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internet box hiding help

A S
last month

We have lived in our new build for 14 months now and one of my goals for the spring is to do something about this internet box. It’s a hub for the neighbourhood and cannot be moved.

When planning landscaping for that side of the lot we went with grass only for simplicity and cost at the time. It was the right decision for then.

However, now I would love to see what we can do about the eye sore! From inside our house we don’t see it at all. Obviously it stands out from the curb. It cannot be covered and whatever we do needs to be at least one metre away from it on our side of the lot.

A fence is not an option.

We are in PNW and that side of lot is south west facing.

Any ideas?

Comments (63)

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    what if you had some pots w/tall bamboo plants placed side by side? (at least on the left side). the pots are easily moved if they have to get to it, but the bamboo will give you some screening effect. That and painting it to match your house colors.

    something you can put on wheels or easily move w/a dolly?




  • A S

    We cannot paint it ourselves. It is not on our property and we have no ownership to it.


    The trouble is we can't put anything in front of it. From our house we don't see it. I'm in the front office now and it is hidden from my view. Only kid bedrooms upstairs look out and see it. So our view is irrelevant.


    I think we will contact the utility company and ask about options on their end. We did reach out to them previously to see if it could be moved and it was going to be over $100k to do so. Obviously we dropped it!

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    I meant you could put the pots on your side. at least it will give a little separation when looking at it straight on


    see if they will let you paint it a dark green so that it blends w/the trees

  • A S

    Thanks Beth this is a nice idea. I've emailed them to ask about options both in terms of what we can do and what they might be willing to do...likely nothing.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    then just try the pots. all they can do is knock on your door and tell you they're too close. I'm sure they don't have patrols that check it daily! you can always claim ignorance and tell them you tried contacting them multiple times.

  • Christopher C Nc

    To the left meant towards the driveway side. I did not want to block the shared walkway. You will have a better idea of the actual space you have to work with and best placement than any of us can get from the photo. As for roots lifting the paver driveway, I'm sure someone in your neck of the woods will know more about this particular tree's root habits than me. The ones I know don't seem to have surface root issues, but they are not in such tight spaces.

  • Embothrium

    There are planted weeping Nootka cypress over 70' tall - with proportionate branch spreads - in my area.

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    Here in Houston, the local artists in cooperation with the owners of these boxes have creatively painted them in a great way. Maybe you could check on motivating that. Next time I am where there are some, I will take some photos. Might get over there tomorrow. ;D

  • Christopher C Nc

    How old are these 70' tall Nootka Cypress? They are slow growing here and they could possibly get 20 to 30 years of service from it before it got too big.

  • A S

    Flo we have those here too! In my email I asked about other options etc. Fingers crossed I get some kind of reply. That said the art ones also draw a ton of attention!



  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    maybe you could do a removable vinyl thing? you can get those custom made. This way if they tell you nothing permanent, you could ask about the vinyl stuff that's removable. you could get the cypress look in a vinyl

  • A S

    Homeowners don't do this. Telus, the internet/utility company does it. Homeowners cannot do anything with the box. It would be there call if they did it sadly.

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    That’s what I mean. No doubt you have to get owner’s cooperation. Was that there when you contracted to build?

  • A S

    The utility box is far from new. It has been here for many many years. Just have to work with it.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    There are primarily 3 main ways to screen a utility box, using shrubbery. One is to create a more or less natural looking shrub hedge surrounding the box. A second approach uses a clipped hedge with an architectural shape, which can be kept somewhat tighter than a natural hedge. And a third approach uses shrubs to create small trees, which doesn't hide the utility but puts it in deep shade, making it much less obtrusive looking. This approach invites placing everything in a bed of groundcover, since grass isn't going to grow well or be fun to mow below small trees.

