• Kelly Grummons

Planting for Privacy

Q: We’ve moved into a two-story house that creates a lot of shade on the narrow, north-side yard. The neighbor’s house to the south of us is similar and shades our south-side yard. Our smallish backyard where we spend most of our outdoor time has lots of morning sun. To block the view into the neighbor’s living room, the previous owner planted arborvitae evergreens along the south fence which now look mostly dead. Is there a small shade tree that we could put there? What could we plant along the north and south-side fences to give privacy from the neighbors?

Eastern Red Bud

A: Those arborvitaes can be a real problem. They are still commonly sold at some garden centers and I see them often at big-box stores. When we get extreme temperature drops in October like we’ve recently seen, these less tolerant evergreens get a lot of tissue damage.


I would suggest tougher species like ‘Crimson Spire’ Oak or ‘Woodward’ Juniper for areas where you need height over 10 feet. Upright, narrow shrubs such as ‘Fineline’ Buckthorn or Columnar Red Chokeberry will be useful where you don’t need shrubs over 6 feet in height.


Trouble-free small trees for the backyard include: Ginnala or Tatarian Maple; the fruitless ‘Spring Snow’ Crabapple; and one of my favorites, the Eastern Redbud. Look for all of these grown with a single stem for smaller spaces rather than the clump form.


Kelly Grummons owns the mail order businesses COLDHARDYCACTUS.com and DOGTUFFGRASS.com