The Q&A Archives: Privacy

Question: Hello,
I moved to my current home in the city of Buffalo, New York about 3 years ago and soon realized that I have extremely curious neighbors. My yard is about 100 feet long by about 50 feet wide. It had absolutely no verdure when I first moved in. Every year I add a shrub, tree or plant. It has helped a little, but I would like more privacy and fast. I can't afford to put up a taller fence and it has gotten to the point where I can't walk out the door without constantly being stared at. Can you offer any suggestions as to what I should plant? Thank you.

Answer: Green Giant arborvitae is a big, fast-growing evergreen that will probably top out at around 60 feet with a basal spread of around 15 to 20 feet. Its fast growth and natural exclamation mark form makes it ideally suited for screening. However, it might be a little too large for your yard. In my opinion, 'Emerald', 'Techny' and 'Wintergreen' are some of the best upright forms for screening. The emerald green arborvitae is an evergreen tree with bright emerald green foliage. The emerald arborvitae can reach a height of thirty feet and have a spread of about eight to ten feet. They make an excellent screen, and can grow at a rate of about four feet per year. When young, the emerald arborvitae has a bright green color to its foliage which darkens as the plant ages. The techny arborvitae is a fast growing arborvitae tree. They generally have denser foliage than many of the other species of arborvitae, and make the best hedges. One of the hardiest of the arborvitae, the techny arborvitae will grow best in zones three through eight. This is the arborvitae of choice for areas with tougher conditions. Techny arborvitae trees can be pruned into hedges for an excellent screen or windbreak, and can protect more tender plants from chilling winter winds. They will grow to a mature height of fifteen to twenty feet and a mature spread of four to six feet. When planted exactly three and a half feet apart in a row, the techny arborvitae will grow to be a full shield in only a few years. Wintergreen is a columnar pyramidal that grows 20 to 30 feet in height; 5 to 10 feet in width. Noted for its good green winter color. An excellent choice for hedge or screen, space 3 feet apart.

Naturally, the larger the plants you can afford, the faster they will provide privacy. In the meantime you might think about planting a fast-growing annual vine. At least you would have some privacy during the summer months - when you're more likely to be out doors. Scarlet Runner beans grow at least 8-10' tall. Seed packages are inexpensive and if you plant the beans 3-4" apart they will grow thick enough to provide some privacy. You'll need to drive a few stakes into the ground and run string between them so the vines will have some support. I'd keep it a few feet away from the fence - in case the neighbors feel the need to interfere with their growth.
Hope this information helps you choose just the right shrub for your privacy fence.

There are other twining vines - check the seed racks at your garden center.

Best wishes with your privacy screen!

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