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Old 04-16-2012, 10:17 AM   #1
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shrubs as hedges


Can anyone recommend specific species of shrubs that can be used as natural privacy fencing?

I'm on a corner lot, my backyard is open to my neighbor and visible to about half a dozen houses on the street.

I just had a new deck built and I'm looking to add some privacy to it without making it too obtrusive. I was thinking that some tall/slender shrubs/trees, about 4-5' tall and maybe 18-24" in diameter, in pots on the deck, could form a sort of visual barrier to give privacy to anyone sitting out there.

The deck is about 3' tall on side--the most visible side--so my other idea was to plant a row of tall shrubs there, something that grew to about 8' and no more than 2-3' in diameter would be good. Is Arborvitae a good choice for that? My only concern with planting along that spot is that it gets very little sun (only in afternoon) and I'd have to be careful about the size of the roots because it would be in proximity to a 3' retaining wall under the deck (so the joists of the deck are 3' from the ground on the "high" side of the wall and 6' from the ground on the "low" side of the wall).

Any other ideas for privacy? A fence wouldn't be helpful because the lot drops away a bit, so even a 6' tall fence would provide little privacy for someone sitting on this deck.
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Old 04-16-2012, 04:08 PM   #2
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shrubs as hedges


Privets and boxwoods are among the classic shrub/hedges because they can be shaped.

Dwarf conifers could work. Look into different species of ficus if they will survive your climate. Slender varieties of cypress but they strike me as rather boring.

If you are planting in planters, some of the dwarf species of bamboos can be drop dead gorgeous and maintain sort of an open airy feel. I used to spec a lot of dwarf black bamboo, for example for both privacy and windbreak qualities. Just don't plant bamboo open in the ground without containing it---even the clumping varieties can get away from you.

In California, a lot of oleander was planted for privacy and it had nice blooms (available in colors) that were not too fragrant. It is a rather toxic plant though.

I liked podacarpus nicely shaped but not sure it will hold up in MA.

Ivy topiaries could work but might be to formal.

Best thing to do is get some books from the library and explore shrubs that provide privacy and will do well in containers in your climate. Think about a drip irrigation system to keep container plantings from drying out. It is nice if you ever go on vacation also as the timer will water the plants.

Last edited by user1007; 04-16-2012 at 04:12 PM.
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Old 04-16-2012, 04:12 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by sdsester View Post
It would help to know where you are so you might want to update your profile with at least general information.
Sorry, I thought it was there--it says "North Shore MA" on the side. I'm Zone 6, I live in Eastern MA, about 15 miles north of Boston (though I'm in a suburb about 10-15 miles from the ocean, we just call it North "Shore").
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Old 04-16-2012, 04:52 PM   #4
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I don't think bamboo would grow that far north. If it will, then it would be good solution if you built a long low planter on the edge of the deck. It gros fast, it grows tall and it creates a great privacy screen. Uncontained it will take over your yard and you will live to rue the day.

Boxwoods are gorgeous but you'll be dead and in the ground by the time they are high enough to give you privacy. Privet grows faster but it does not do so well in partial shade.

Anything you put in planters, along the deck itself, is going to be a bit of a maintenance nightmare and you're also going to have a potential weight issue with planters large enough to hold 5' plus trees.

I would consider planting Leland cypress along your property line. They make a great screen, they grow relatively quickly, they are evergreen, and they won't be taking room up on your deck. Perhaps intersperse them with some taller growing varieties of holly for variety.

If you want something sooner rather than later, then consider building a trellis to give you some privacy right on the deck:


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Old 04-16-2012, 05:09 PM   #5
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shrubs as hedges


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I don't think bamboo would grow that far north. If it will, then it would be good solution if you built a long low planter on the edge of the deck. It gros fast, it grows tall and it creates a great privacy screen. Uncontained it will take over your yard and you will live to rue the day.

Boxwoods are gorgeous but you'll be dead and in the ground by the time they are high enough to give you privacy. Privet grows faster but it does not do so well in partial shade.

Anything you put in planters, along the deck itself, is going to be a bit of a maintenance nightmare and you're also going to have a potential weight issue with planters large enough to hold 5' plus trees.

I would consider planting Leland cypress along your property line. They make a great screen, they grow relatively quickly, they are evergreen, and they won't be taking room up on your deck. Perhaps intersperse them with some taller growing varieties of holly for variety.
All great points and maybe something structural like a trellis is the way to go or in ground planting. I worry how anything in planters will hold up over the harsh winters you have. You may almost have to approach planting on an annual basis.

Again, if bamboo could work, in containers or in the ground, heed the warning not to plant it in the ground without cement or pvc drain collars around it or you will be sorry. I have clients from 30 years ago that planted it in rings and have never had a problem. Uncontained it will take over! I found this for the New England Bamboo Company. I suspect they would be a good resource for you to contact?

http://www.newengbamboo.com/index.html

Best check with a nursery or a place like I worked for as head of design. We did mainly small gardens and container plantings, and hanging baskets but in the Northern California climate.

Planting topiary shapes with potting soil held in place by spanghum moss might be a possibility too if you have to approach things on an annual basis.

I found large butterfly bolts that helped anchor lighter weight planters to decking. The bolts went through the drain holes in the containers and through the space between deck boards to spring open on the other side.

Last edited by user1007; 04-16-2012 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:32 PM   #6
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shrubs as hedges


I thought about doing a physical screen like that, but it just seems very obtrusive to me--that fits in an urban environment, but in the suburbs it just seems odd.

Maybe I'll just set my telescope up and enjoy watching the watchers.... who knows maybe I'll enjoy being an exhibitionist.
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Old 06-06-2012, 11:15 AM   #7
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shrubs as hedges


Nigra Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis "Nigra"), not Emerald green arborvitae. These grow fast,are cold hardy, are not bothered by bugs and are zero maintenance once properly started. Figure on planting 5-7 feet apart, create a row to support the amount of plants you want, fortify the soil some and they'll grow big and beautiful for you. An easy way to create a row is to place a tarp on the ground in the width you want and let the yellow grass provide a template. Then use Roundup( or better and cheaper "Enforcer") to kill the grass. Spray thoroughly two or three times. Let stand a few days or a week and turn in some compost or peatmoss and an organic fertilizer. Then plant the arbs, you wont be sorry. I planted 20 in 1990 which are now 20 feet plus and have grown together so I cannot see the house on the other side of them. Two years ago I planted ten more to extend this row. They were about three to four feet tall then and now are six to seven feet and well on their way to growing together for a screen. They are very attractive, attract wildlife if you're so inclined, and like I said earlier-zero maintenace, and I'm very fussy about my property. (you kids get off my lawn,lol.)
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:20 AM   #8
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shrubs as hedges



I bought these American arbovitae from Henry Fields catalog about ten years ago as bare root stock. I cut them back once a year.
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