Welcome Tree Lovers! Want a green privacy screen in your yard?
Sometimes a six foot fence doesn’t provide the kind of a soft green privacy screen you’d like in your yard. You may want to block out an unwanted view like a neighbor’s second story. Or you just want to create a feeling of your own private retreat in your backyard. My mother’s favorite bumper sticker is “Trees are the answer.” A green privacy barrier can make for a beautiful soft addition to your yard while doing the job you create it for. Trees to the rescue!
First consider if you want a “green” fence year round (evergreens), or if you’re ok with a seasonal “fence” aka “deciduous” meaning that in the winter the trees lose their leaves and the barrier consists of trunks and branches. Below are some suggestions for creating a beautiful “green” fence to add interest, privacy and height to your yard.
Columnar Norway Spruces (Picea abies ‘Cupressina’)
These are one of my favorite trees, with dark green needles and a columnar shape. Mature height at 10 years is 20 feet with widths of 5-6 feet. Can grow to 30 feet tall. These are fast growing, and require full sun. Plant 5-6 feet apart for more of a hedge look. If you’d like the branching to stay tight, look for a “wellspire” variety of the Columnar Norway Spruce.
Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)
These are an evergreen shrub with a slow growth rate. Mature height is 10-12 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. These also do well as foundation plantings and require partial to full sun. They have delicate dark green foliage. In the above photo, the hicks yew add height and privacy to a 6′ iron and stone fence. Beautiful!
This is a fast growing shrub or tree, that does well in sun, part shade, or shade. It has green foliage year round, and berries that attract birds. Be warned, it has sharp thorns that are great at keeping unwanted people/animals out. Pyracantha is fast growing and if you begin trimming it, you will continue painfully doing so every 4 weeks forever. Letting to grow naturally (without trimming), will quickly give you a high green privacy screen. The variety Yukon Belle grows to 8-10 foot high privacy screen. It grows 6-8 feet wide so be wise where you plant. Some varieties grow to be 12 feet tall and wide. Ask your local expert at Western Gardens what variety is best for your yard. There are several.
Hornbeam (Frans Fontaine or Fastigiata)
Another favorite tree for creating green privacy screens or hedges is the Hornbeam. It is a moderate growing, hardy tree with heights (depending on variety) of 30-45 feet in height and 10-35 feet in width. It does well in a variety of soils and isn’t too picky about sun exposure. You can plant this in a row and leave untrimmed or you can trim it into a neat hedge. The branching can get fairly dense, which provides a great privacy screen even in winter months. Once established, it is drought tolerant. The Frans Fontaine variety will stay more columnar in shape (30 feet tall and 10 feet wide) while the Fastigiata, also known as a European Pyramidal, has more of a triangular or pyramid shape. Some varieties get a beautiful golden fall color.
Not to be confused with quaking aspen, Swedish Aspen are columnar fast growing trees. At maturity, these trees can reach 35-40 feet tall and 10 feet wide. They do well in full sun and have beautiful leaf colors in the fall. These are great for narrow spaces like lining a driveway, and they are quite hardy once established.
Planting your tree fence or hedge
Spacing the trees of your green privacy barrier depends on the type of tree or shrub you select. You must keep in mind the width and height at maturity. For example, you don’t want to plant a tree one foot from an existing fence. Chances are that eventually, sooner or later, either your tree or your fence will have to move! Your gardening experts at Western Gardens can help you decide how close to a fence or property line to plant as well as the spacing between each tree for your green privacy screen.