Pleached Evergreens Possible in Toronto?

(Question)

Hi, I’m interested in using pleached trees to create a privacy screen. I saw in another answer you suggested two deciduous trees for pleaching. Are there any evergreen trees that can work for pleaching in Toronto? (Zone 6B, full sun)

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

Pleached trees serve as dramatic living walls that are extremely effective in formal garden settings. However, not many trees, whether evergreen or deciduous, are amendable to being so continuously intensively pruned and having their branches braided together. Therefore the most popular trees for pleaching have strong and flexible branches: e.g. apple (Malus sylvestris), beech (Fagus), hornbeam (Carpinus), linden (Tilia), pear (Pyrus) and sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).

For most coniferous evergreen trees, their branching structure and properties are ill-suited to being braided together, and most do not like their branches touching each other (e.g. pine, spruce, and fir); moreover, they would also look rather awkward being trained into a flat shape. The ones suitable to pleaching are unfortunately not hardy in Toronto (USDA zone 5): e.g. holm oak (Quercus ilex, USDA zone 7), Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii, USDA zone 6) and Photinia (Photinia fraseri, USDA zone 7).

Therefore I have two suggestions. If year-round privacy is your goal, perhaps you can consider¬† beech, which keeps its leaves well into March. If you want a green screen in winter, then maybe you can try training an evergreen climber like wintercreeper (Euonymous fortunei, USDA zone 4) to form standards on a framework for a “pleached look”.

Good luck!