    The disadvantage to hedges is the huge amount of bulk they create at ground level. A screen like that would itself occupy a large part of the yard. And people might wonder why on earth such a large shrub mass was placed smack in the middle of a yard section. Another disadvantage, if yard maintenance is turned over to mow-and-blow guys, is that they commonly trim shrubs wrong, whereas in the end they lose their lower foliage and turn into ugly, scraggly, stunted little trees, because it done is without any planning, foresight or follow through. Conversely, creating small trees and shaping them properly at the onset would place the bulk of foliage overhead. Once the form is established, it is probably the lower maintenance option of the the three, as the heads of the "trees" do not need the tops of their canopies trimmed on any regular basis, if ever. Their height is determined by the plant choice, and how high it gets doesn't matter too much, as like any tree, the canopy is out of the way of ground activities.

    While in general principle being the same as the shrub approach, another possibility not using shrubs is a system of trellises on which vines are grown. This, like the shrubs would create some bulk. And vine choice would be key as they don't all grow in the same manner. The trellis system itself would be highly subject to scrutiny of neighbors and HOA.

    And finally, another method of fixing the look of the utility box without using any plants at all, is a simple paint job that improves the look of what's there now. This would probably be technically against most rules, so not for everyone. It could also be subject to the scrutiny of neighbors, HOA, etc., depending on the circumstances.

    Shrub solutions, not shown in the order mentioned:


  • A S

    Thanks Yardvaark. We are not allowed to paint it nor are we allowed to put anything in front of it.


    We do not have an HOA and do not live in a subdivision. We are not bound by anything our neighours think in terms of putting things on our property.


    I'll report back when I hear from the utility company.


  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    "We are not allowed to paint it ..." As I mentioned, that is for the rule followers. :-)

  • A S

    Based on how often the utility company has people at the box accessing it the risk it too great sadly. Someone is here fiddling with it a couple times a week most weeks.

  • Christopher C Nc

    Just the person to ask. Next time go out there and say hello. Ask them what their favorite and prettiest ugly box hiders are.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    There is always the possibility of hiring a graffiti artist to do a hit job ... to specifications. But don't talk openly about it on the phone. :-)

  • Belahn

    I would paint it anyway. What are they going to do really? In Laughlin NV all those are painted. It obviously doesn't do any harm.

  • A S

    Belahn I'm pretty sure they can do a better job painting it than I can and I don't want to pay for something they just get rid of. I'll see what going through the correct channels brings and then go from there.

  • Olychick

    I had the same idea about painting it or having an outdoor decal installed. If the neighbors would also like to see it changed, you could band together to petition the company to paint it or allow it to be painted.



  • katinparadise

    following

  • beesneeds

    Gotta say... I'm a bit surprised at some of the suggestions here to just go ahead and paint/graffiti/plant someone else's property. I do sincerely hope all those suggestions are in complete jest.


  • A S

    Honestly I’m a rule follower and hate wasting money so I’d never paint it without permission for fear of getting in trouble and the wasted effort and cost!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Apparently many here have never heard of the saying that "it is better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission" :-))

    Do some research - it is not just a saying but an endorsed way of leading a successful and satisfying life.

    What possible kind of trouble - other than perhaps a chewing out - could the internet supplier levy against you? Sue you for a paint job?? I seriously doubt it would be considered worth their time and effort. And they certainly are not going to disconnect a paying customer for something as trivial as that!! And anyone can afford a gallon or two of paint and a couple of hours of effort.

  • Christopher C Nc

    AS did ask for a plant based landscaping solution from the start. While I wouldn't be too afraid to paint it myself, they seem to be. Besides, it will still be a giant ugly box with a fresh coat of paint that still needs to be screened.

    My first thought on seeing the ugly box was a small tree that could drape around it a bit. A tree would help make the ugly box look smaller for one. Now that I know the thing is visible from the kids upstairs bedrooms, a small tee is a must to prevent them from being scarred for life having to look at the thing. I considered deciduous, but opted for evergreen to get screening down to ground level and hide it from the front porch and driveway views looking out. Hiding it from the curb view is not an option period.

