If your home faces onto a busy road, railway tracks, or just a few too many neighbours, you could probably use some privacy. Fences can look unfriendly, and walls are expensive – why not take a cue from nature and use trees or shrubs for screening?
We’ve compiled a thorough guide to screening trees so that you can increase the shade, privacy, and peace in your garden.
What Are Screening Trees?
Simply put, screening trees are used instead of a wall or fence to provide privacy, block out noise, and capture pollution. Instead of hearing heavy traffic or train whistles, you can relax on your tree benches, reading, chatting, or just spending time in your peaceful slice of nature.
Here are some of the factors that you need to consider before you select your ideal screening trees.
- Soil type – Check out your soil. Most soil can be improved, but is it clay, sandy, or chalky? If so, you will need to choose suitable trees or shrubs that will thrive in your soil.
- Desired height – Take measurements of where you want the screening to cover and choose plants that will grow to this height.
- Don’t be tempted by overly tall specimens – Extremely tall trees might seem desirable at the first bash, but they will eventually dominate your house and garden, casting it in shade and darkness.
- Do you need a windbreak? – If you want to plant young specimens in an area exposed to wind, you may need to establish a windbreak or shelterbelt.
- Prepare your soil – Add plenty of organic matter to your soil to give your screening trees a good head start.
- Plan ahead for the roots – Tree roots can spread very far, so calculate the distance to drains, buildings, and soakaways. You must consider your neighbours’ properties as well.
Best Types of Screening Trees
When choosing your ideal screening trees, think about the style of your home and garden. Which trees will look the best with your existing design ethos?
We love the following trees for providing privacy from the street, making your home a lush fortress protected from noise, pollution, and prying eyes.
- Chanticleer (Pyrus calleyrana) – Chanticleer has an ideal tear-drop shape that will grow in any aspect, staying mainly upright so that it will not dominate a small garden. It is windproof and requires very little maintenance. It blocks your garden from air pollution and noise, making it perfect for those who want privacy from the street. It tends to repel most pests and sprouts beautiful white blossoms in the spring.
- Shadbush (Amelanchier Lamarkii) – Amelanchier is a vase-shaped tree that is perfect for providing privacy from the street in first and second-floor bedroom windows, allowing you to greet lovely greenery in the morning instead of streetlamp! While it is deciduous and will lose its leaves in winter, you tend to keep your curtains closed more often in the colder months.
- Pleached Hornbeam (Carpinus) – Hornbeams are small to medium-sized hardwood trees with hardy leaves, often used for providing privacy from the street. Pleaching refers to interweaving both living and dead branches through hedgerows, resulting in a dense barrier that will block out most noise. However, pleached trees will also block out most light. You might be happy with this, but make sure your neighbours are similarly on board, or you could be in for a grumble.
- Black Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera nigra) – Black Cherry Plum trees are lovely ornamental fruit trees that work well for screening. They can become very dense, which is excellent for screening but can block out light. If this is a concern, a more upright ornamental cherry would be a better choice.
- Crab Apple Trees (Malus Hupehensis) – Crab Apple Trees offer privacy and fruit, perfect for making jams and jellies. Most are sold on a dwarf rootstock, so be sure to check their predicted height before you invest. We really like crab apple trees for medium gardens, as they get large but never enormous.
- Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) – It’s easy to see why silver birch is beloved by Chelsea garden designers – it looks wonderful and provides quick cover. It is a striking medium-sized tree that can reach 30 metres in height. It is deciduous, so it will not provide as much cover and protection in the colder months.
Evergreen Screening Trees
We love evergreen screening trees for their dense cover and strong sound-proofing ability. Here are some of the best screening trees for your garden.
- Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) – Douglas Fir trees are known for their noble, spire shape, and are usually featured on their own. That said, they look lovely as screening trees, providing an evergreen shield between you and the road. Depending on which seed you use, its colours vary, but we prefer the blue-green variety.
- Concolour Fir (Abies concolour) – Concolour Firs grow well in evenly moist soil, and their graceful presence suits most gardens. They have unique needles, an attractive conical shape, and tiered branches, and can work well when paired with other species.
- Norway Spruce (Picea Abies) – The Norway Spruce has dense horizontal branches that reach upward, with gracefully hanging stems. This is a distinctive and elegant tree that grows between 15 – 20 metres tall, and up to 10 metres wide. However, you can also find smaller varieties that are well suited for screening.
- False Cypress (Chamaecyparis) – The False Cypress adds rich blue-grey and gold-green colours to your garden, and comes in a variety of different shapes. Its density makes it ideal for providing privacy to any garden, particularly along rail lines and busy roads.
Fast Screening Trees
Sometimes you need screening trees fast – you don’t have years to wait for them to grow and flourish. Try these ideas when you want a screening tree in a hurry.
- Smokebush or Royal Purple (Cotinus coggygria) – When you want screening fast, consider choosing a large shrub over a small tree. Shrubs like Cotinus coggygria can grow to the size of a small tree but are easier to prune and shape to your space. With its deep reddish-purple leaves that change to gold in the fall, Smokebush is a versatile choice.
- Bamboo – While bamboo isn’t a tree, it is one of the fastest (and most attractive) ways to screen your property from neighbours, the street, or noisy paths. Remember – certain types of bamboo can become quite invasive. Choose clumping varieties to prevent this, including Bambusa, Chusquea, Dendrocalamus, Drepanostachyum, Fargesia, Himalayacalamus, Schizostachyum, Shibataeaand Thamnocalamus.
- Privet trees (Ligustrum) – Privet trees are unique and delightful, with a 2-metre clear stem and a bushy headed top. You can have privets installed fully grown, and they grow quite quickly when planted in soft, drained soil. We find them particularly effective for privacy in first and second floor bedrooms, as their bushy heads provide reasonably dense cover.
Screening trees are a more ‘friendly fence!’
Before you rush to choose a fence, wall, or other barriers, consider the friendlier, more attractive option – a row of screening trees or hedges. Not only do they add tranquillity and peace to your garden, but they also look lovely and add value to your home.
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Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.