The Q&A Archives: rear yard dilema - height and width restrictions

Question: We have a narrow 6' space for a backyard: Our house is separated from our neighbors by a 4' concrete block wall running east/west along the back property line. And there are power lines overhead limiting any plant height. I am desperate to plant something that will allow me to open my curtains and enjoy a tropical view. I love the crape mrytle flowers, can they be shaped into a narrow shrub to hide the concrete wall? Need something hardy that can handle the island salt air too. Help.

Answer: The yard as you describe it will indeed be a design challenge. Most tropical looking plants are lush with foliage which will encroach on your backyard and that of your neighbor's. A few plants you might consider are clumping bamboos, cordyline with yellow or purple stripes on their leaf margins, Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe' (Coastal Plain Joe Pye Weed), which grows at least 48" tall. The 4' tall stems are clothed with whorls of green leaves and topped in midsummer with dome-shaped heads of lavender flowers...a real bonanza for keeping butterflies at eye level.

Angel's Trumpet Tree (Brugmansia sanguinea), is a small shrubby tree from the Andes with large pendulous flowers up to 10" long. Flowers are tubular, bright red at the mouth, fading to yellow at the base. Bears long, ovate leaves up to 10" long. A final suggestion is red-leaf banana. This tropical looking plant does not produce edible fruit, but is a fast-grower and produces large red-tinged or red-striped leaves. It typically grows to 10' in a single season.

Hope these suggestions are helpful!

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