    If the Nootka Cypress is too big for the space, a Chamaecyparis obtusa cultivar might fit better. 'Crippsii' is a possibility. Adding a medium size rounded shrub, perhaps a redtwig dogwood to the left of the ugly box and in front of the Chamaecyparis would add more interest and screening.

    AS if you show us the other side of your house, a full on shot of the street view, we may be able to offer planting suggestions that aim towards balancing your screening of the hideous internet protuberance.

  • Karen

    gardengal, what about the fact that the box is owned by … someone else? Is another's property?

  • A S

    Wow Christopher pretty harsh critique overall.

    First off we don’t care that much about it. From inside the house I 100% don’t care more do the kids one bit.

    Second we bought the lot with this hideous internet protuberance out front all along. Not like we were duped into this. We live in a city with many different utility boxes, mail boxes and other oddities about. It’s life.

    I’ve already said I’ve contacted the utility company so am waiting on their reply about options and if they will paint it or put a decal on. In terms of trouble to us no they wouldn’t cut off our internet. This box services the entire neighbourhood not me personally. But I have zero intentions of wasting my time on something they will paint over either.

    I’ll snap a pic later. At work now.

  • Christopher C Nc

    Sorry for the harsh AS. Meant more as tongue and cheek.

    I will add I am going for the tree shrub combo as a planting bed with more interest so as not to frame and accentuate it with a hedge look.

  • nhb22

    Similar to Beth H idea. What about a trellis over a long rectangular planter on your side? No roots in the ground. Not sure what climate you are in, but could plant some ivy to grow on the trellis, and put some seasonal flowers below.

    https://www.artificialplantsunlimited.com/space-divider-ivy.html


    Or a trellis over a raised planter. Again, do a vine and flowers.

    Trellis over a raised planter


    Or a decorative screen.

    Decorative iron screens


    Buy and install some inexpensive fencing and grow vines of some type.

    Ivy on fence

  • beesneeds

    "Karen

    gardengal, what about the fact that the box is owned by … someone else? Is another's property?"

    Yes, I'm a bit surprised that some folks do seem to be suggesting to just go and paint some else's property. It's a bit like someone saying their neighbor has a really small and to them ugly garage/shed and being told to just go and paint it. Or paint other utility objects like poles or electrical boxes. Even though that would be wrong and the OP has made it clear they can't/wont. That's why I'm hoping they really are joking.

    But that aside, and back to the OP...

    Sounds like you are starting right by contacting the utility company like you already have. Worst they can do is say nope, not gonna paint. And maybe or not give you some information about any actual plants they approve of or not. Might re-enforce what you are already knowing about distance with plantings and the box.

    They might be willing to paint it, or perhaps even have your box on the list on needs to be painted if it hasn't been recently and other boxes have been getting painted. Maybe they hadn't bothered if no one in your neighborhood has bothered to say something about it till now.

    Beyond that. Someone suggested asking the workers that are in that box a couple times a week about planting. They might not know the plant names real well, but can describe growth habits and such that are harder for them. They would know best what/where stuff can grow around the box- and what is awful, and what would need to be removed or to where cut back.

    Also, pay some mind to where they are walking on the grass from the street to the box. Is there much wear or tear there from workers? That path is going to get used a lot. Even if you don't do anything formal or path-like, make sure whatever you plant gives good clearance just like a more formal path would. If they gotta go out in the dark on a regular basis, perhaps consider putting up a light or two that along with plantings could be nice. If the white square marker to the right of the box is your actual property corner? On the streetside, one on that corner, and a pair flanking the driveway could be handsome. Don't know what's on the left in the pic, but your lighting could carry on down the road too.

  • littlebug zone 5 Missouri

    I am not certain of the distance of the box from the driveway - if permission could be obtained to plant anything (ornamental grass would be my choice) on the driveway side of the box, would said planting obscure views for vehicles backing from the driveway?

