kpsherwin

Suggestions for privacy border between houses - zone 5b

kpsherwin
July 10, 2019
last modified: July 10, 2019

My neighbor and I just took down a row of scrappy trees between our houses. Many were unhealthy and a few were leaning toward my house so they had to go. We'd like to plant a new border between the houses for both privacy and asthetics. Our houses are, I'd estimate, about 60-70 feet apart so we'd like the bed to be about 20 feet wide and about 70 feet long. There is a young maple tree at one end and an older oak tree at the other (roughly 90 feet between them). We estimate both trees will need to come down in about 10-15 years due to their current size and proximity to the house. We're thinking we'd plan the bed to start and end about 10 feet from each tree. Here is what I've been considering:


Existing maple tree, 10' grass, start of bed, cluster of shrubs (maybe varigated weigela), three baby blue spruces, cluster of shrubs (maybe nishiki willow), end of bed, 10' grass, oak tree.


The landscaper I was talking to suggested 3-4 Colorado blue spruces, but I think they'll be too big in 15 years and we'll be starting over again. I'd rather go with one of the smaller varieties. Since I'm trying to cluster in odd numbers, I also thought of maybe adding a norway spruce at the end of the blues for some variation in size and color. Any thoughts or suggestions? Pardon the poor photos below. I was standing up against my house for the weird panoramic one, and by the maple for the other. Both are facing my neighbor. Also, I'm zone 5b and in a heavy deer area. Thanks so much!





Comments (20)

  • Josie23: Zone 5: WI

    I like lilacs, they are easy care, smell nice in the spring and make a nice border. It's what we did at my MIL house to create a hedge between her and the neighbor. You can get full size or dwarf if you don't want it too tall.

    kpsherwin thanked Josie23: Zone 5: WI
  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    Wait a bit and hope NHbabs responds. She's got wonderful mixed borders encompassing perennials, shrubs and small trees.

    kpsherwin thanked floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
  • mad_gallica

    A location would be helpful. My guess is Michigan?

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  • Sigrid

    Rosebay Rhodos. They'll take a while to fill in. Arborvitae is an option, too.

    kpsherwin thanked Sigrid
  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    In general the bed scheme seems to make sense, but since it is a bed with trees, I wonder why you are not directly connecting it to the wooded area ... and possibly at the other end to the single tree (though that seems more optional.)

    It would seem sensible to cluster large evergreens at the place where screening is needed the most (centrally) With what distance exists between the houses I don't think I'd be so stringent about the bed being limited to 20' wide if screening plants need more width. The bed could grow with the plants. I Also wouldn't place these as a single line since there is space available. Once the evergreen screen portion is established, the remainder of the bed could be filled with just about anything of interest, and would look best if some color/texture contrast was included. Don't plant one of this and one of that, but large groups of things. It would be a great place to allow some large shrubs to grow to their full potential.

    kpsherwin thanked Yardvaark
  • functionthenlook

    Don't plant arborvitaes. They are deer candy. The green giant arborvitaes are deer resistant, but they grow tall which you don't want. I am zone 6 and did a border of shrubs for privacy on each side of my house. I am not a formal landscape kind of gal (nature isn't formal) and mixed them up. I have 2 different kinds of weigela, red twig dogwood, forsythia, lilacs. azaleas, rose of sharon, smoke bush, butterfly bush, harry lauder walking stick, hydrangea, snowflake bush and pussy willow. Of course I have about 300ft of border, so you might not want to use as many. I have behind, but in between the shrubs have planted ornamental grass. This is only the 4th summer and the grass offers privacy until all the shrubs fill in. For 2 years I free handed trimmed some of the bushes to make them grow fuller. Now I am letting them grow into their natural state.


  • PRO
    kpsherwin thanked BeverlyFLADeziner
  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    Osage orange would be a great tree for a naturalistic border island.

