Tree Screen

(Question)

What are the best tree choices for a visual screen on a north-south fencerow. They need to be narrow, and are against the north side of a large 50′ spruce tree. Soil: North York clay below 1.5′ of sandy, near dampness, but no standing water.

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

There are several ways that you can plant trees to screen your view: plant all of the same species such as columnar juniper for instance; plant a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees; plant a pleached row of one type of tree with a variety of lower growing shrubs and flowering plants at the base. The large established spruce tree will have a wide ranging root system which will likely encroach on your new planting area.

A columnar or narrow growing beech, either purple beech, Fagus sylvatica”Dawyk Purple” or fastigiate European Green Beech has the advantage of copper autumn leaves which remain on the tree until Spring foliage emerges. Used either as a row along the fence, or as a tall pleached row (like a pruned hedge on stalks) to obscure the neighbours the pole-like trunk takes up little room allowing for low shrubs or flowering plants at their base.

There are columnar, or fastigiate, forms of many trees, both evergreen such as Juniperus virginiana ‘Blue Arrow’ and deciduous with blossoms and/or colourful autumn foliage such as a flowering crabapple. You may wish to consult our many Ontario on-line nursery catalogues for ideas and availability.

The following website of Pennsylvania State University offers ideas:  http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/trees-shrubs/using-trees-and-shrubs-for-privacy-and-wind-screening

Early November is a good time for panting trees and shrubs because of the cooler weather and the moist and relatively warm soil temperatures. The current thinking is that you do not amend the soil when planting trees because if you provide a rich planting mixture, the tree’s roots will prefer to stay in that area rather than extending into the native soil. Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree root ball, but not deeper, and break up the edge of the hole to encourage the roots to move into the native soil. Spread out the roots with your hands as you plant. Water well and mulch with about 4 cm of organic material such as compost, leaves, straw, composted pine bark, ensuring that the mulch does not touch the trunk. Should the weather remain dry, water the new planting when the soil begins to dry.

We wish you well with your new gardening project.