    You say you can barely see the box from indoors. The views from the vantage point of the photographer is the concern? Is the photo taken from the street or the neighbor’s house across the street? Are your neighbors also bothered by this, and since your house is the closest to it they want YOU to solve the problem?

  • A S

    Littlebug I was looking for curb appeal help. From our side, inside house, this is a non issue. Image is me standing across street. Neighbours don’t care.

  • A S

    Ok here is a wider view of the house and a more close up view of the garden on the north west side of the lot. The garden is hidden in the first picture by the white truck. It is a less than one year old garden. We did planting last March.

  • A S

    And it’s pouring buckets of rain hence poor photos at 4pm pacific

  • littlebug zone 5 Missouri

    Thanks for the explanation. Perhaps, then, emphasizing the fact that the box isn’t a part of your property would be sufficient. Can you plant anything along your driveway on that side to serve as a quasi-border? I can’t see any other solution since you can’t move it or paint it.

    edited to add: apparently we were posting at the same time. I see in your new pictures a utility pole in your front yard. !!! Actually that would bother me more than the internet box off to the side of your driveway!

  • A S

    Private side poles are super common here for new construction.

  • Christopher C Nc

    Oh my. We get a telephone pole with a meter and a couple other boxes too. Is that a keeper? I'll get straight to the point. I painted my telephone pole red. I didn't ask.

    Ornamental grasses are a good fast growing, low maintenance screening choice. Sounds like you have enough sun. Backed by some PNW evergreens and planted on both sides would give balance to the front landscape and can be the backbone of more intricate planting beds if wanted.

  • A S

    Yep that’s the permanent pole. Almost all new builds around us have them. I don’t even notice it anymore lol.

    Are you suggesting we modify the garden on the north side? We quite like it as is...

  • A S

    Just as an update I finally heard back from the utility people about the internet box. They are sending a tech out to take a look and say graffiti on it is unacceptable. They are committed to improving this and say as is isn't okay. Although I'm not sure what will actually happen at least they are making me feel heard at this point.


    I also have a gardener coming out to give us ideas for a walkway and will ask about plantings to go nearish the ugly box to help provide some distance.

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    Sounds encouraging! Good luck!

  • Chris

    It sounds like you're doing the right steps by contacting the utility company.


    I just wanted to add as a general fyi, that sometimes these boxes are located in utility easements within a property. Generally, screens, fences, permanent structures and sometimes trees can't be placed in easements even if they fall outside the stipulated landscape setback provided by the utility company for a box. Check your local bylaws if you have an easement.

    For the people who are suggesting to ask forgiveness later, be aware that if you damage the box, or the lines, you could be held responsible for the repair or potentially face charges for vandalism. If you plant in front of a utility box or too close, you risk having the utility company rip it out and stick you with the bill.


  • A S

    Yes Chris I agree. We are doing this all properly and not bending any rules. When we meet this week we will get a lot more answers about what is and isn’t possible. I said from the get go we were not up for doing something not allowed and was clear we know there are rules

  • A S

    Box is being painted. So at least it will look fresher than it currently does. We can put plantings 3m back from the curb. Not sure what we will do if anything.

  • suezbell

    If you choose a fence and vine -- English Ivy looks good ... but it is considered "invasive" by some so you will need to keep it mowed back. For that reason, you wouldn't want it even in a planter at a summer home often unoccupied and yard unattended.

  • A S

    No fence or vine. Honestly I think we just let it go. We can’t see it from inside the house. The restrictions in terms of how close to the box we can do anything mean it will always be an eyesore to look at.

  • Barbara



    I live in the PNW too and many utility boxes have been either painted or wrapped with photo-like images that help them blend into the surroundings. Your utility company or your local town government (together with the utility company) may be interested in doing something similar.

  • A S

    I said today that it’s being painted. Telus was here earlier to clarify what they will do. It will be painted or have a wrap on it but it is their discretion.

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