Want back yard privacy? Plant columnar trees, shrubs

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Last Updated: 
March 13, 2003

PORTLAND - If you live in the city, particularly in a newer development, chances are your yard could use a little more privacy.

You can build a fence. But another greener option is to plant "columnar" trees or shrubs - that is, varieties that don't spread too much and take up the whole back yard.

Jan McNeilan, Oregon State University consumer horticulture agent and author of the "Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists," suggests the following trees and shrubs as being good for planting along yard boundaries:

  • Deciduous trees with a dense winter habit: columnar hornbeam, Dawyck purple beech or columnar oaks.
  • Evergreen trees and shrubs: incense cedar, Italian cypress, Serbian spruce, Hoops blue spruce, Bosnian pine, columnar eastern white pine, columnar Scotch pine, Irish yew and Arborvitae, variety "Emerald Green."

Early spring or fall are the best times to plant woody shrubs, said McNeilan. But spring offers more choices at the nursery. Don't wait until mid or late spring, as the new tree will be under more stress as it goes into summer heat.

McNeilan suggests planting a mixture of different trees along a border.

"It will lend more interest and not create a monoculture," she said. "For example, if you have 25 of the same plants and they are infested with an insect of disease problem, you may lose them all.

"If you have varied your plantings, you are assured that most of your design will survive the problem."

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Jan McNeilan