extending a fence


Hi, I am an avid gardener who has recently moved from a house with beautiful garden to a house with a tiny backyard with a nice deck, a cedar fence and a yard that is 95% astroturf and a very tiny, empty garden. If I owned the property, I would know what to do, but as a tenant for maybe the next two years, I am trying to solve several problems.
1. On the other side of our 6″ fence is a public pathway with a hill which means that everyone who walks by, looks into our yard. I am trying to find ways to add privacy screening above the fence.. preferably something that blends in with the surrounding trees but doesn’t take years to grow..
2. We have a very narrow strip of good soil, ( 12″ x 7 ‘) next to the house which gets part sun, part share. I am looking for something to plant there that will be substantial, but not grow bigger that the space. I am thinking of Hens and Chicks.

I would truly appreciate your advice


1.Privacy screening

It’s not clear from the information you provide if passersby on the hill can see over your 1.8 metre (6-foot) fence or if the fence ends, creating a gap through which they can see (such that you need to “extend” the fence).  I’ll assume that you need plants that are at least the height of your fence, possibly quite a lot taller.  It is also important to know whether the area gets lots of sun or shade, so you can find plants that will thrive.   For maximum privacy, we usually think of hedges, shrubs or small trees.  While many of these grow quickly, unless you purchase relatively large specimens, it may take a few years for them to reach the height you want. Consider also that a privacy hedge may increase the amount of shade the yard receives, which could be a negative for your enjoyment of the yard space.

See a previous response to a similar request on our website, Backyard Privacy Trees.  Note that the link to our Master Gardeners Guide has been temporarily disabled as the document is being updated.

Here are links to a couple of websites that might give you some ideas. If you find a shrub/hedge/tree you like, check its sun requirements as well as final height and spread, and also how quickly it will grow, to make sure it meets your needs.

2.  Narrow strip

The long, narrow strip could be very attractive.  I’d suggest that you think in terms of plants of varying heights, to create more interest.  Hens and chicks are a great idea, but although they do not spread much, they also don’t grow very tall, so might not meet your requirement for “substantial” plants. Also, as they prefer full sun and sandy soil, this strip of may not be ideal for them.  You could perhaps try hens and chicks along the front edge of the strip, and plant taller perennials behind them.   Although some perennials might try and grow larger/wider than the strip available to them, you can keep them in check by cutting them back and pruning, as needed.

Landscape Ontario has a list of perennials for light shade/part sun, see Perennials for Shade.  Consider perennials like Heuchera (coral bells), which have delicate flowers and attractive leaves and grow in full sun to partial shade.  There are many varieties to choose from, with leaf colours ranging from lime green to nearly black – making these plants super-interesting in the garden.  For example, see Missouri Botanical Garden. Heuchera sanguinea.  Hostas are also terrific plants that need minimal care and provide season-long interest. Grasses can also be quite lovely.  You may wish to choose a few different plants to alternate along the length of the strip.   Interspersing perennials with annuals might also work well.

Finally, with respect to both your questions, I’d suggest speaking with someone at your local nursery who could provide you with more ideas.  Early fall (now!) is a great time to plant shrubs and perennials, and many are on sale as it’s the end of the growing season.  All the best in adding privacy and beautiful plants to your back yard!