Whether you have pesky neighbours, wandering kids or pets, or would just like to make your garden space a little more private, a privacy hedge can be a good option. Once established, the hedge can serve several purposes — privacy, windbreak, and sound barrier to name a few — and can also add value to your property. While privacy hedges are generally pretty easy to grow, there are a few things you should know before planting and this guide will help ensure that your new privacy hedge provides optimal beauty and protection for years to come.
1) Consider what your needs and what type of tree or shrub would best suit them
With a variety of benefits offered by the different trees and shrubs, it is important to start planning for a privacy hedge by determining if privacy is the only thing you hope to get out of your new garden addition. Perhaps you live in an area that receives heavy snowfall — trees like evergreens do well as a living snow fence, while also providing year-round screening and noise reduction. On the other hand, deciduous trees offer a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colours while also shedding their leaves in winter to let in the much-needed winter light. Although they do not provide year-round cover, they do look beautiful as they morph with the changing seasons.
2) Determine your desired height and density
You may want to grab a ladder in order to properly visualize the height that is necessary to block out unappealing views or neighbour’s windows. By now you will have decided upon the year-round protection of an evergreen or the beauty aspects of a deciduous shrub — all of which have different heights.
Evergreen tree hedges (tall)
One of the most popular evergreen trees used as a hedge is American Arborvitae, which can grow up to 60’ tall
Evergreen shrub hedges
Nigra Arborvitae can reach heights of 30’ while Emerald Arborvitae remains around 10-15’ and can be even be trimmed shorter if desired
North Privet grows quickly and provides a dense covering, while shrubs like The Rose of Sharon are more sparse but also provide beautiful flowers
3) Decide how much space needs to be covered
Whether you are attempting to block out a specific unattractive view or curious neighbour, or even want to incorporate a tough privacy hedge that will provide protection for you and your family, you will have to decide on how wide your hedge should be. If you have adequate space, a few close rows could be planted or, if space is minimal, just a single row of specific species could suffice. Evergreen trees like American Arborvitae can grow up to 15’ wide while smaller shrubs only reach widths of 4-6’.
4) Ensure that proper spacing is considered
Once you have decided how much space you have to work with and you have established the number of rows you will be planting, you can begin to consider appropriate spacing between the seedlings. In order to prevent root crowding, it is a good idea to plant at least 12-24” apart. For larger trees like spruces and pines, it is recommended to have at least 10 feet between trees, while arrow-growing American Arborvitae only requires three feet between trees. Shrubs generally only require a few feet between plants.
5) Plant your trees or shrubs
Digging a straight trench works best when planting bare root shrubs and digging individual holes works well for plants that have been growing in a container. Compost and fertilizer should be added to ensure optimal growth. Also, new plantings should receive regular water and can even be mulched to retain moisture.
6) Train your shrubs for optimal growth
After about one or two seasons after planting, your plants should be established enough to begin training. Trees can just grow naturally and will only require periodic pruning to maintain healthy growth. Training the shrubs involves trimming the growth a few times a year, each time removing about half of the new shoots. Additionally, you can maintain an ideal shape by trimming the top to be more narrow than the wider base.
Establishing a privacy hedge can certainly provide a sense of seclusion to your home or backyard but can also offer safety and aesthetic benefits. From dense evergreen trees that can serve as a windbreak, snow fence, or noise barrier to deciduous shrubs and trees that evolve with the seasons and provide different colours and flowers, a privacy hedge could be a great way to add value to your property — while also providing protection and beauty to your backyard oasis.
Daniel has worked in the management, cutting, and caring of trees for the last 20 years. He works and helps run Bellarine Trees and is passionate about the environment and tree worker safety. He has a wife and two daughters and he enjoys playing tennis in his spare time.