The Cedar Hedge

(Question)

About 25 years ago we planted a hedge. Our property is adjacent to stream which means we have no next door neighbor (great). At the time there we no trees beside us which is why we planted the hedge. Now many years later, trees on City property are shading the hedge to death. The old hedge is at least 6 feet thick and to be honest I hate cedar hedges. My wife has a fit every time I talk about removing it so I need to come up with a solution other than a fence. I need something that grows in shade to at least 7 feet.  I was trying to buy an old 10 foot high iron gate from a church and remove a section of hedge and plant vines and morning glory all over it but the old gate was $3K. Stunning but not realistic.

(Answer)

Your shade and height restrictions limit your options in replacing your cedar hedge but here are a few options to consider.

If you are looking for a dense barrier that remains green all winter such as you had originally with your cedar hedge, two conifers to consider are Yew (Taxus spp.) and Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).  Yew is the more shade tolerant.  Canadian Hemlock is tolerant to partial shade.  Both meet your height requirement as they are tall trees which can be clipped to keep them to their desired size.  There are a number of cultivars of each available so be sure to choose one that is suitable for hedging. The Missouri Botanical Garden has a good tool on their web site to assist with this selection – the Plant Finder .  You can find several types of yews and hemlocks that might suit your needs and your site conditions.

 You may also want to consider an informal, unclipped hedge.  Shrubs suitable for unclipped hedges are mostly deciduous.  Informal hedge plants have an arching form and are typically a lot wider than a clipped hedge.  Only light pruning to remove straggly branches is required.  One shade tolerant shrub recommended for unclipped hedging is Tatarian Dogwood (Cornus alba).  The variegated cultivars do not lose their variegation in shade unlike many other plants.
If privacy is not a prime consideration, a shrub border featuring different forms, leaf and seasonal colour and size could be interesting.
A couple of our own Gardening Guides should assist you in your search for the perfect hedge:

Evergreens Suitable for Hedging.  Yews are among the hedges recommended for shade.

Ornamental Shrubs for Various Light Conditions.  This provides an overview of things you might want to consider when selecting the optimal hedge for your site.

Please contact again if you need other information as your selection progresses