    I can't give more than a vague idea of a scheme with this perspective view picture. One would work out the details in PLAN view.


    kpsherwin thanked Yardvaark
  • raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio

    Osage orange is a very large tree around here, and it sounds like the OP finds large trees a problem- he mentions taking down both existing large trees due to their size. And he probably wouldn't care for the large, useless fruit.

    Arborvitae comes in a variety of shapes/ sizes/heights, and although they are somewhat ubiquitous, they are generally easy.

    Gold mop cypress is attractive, lends variety in texture and color; although it is supposed to only grow to 3 feet or so, mine is 5 feet and still growing.

    kpsherwin thanked raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio
  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    I think leaning trees were mentioned. Straight, strong trees may be no objection. Useless (but delicious smelling, interesting and attractive) seasonal fruit that falls into naturalistic bed of trees, shrubs and groundcover, gets to be ignored and is unseen. Maclura pomifera is a great tree with many attributes and could easily fit into the scheme of a large landscape peninsula in what seems to be rural, or small town (large yard) situation.

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  • kpsherwin

    Thank you all for your replies! Regarding my location, I'm in Upstate NY. Unfortunately, the deer are too hungry around here for arborvitae or rhododendrons to survive. Half the neighborhood had arborvitae at some point and now they all look like Dr Seuss trees.


    My neighbor and I discussed taking the bed from tree to tree, but we are friendly so we'd like there to be a passthrough somewhere. I'm also concerned about having so much mulch to maintain, but I'm not against expanding the bed down the road.


    Yardvaark, I like your mockup. What are you thinking for the pink mounds past the spruces?


    Does anyone have any experience with baby blue eyes or baby blue spruce? I've read conflicting information about how large they get so I'm not sure how far they should be spaced apart.


    Thanks again for all your input!

  • l pinkmountain

    Lilacs and spruces are very popular borders here in Midwest deer country. Native junipers, the Juniperus virginiana (Eastern redcedar) species does well around deer too. So are big ol' spirea although I don't see them in nurseries very often. I wouldn't put osage orange on my list of attractive trees and the fruits are a pain. We get a lot of compliments on our red buckeye specimen trees, Aesculus pavia, although it has only moderate deer resistance. They don't seem to go after the trees after they get a bit mature.https://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/red-buckeye

    kpsherwin thanked l pinkmountain
  • mad_gallica

    Blue spruce isn't very fond of eastern humidity. Around here, there isn't much time between the time they start looking good, and the time the needlecast diseases find them. People have been planted blue selections of Hinoki cypress that seem to be working out well.

    kpsherwin thanked mad_gallica
  • kitasei

    You won’t have to mulch long if you start planting pachysandra, sweet woodruff and geranium macrorhizum as groundcover. All can be spread easily, are deer proof and will work under any of the trees and shrubs you’re considering.

    kpsherwin thanked kitasei
  • l pinkmountain

    White spruce is gorgeous and native to the upper midwest, Picea glauca. Blue spruces seem to be catch as catch can where I live in MI. I am also fond of Serbian spruce, we have a gorgeous weeping one but the natural form is great too. And there's always Norway Spruce.


    kpsherwin thanked l pinkmountain
  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    "I'm also concerned about having so much mulch to maintain ..." I look at mulch as something to cover the ground when new plantings are full of widely spaced new plants, but not as something to keep maintaining. Nature's way is to cover the ground with plants whereas no more mulch is needed. If this was my bed, I'd fill it with trees, shrubs, groundcover/perennials (over some time) and never add mulch again. The first mulch (at planting) would be free power company mulch since this is not the entry garden.

    "What are you thinking for the pink mounds past the spruces?" I'm not thinking they are anything but very large shrubs. And neither are those spruces. The sketch is schematic with no thought to what the actual plants are. One would create a short list of the plants the want to use and figure where -- in a plan -- could they be used. I'm just trying to show concepts like grouping, screening, transitioning, groundcovering, shrub-massing, height relationships, etc. The actual planning needs to be done on a plan that is drawn out on paper. Keep in mind that we can't see OP's house, and speculate what the neighbor might want screened. One has to look at this from all directions.

