April 13, 2018

Privacy in Suburbia

In my last post I wrote about using columnar shrubs and trees for privacy.  I want to continue on that topic since privacy in the yard has been on my mind a lot lately.  At this time of year I want to be outside working in the garden, but I feel very exposed since the trees haven't leafed out yet.  I have mentioned before that I can see parts of sixty-three houses from various points in my backyard.  This is the view of my NW corner from my bedroom window, and you can see quite a few of the neighboring homes in the scene.  I'm usually careful to crop the photo of this view, but here is the full disclosure.  However, the columnar Norway spruce at left will eventually block the view of Santa (from my previous post) on the neighboring rooftop.  Supposedly it can reach 20' tall and 5-6' wide in ten years.  Grow, baby, grow!

From ground level, one neighboring home is still very apparent at this time of year.  Thankfully these neighbors have planted quite a few trees in their yard to help screen the view.  When my columnar Norway spruce and their blue spruce (to the right of this shot) are mature, they will block part of the view between our houses year-round.  The thicket of deciduous branches at center will get thicker as time goes by and eventually provide decent screening.

The view of the same area from another angle features another neighboring home.  Again, my thicket of deciduous branches ('Royal Raindrops' crabapple trees) and two maples planted over the fence will block more of the view in coming years.  These neighbors have an oak tree planted in their yard that will also contribute to the thicket of branches in ensuing winters.  Slowly, this view will be mostly blocked.

The winter screening in my NE corner (viewed from my window) isn't going to get much better than this.  The honey locust trees leaf out late and drop their leaves early.  Their branches will thicken somewhat, but not enough to really block the view of the neighboring white house and the items that are usually stored on their back deck.  That house had a flowering plum tree planted in their neighboring corner when I planned my landscape, but the tree has since died.

Now that my backyard garden has year-round interest, I like looking out my window every morning and evening.  In winter the snow makes a lovely addition to the bare branches, evergreens and boulders.  I'd like the view to include fewer neighboring houses so I can focus on what's happening in my yard.

Here is the NE corner from ground level.  The trees across the fence are mostly quaking aspens, which leaf out early and drop their leaves later than my honey locusts.  On a side note, our new bench swing is wonderful to sit on but is shockingly bright white.  Hopefully it will get a little dirty in time and blend better with our dirty white fence, ha.

This shot of the NE corner from farther back inspires me with how much screening a thicket of bare branches (lilac, crabapple and honey locust) can provide.

In the very corner of my NE area, a 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum is filling the space as it matures.  A 'Shademaster' honey locust is planted eleven feet from the corner, and three 'Green Mountain' boxwoods are growing on either side of the viburnum.

There is not enough space to plant evergreens (columnar Norway spruce or even Arborvitaes) unless I rip out the viburnum.  I don't have another spot in the yard with enough space for that large shrub (10-12' wide at maturity), and I'd be sad to lose it completely.  But dogwood trees are understory trees in the forest.  They grow underneath other trees and close together.  I'm tossing around the idea of snugging two 'Starlight' dogwoods on either side of the viburnum, next to the boxwoods.  I'd have to plant them right next to the fence and plan to prune off lower branches to leave room for the viburnum and fence.  But eventually the thicket of branches above the fence would provide more screening for this area, plus the dogwoods would bloom and leaf out a month before the honey locust.  I could increase my dogwood total to seven trees, which is always a good thing.  Would I rather have this corner a little crowded but more private?  Yes.  Do I mind pruning?  No.  Hmm, this idea has merit.  I'm going to mull it over a little more.

I'll finish with this shot of the SE corner of my yard.  A dogwood planted across the fence in my front yard will someday screen the neighboring windows a little better.  Building privacy with trees in a climate with a short growing season requires patience.  I wish I had done a better job of planning for privacy a decade ago, but better late than never, eh? 


  1. It's an ongoing project. And it takes time to see the results. I think we have learned to look at a garden view and see it as it will look in the future. Or how we think it will look...

  2. I wish that too. But when we moved into our house 12 years ago I had absolutely no interest in landscaping or the outdoors like I’ve had over the last few years.


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