We have a somewhat shady backyard, and i was hoping to get some suggestions on hedge options. We have some overgrown elm trees that used to be a hedge long ago that I plan to replace. They face southeast, and get lots of light on that side, but the northwest side only will get dappled light through the day. There is also a large evergreen tree that takes up a lot of the light there. We have small children, so something poisonous is out for us as well. Are there any good options for us? Or should we just go with a fence instead?
Thank you for your question and photo.
We get many questions about hedges.
Below are links to articles previously published by Toronto Master Gardeners on hedges which provide plant suggestions and some good options. We would recommend you take a look at our Gardening Guide on evergreens suitable for hedging which includes recommendations for both sun and shade conditions which would provide options suitable for your northwest location
However, some of these may be inappropriate with your concern about your small children. It would be prudent to avoid choosing the yew for your hedge because the seed inside the red fruit is indeed poisonous. The Ontario Poison Centre http://www.ontariopoisoncentre.ca provides an in-depth list of Poisonous plants which you can use as a resource in making further decisions about which plants to choose for your hedge.
The Thuja occidentalis (Eastern White Cedar) is a popular choice for a hedge as it is versatile, will thrive in sun or part shade. It does require neutral to alkaline moist soil and prefers good drainage.
Another option, based on your location, is LEAF (local enhancement & appreciation of forests) which offers a variety of shrub species native to southern Ontario. LEAF is a Toronto based program that specializes in tree & shrub planting and has guides to help you with same.
One of the options mentioned you might consider is Amelanchier canadensis – the common name is Serviceberry. It is a native shrub/small tree and edible.