc.). We recently moved into a large New England Shingle Style house that was built in 1900.
Unfortunately, I can't take photos right now but here is a brief description of my yard. If you step out my back door into the yard, you come to a rectangle that is about 22' deep by about 55' wide. It is bordered on the left by an old free-standing garage, along the back by an 8' fence, along the right by another fence, and our house on the near side. Behind the back fence (again, only about 22 feet from the house) there is an alleyway, a bit of space for parking, and then BIG, UGLY apartment buildings. There is one building behind the left corner of our lot that is enormous. The others that back up to the center of our lot are 5-story brownstones. Unfortunately, when we bought the house and had an arborist come, we had to take down most of the old (and some beautiful) trees. They hadn't been cared for, were diseased, and we had a major branch total a car parked behind our house. We did a lot of work on the house so there were bulldozers, etc. in the backyard so there is now NOTHING back there, just dirt and these buildings right in our face.
I'd love some ideas for planting in the back. My biggest question is whether we should plant a row of columnar evergreens as a real screen along the back fence or if we should plant a variety of trees, not too closely spaced. If did the former, some trees I've seen are (1) the Thuja Green Giant which can grow to 30-50' high with a spread of 10-12' but can be pruned to be about 6' wide and almost any height and (2) the Emerald Green Arborvitae which grows about 12-14' high with a spread of 3-4'. If I went with a variety, I could combine either of those evergreens with some European Columnar Hornbeams (about 35' high, 10-15' spread) or some other columnar tree.
I don't love these evergreens but they hold up nice to snow and ice and would provide a year-round privacy and green screen. The hornbeams are nice but I worry about the months without greenery. Also, I want to keep whatever we have along the back fence as narrow as possible so that we still have some room in our yard for other things. We have young kids so may end up planting even a bit of grass for frolicking and ball playing.
For the back left corner of the yard, we are thinking of planting a large canopy tree, perhaps a Zelkova or an Autumn Blaze Maple (aka Scarlet Maple).
Any suggestions would be much appreciated!!!!