I recently removed a six foot fence on my property in hopes of revealing ahealthy 10′ cedar hedge located on my neighbour’s property to the south of me. Instead, I revealed about 6′ hedge with branches with that have no foliage. Now that the trees are completely exposed to the sun (from the north), will the hedges fill in? If so, what can I do to promote growth? If not, any suggestions of what I could plant in front of the hedge to cover the sight of the 6′ of bare hedges (ex. dogwoods, spirea, etc)? I live north of Toronto.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the cedars will completely fill in now that the fence has been removed. If the branches off the trunks are dead where they have not grown because of the fence, while there may be some new growth it is very doubtful that the trucks will fill in.
Note that as an alternative to planting at the base of the hedge you could trim the branches up the truck to where there is healthy growth. Cedars which have been trimmed up this way can look quite lovely, although whether you want to consider this will depend on what the view is through the trunks!
If you want to cover up the bare trunks of the lower part of the cedars, as well getting more privacy from your neighbours, there are a number of plants which should work. Note that cedars are shallow rooted and prefer moisture soil conditions and consequently and will have a tendency to dry the soil around them, unless kept kept well watered. As well the area will also be at least partially shaded as you have indicated that the sun will be coming from the north side of the hedge. Both of these conditions must be considered when when choosing your plants.
I don’t know whether you would like to plant in effect a shorter hedge in front of the cedars or are considering a more varied planting. In either case there are many plants should do well. Some suggestions (both shrubs and herbaceous plants) that should thrive in the conditions described and look good against the backdrop of limbed up cedars are Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’; Kerria japonica; alpine currant (Ribes alpinum); bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera); hydrangea (H. macrophylla or paniculata); oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia), holly (Ilex cvs); mock orange (Philadelphus cvs. ), some rhododendrons; some Japanese maples (Acer palmatum and A. japonicum); Five-fingered Aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus ‘Variegatus’); many dogwoods (although some would require that the soil be kept moist); spireas (only if they will get some sun); elderberries (Sambucus spp.), hellebores; some ferns such as sensitive and ostrich ferns or grasses, such as Carex ‘Ice Dance’.
Whatever you choose, it should look lovely once the new plants are established.