    "... we are friendly so we'd like there to be a passthrough somewhere." It could happen anywhere. It just needs to be accounted for in the plan, when a plan on paper is created.

    "I wouldn't put osage orange on my list of attractive trees..." I don't know why not. Like most trees, it can be quite handsome if well maintained. A large one has a beautiful trunk and a lot of stature. They're a strong, tough and disease free native ... with very hard and durable wood. I'm not trying to sell them. It was mentioned and I agreed. This would be they type of place to use such a tree. But there are countless other possibilities, too.

    Once the OP begins to create a PLAN, this island is going to shrink considerably, as it would not take all that many trees and shrubs and sun-loving perennials to fill it up. Later, after some shade is established, shade-loving groundcovers could be introduced.

    kpsherwin thanked Yardvaark
  • l pinkmountain

    Cool article on osage orange as a hedgerow tree. The photo in the article is the view I'm used to seeing on farms around here, of osage orange. You decide on the pluses and minuses of the look. No tree is completely ugly to my mind, but it's definitely a look that may be an acquired taste. To me it says old farm love.http://thesga.org/2010/04/botanical-lesson-osage-orange/

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  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    Any tree planted 1' apart and neglected from there on out ... that's the look.

    Or, one could take care of it, and it could look like any of these ...

    (From very young to very old ... tough as nails.)



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  • laceyvail 6A, WV

    I'd go with plants that are mostly clothed to the ground--Magnolia stellata, Viburnums (evergreen if your zone permits), for example and other large shrubs with only a few small ornamental trees here and there. A 20 ft wide bed allows for some depth back to front in plantings.

    kpsherwin thanked laceyvail 6A, WV
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I have a mixed shrub bed that is probably 15’ x 60’ and am in a similar zone.

    If you want arborvitae or Rhodies, just plan to spray with a deer repellent. Some are oil based and some can be mixed with a substance like Wiltpruf to prevent it washing off so that it only has to be renewed every few months unless there is new growth.

    I second the comment about blue spruce not being worth a long term planting in the humid east. Mine after 10 years are bare on the bottom and losing needles and shoots on the top, so I will take them out in the next few years.

    My preference is for having a rhythm of repeated characteristic plants down the length of the bed rather than clumps of one kind, and then I fill with variety. Here is a thread where about half way down I added a couple of posts with photos and an explanation of my plan and goals, so rather than rewriting the whole thing, I am sending you to the link.

    https://www.gardenweb.com/discussions/3113384/shrubs-for-privacy-along-a-fence#n=22

    I have listed plants I used and even after 10 years I am generally pleased. Some plants have not done well (Pieris and Cornus are much beloved by the voles and don’t live long without roots) and as mentioned above, the blue spruce are disease prone. By now many of my groundcovers and perennials have been shaded out. Right now it needs editing, but I have spent the last year dealing with a terminally ill family member, and it has done surprisingly well with quite literally no maintenance. I will do some editing this fall when it is a bit cooler, and if you can find dwarf versions of other evergreens that are less popular with deer if you don’t want to spray, that would be good. My Norway spruce which isn’t in my shrub border, while lovely, at something like 25-30 years, it is huge, perhaps 25’-30’ wide and well over twice that tall. So if you want to use a spruce, look for ones that grow more slowly. For instance, there is a slow growing version of Serbian spruce/Picea omorika as well as one that looks bluish, so look for those. I went to all the nurseries in my rural area and chose from what was available that suited my needs since I wanted somewhat larger starting plants. One of the fastest growing plants I put in were panicled hydrangeas, and between their ability to gain size quickly, their need for little attention after the first year or two, and their months long bloom, I would use these again in any similar garden.

    I deliberately used more than one color and texture of evergreen for winter interest, particularly during the long fall and early spring when there isn’t snow. My cover photo shows a piece of it during this stage if you click on my name. If you have questions, feel free to ask.

    kpsherwin thanked NHBabs z4b-5a NH

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