The Q&A Archives: Evergreen trees

Question: The topic is windbreaks -

What would be a good evergreen tree for a windbreak on a backyard border? We were thinking of Norway spruce but don't know if it will get too tall in a short time. We have a 70 ft border we have about 10 ft width) where we want to plant and another 20 ft in between our house and our neighbors. Obviously, in between houses is too narrow for spruces so we would need something less wide.

We have an intemittent deer problem so don't know if arborvitaes are an option. What about some kind of juniper?


Answer: Generally speaking, if you have deer in your yard they will return and browse more and more, especially if you are planting more plants. Since they eat such a wide variety of plants and learn to eat new plants over time, they are very limiting in what you can use. Please realize that the so-called deer resistant plants are not deer proof, and the lists of deer resistant plants vary from place to place because different populations have learned to eat different things. So, if at all possible, consider fencing the area with a tall fence so you can plant without worrying about the deer.

Having said that, Picea abies or Norway spruce is a big tree -- maybe 50 feet tall or so and 25 to 30 feet wide -- so it is too big for your space. Colorado spruce is deer resistant but it, too, is way too big. With only a ten foot width you might look at some of the hollies or upright columnar arborvitae or junipers, however they are all prone to deer damage and the hollies do not do well in a windy spot.

Unfortunately I can't think of anything that would fit the bill perfectly. You might consider Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) -- it does grow too large for a residential landscape eventually but is a bit narrower at 12 to 20 feet wide -- and is deer resistant. It does however do best in an evenly moist rather than dry soil and it requires full sun.

Your local county extension and/or professionally trained nursery staff might have some other suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions where you want to plant and your overall design goals.

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