Trees for privacy in the gardenAlison Marsden
Summer holidays mark a few weeks when we all spend more time outside and especially in the garden. But few of us live with no near neighbours and a common challenge is to create a garden with a sense of privacy without overwhelming and darkening what might already be a small space.
Clearly in most situations a fence or hedge 1.5 or 1.8m high will be in place and then the question arises about trees to screen neighbouring houses. The key is to be very selective in what you actually need to block out in the view. In this case what matters is to block your view of the first floor windows to reduce the feeling of being overlooked. In most cases this requires 2 or 3 carefully placed trees that can also provide flowers, fruit and foliage interest in keeping with the garden style and will not contravene any regulations on high hedges.
In most situations I recommend choosing an ornamental tree grown as a ‘standard’. This means with a single trunk, clear of side branches up to 1.5-1.8m so that the canopy starts roughly at the top of the fence. Some trees are also well suited to a multi-stem form and again I suggest clearing the lower stems to raise the canopy. This gives space and light for plants below to thrive, adding variety. Look for a small-medium tree that will reach 4-6m over time and can be pruned to keep it under control. Crab Apple, Himalayan Whiter Birch, named varieties of Rowan, Acer and Amelanchier are all good garden trees but check what soil you have and how much water it retains. Not all plants are suited to all conditions.
When it comes to siting a tree to block a window or poor view, remember that a small tree planted closer to where you sit will block out much more than one further away. You do not have to limit trees to the outer boundary and do make them part of a design rather than a ‘sore thumb’ afterthought.
One of the simplest ways to decide where to place a new tree is for one person to stand holding an opened umbrella above their head (to represent the tree canopy) whilst you sit or stand on the patio, look out of house windows to check that it will achieve the desired effect. It is much easier to move a person than a tree, especially after you have planted it!
Happy Gardening from Alison
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