Backyard Privacy Trees

(Question)

We live in north Toronto and with big new builds behind us we have no privacy. We face south but limited sun due to 2 100ft trees either side of property. So old they have limited branches and no privacy. One is an ash. What trees could we plant in a 23ft wide space along our back wall. We want height, not too messy, and privacy. Don’t like cedars because we don’t want full wall of hedge. We put a deposit in English Oak but have realized the acorn mess that will cause. We can change our selection. Would appreciate any help. It’s a 23×40′ backyard.

 

(Answer)

I’ve found a number of good resources for you.  You mention that you prefer a tree, not a full hedge “wall”. Keep in mind that plants usually used as hedges (e.g., yew) can be pruned to appear more tree-like.  Juniper, yew, Nootka falsecypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), white fir,  and Canadian hemlock may be good options for your garden.  Another strategy may be for you to consider adding a trellis at the back wall/fence so that you can grow annual or perennial vines that add privacy (and interest) to the garden, but don’t take up much space.

First, I suggest that you search on the word “privacy” on our Ask A Master Gardener website – several entries pop up, and most of these include a number of links.  Here are a few of particular interest:

As well, see:

  • Missouri Botanical Garden. Privacy Screens for narrow spaces. This site includes a variety of very different plants that can be used to increase privacy, including chokeberry, Chinese fringetree, and many others. Before making your selection, double-check that the plant will grow in your part-shade garden — many of those on this “list” are sun-loving.

Finally, consider the impact of the trees/hedging you select on your back garden.  What is the target height of the privacy plantings?  Ten feet? Twenty?  You currently appear to have a part-shade garden, but if you plant a tree that will grow to a great height (e.g., English oak, which you have wisely decided not to plant, can grow up to 70 feet high), it may eventually block even more sun from your back yard.

All the best in choosing the right plant(s) for your site!