Last updated on December 2nd, 2011
A tall, thick hedge of enduring green can make all the difference in a garden’s emotional value. First, such a screen affords privacy. Next, it effectively erases from view any objectionable vistas, including the neighbor’s backyard. Here are the evergreens that have provided privacy and serenity for my own, special “planted place” — a corner lot that was previously exposed on three sides:
Thuja ‘Green Giant’ produced a privacy hedge for me in record time. I started with 40 rather dubious-looking, ten-inch tall rooted cuttings, and planted them along the sunny, eastern edge of the property. They achieved little growth during their first two years, but the third year they exploded – like Jack’s infamous beanstalk. Four years after planting they have formed a lush, lacy-leaved screen that is presently seven feet tall.
Thuja ‘Green Giant’ makes a lacy-leaved hedge in no time at all
A strategic planting of White Pines will effectively screen out the neighbors
A trio of mature, six-foot-tall Eastern White Pines (Pinus strobus), planted by a professional and arranged in a triangle, instantly cured my poolside view of a neighbor’s backyard. The trees were planted 15 feet apart to allow for a winding path between them.
Tip: To keep a white pine looking lush and full, each spring pinch the strongest new shoots, or “candles,” in half. The tree will respond to this torture by putting out additional growth. Full sun and water during times of drought are the only other requirements for white pines. The branches are useful for winter fireplace bouquets.
Pinching a White Pine “candle” in half
The most graceful of all evergreen trees are Canadian Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis), and these will tolerate some shade. Unfortunately, they are extremely slow-growing. Thus, if you want privacy and hemlocks too, it is wise to start with fairly good-sized trees, say, 6-feet tall. I went all out and bought two, 20-foot tall specimens for the shady, northeast corner of the garden, in order to close the gap on a neighbor’s sightline. These, of course, required heavy machinery to install, but the trees looked no worse for wear after their transplanting ordeal.
Canadian Hemlock, transplanted when 20-feet tall
Tip: Hemlocks perform best in woodsy, well-drained soil. They will not tolerate clay. When transplanting a tree, dig a hole three-times the width of the root ball, set the tree in, and refill with a half-and-half mixture of rich compost and leaf mold. Provide supplemental water during the first season, and thereafter during times of drought. For a privacy-hedge, stagger hemlocks 6-8 feet apart, measuring from leaf-tip to leaf-tip.
Arborvitaes are also good candidates for a privacy hedge, especially the variety ‘Emerald Green.’ This one grows in both width and height, rather than the columnar types that resemble thin, green pencils in the landscape. A staggered row of Emerald Green provides a verdant background for my rose garden; it also hides a small parking area.
Here, arborvitae ‘Emerald Green’ makes a pleasant background for the rose garden
Tip: To avoid browning of the foliage, grow arborvitae where a minimum of six hours of direct sun is possible. Plant the row in soil amended with generous quantities of compost and leaf mold, and make sure the shrubs are set deeply enough so that all roots are covered. Water deeply once each week during the first summer. My arborvitaes receive a 3-inch mulch of shredded leaves each autumn. For further health insurance, give your newly-transplanted arborvitaes a liquid bio-stimulant drench, to mitigate transplant-shock. Your local tree-farm or nursery can provide this nutrient-rich tonic.
Incidentally, the best time to transplant evergreens is in early spring, just as new growth appears. If you must transplant evergreens during the heat of summer, you will definitely want to give them a bio-drench. Autumn transplanting, at least for me, has been a risky business.
If you have questions or comments about evergreen shrubs or trees, please post them below.
See you next time.
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