Expert guide to screening trees

We’ve put togehter this guide to help you with some of the common questions we get asked about screening trees.

With so many modern homes suffering from a lack of privacy due to overlooked gardens, it’s no surprise that we often sell trees for the purpose of screening out neighbours. Another problem can be  unsightly views, or perhaps you’d like to block out an ugly building to help create your own private and peaceful oasis. Let’s look at a few things you’ll need to consider.

Line of Laurel trees above garden fence line, blocking view of neighbouring houses.
Laurel screening trees used to create privacy in overlooked garden – Before and After

 

Will I need to wait forever for the trees to grow?
Some people ignore the idea of planting trees for screening in the belief that it only suits a long term plan. The truth is you can create instate privacy by purchasing mature or semi mature trees. Your budget will dictate how developed the trees are when they are planted. Generally speaking, the larger the tree the higher the price, due to the years of care put into raising the tree. Small saplings are much cheaper, if you have the time to wait for them to grow. We find the most common solution is to plant screening trees that are around 1 – 2 growing seasons away from offering you the complete screening coverage you need. This provides privacy within a reasonable time frame on a more affordable budget.

Choose trees for the right aspect
The aspect is incredibly important to selecting the correct screening tree for your space. How much sun does the planting site receive? Is it partly shaded, North or South facing? What is the type of soil? What is the access like? The location of the screening tree is usually dictated by the need to block the line of sight of neighbouring windows and gardens.  Therefore it’s important to select the right tree to suit the location. If you have your heart set on a particular species of tree you might need to reconsider if it’s unlikely to thrive.

 

A row of pleached oak trees obscuring a neighbouring home's view into garden.
Newly planted pleached Oak trees, ready to mature into a full coverage screen.

 

Screening trees suitable for small gardens
To save space in smaller gardens, it is advisable to plant trees with a clear stem typically of around 1.8m, with a bushy head on top. These are also perfect for planting against your fence line or garden wall to create a raised screen that sits above the height of your fence/wall. Here are a few examples of suitable screening trees:

Ligustrum japonicum (Japanese privet) is a prime example and holds it’s green foliage all year round. Its variegated form Ligustrum lucidum superbum with  green and cream coloured leaves is semi-evergreen, meaning it sheds leaf for 2 to 3 months during winter.

Photinia ‘Red Robin’ holds an evergreen foliage that flushes bright red in the Spring, another excellent alternative if you’r looking for some winter interest.  Photinia ‘Red Robin’ can also be purchased as a bushy shrub. Watch our video all about Photinia and who it can be used to create the perfect screen

Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel)  holds large glossy green leaves all year round,  another option for a raised and bushy screen. Cherry Laurel has proven to be one of the most hardy and popular species to plant in the UK.

Screening tree options for large gardens
All of the above trees can be used just as well for large gardens, but if you have lots of space, here are some suggestions:

In larger gardens Quercus Ilex (Evergreen Oak) is a valuable tree, which can be grown in a standard form form with a two metre clear stem, or in a bushy form. Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam) similarly creates an excellent screen. Hornbeam screens can be raised and also pleached onto a frame. A pleached hornbeam has a 1.2 x 1.5 metre head together with a 2 metre clear stem. Hornbeam is deciduous however so will only act as an effective screen during the summer months. Tilia cordata (Lime) is also available in a pleached form.

Group planting Pinus sylverstris (Scots Pine) and Pinus Nigra (Austrian Pine) can also act as an effective screen of taller unsightly objects as they will reach a mature height of 15 metres. At King and Co, these trees are sold at 1.75 to 2 metres tall. Austrian Pine is the faster growing of the two.

Screening trees for shaded sites

All is not lost if your planting location is either completely or partially shaded. Ilex aquifolium, our native holly in the UK, is a perfect option. For screening purposes we prefer Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’ which produces an abundance of red berries on all plants and has a tighter habit lending itself better to screening.

Still not sure what screening tree you should choose?

If you’re still not sure and want to save time conducting your own research then give us a call or drop us an email. Our expert Tree Nursery staff are here to help. We just need some basic information about your plans and planting location and we’ll give you some recommendations.

 

Further reading:

Screening trees create privacy for an overlooked garden on a new build estate

Photinia trees used as a cost effective natural screen to block view of unsightly factory

Three examples of beautiful Bamboo (Phyllostachys) for creating a natural screen

Top 10 Screening Trees

Photinia x Fraseri Red Robin Plant
Watch our guide to Photinia and see how Photinia can be used as an effective garden screen.