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Tree or grasses to block out new apartment complex?

ElizaRoseElizaRose East AngliaPosts: 121
Hi all, 

our garden is next to railroad track, which I quite like because even we are in the city it feels like we are in the country. Unfortunately for our street, an apartment complex is being build in what was a depot across the tracks. It may be 4 stories high. We have a wall at the back 6-7ft high. I would like to plant something to block the view of the flats, but will not throw a lot of shade. 

This is is the view from my window door:

and a a close up:
The decking will go. What do you think would be best at the back? I'm thinking a nice birch, or ginkgo? As you can see we are quite hemmed in by the neighbours' cherry tree on the left and the tree on the right so I am reluctant to plant another tree - are there any grasses that will grow about 14ft (a rough guess on how tall the screening will need to be).

TIA.
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  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 7,319
    I'm not sure that any grass will grow to 14ft, have you thought of a bamboo in a very big pot. Tall and wavy but won't obscure the light too much. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 36,083
    Something that height will inevitably cast a lot of shade, and make the space even smaller. 
    It's a far better design trick to put something smaller about two thirds of the way down the garden to block a distant view. Distraction is a better tool than blocking completely.
    If you don't intend pruning back all the stuff at each side [I'd do that to open the garden out a good bit]  and therefore retaining quite an enclosed dark plot, a simple, light  screen of grasses across the space will give privacy for a good bit of the year, or a couple of evergreen shrubs will do the job all year round. You can get shrubs which flower as well, which would be better value. Just leave a space at each side for access to the back third of the garden. A single, specimen tree would also work, but it would need to be one with a light, airy canopy.
    Alternatively, a trellis screen with climbers would have the benefit of more flowers.
    Any of those options would require a proper bed created for them.
    Also, having some attractive focal points nearer the house  draw the eye away from something uglier. That can be anything from sundials, and statues, to specimen shrubs, or pots of colourful annuals.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 28,086
    Miscanthus giganteus can get to 12feet. ( allegedly )
    Devon.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 25,365
    And our Provençal cane gets to 5 metres here in just one year but is hideous all winter and, because it's deciduous, needs cutting every year.

    Your garden is already quite short and narrow so do look into design tricks as mentioned above.   Make an arch or a pergola about 2/3rds down and cover it with something stunning and colourful like a repeat flowering rambling rose and/or a good viticella group clematis that will fill your eyes.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • MarlorenaMarlorena East AngliaPosts: 4,925
    edited November 2018
    Where there's a will, there's a way, and I see at least 3 options there, none of which are especially difficult..
    The first is simply to do nothing, because it seems to me both those trees at the end, the copper one on the left, and the tall one on the right, are converging towards each other.  It doesn't look as though anyone prunes them, and eventually much of that gap will close over.  The tree on the right especially seems venturing towards the centre area..

    2nd... and my preferred option, would be to plant Eucalyptus gunii down the end where those bikes are...  this is the fastest growing tree you can get here just about, beautiful in its own right, casts little shade, but comes with one proviso... you must prune it every year once it's reached the height you want... within 3 years it will be 20 foot, if you are happy with that, a handyperson needs a ladder and saw to cut off 6 foot at the top every Spring - without fail... miss a year and it's got away from you..  it will soon be back to 15 foot or so by summer, and will completely block out anything behind... I've done this in a very similar situation to yours with this tree...  it's really easy as it involves just one cut of one year old extension growth each year... really it's a doddle...
    Plants are cheap to buy and soon romp away..

    3rd... I might assess the feasibility of putting up a 14 foot Linepost [meant for a washing line]… it's a tall metal post with a 2 foot attachment that is cemented in the ground, so you have a 12 foot metal pole straight up above ground... right in the centre down the end there and of course I would soon have a low thorn rambling rose or Japanese honeysuckle to climb up that which will billow out at the top higher than the support...  
    http://www.linepost.co.uk/washing-clothesline-product-specifications/ 

    best of luck...  oh, and I think the Silver Birch option is a good one, but not the Gingko..
  • ElizaRoseElizaRose East AngliaPosts: 121
    Thanks for all your suggestions. The first photo does make the garden look a little tunnel-like. It's not as bad as that! Unfortunately, the cypress on the left is huge blocking out all sun and while we have had it trimmed twice these past couple of years, our neighbour (it's hers) has done nothing with it (although she has said she might remove it). The cherry (copper leafed on the left) was recently lifted off our shed. The one on the right belongs to our other neighbour. I'm not sure those trees will converge - they are very mature. 

    I should have said that we used the decking area as a breakfast nook, because it gets sun in the morning. So I wanted to retain that, putting in some circular patio stones. 

    If my garden were a little bigger I would try a 'diversion' of the type mentioned (especially a lovely pergola across it), but sadly I think it would make it even more cluttered. When we moved in there was an enormous forest cherry tree right in the foreground of the garden - it was planted there to hide the lamp post (realised that once we took it down!). I don't regret having it chopped because it was ridiculous for a city garden, as pretty as it was and it gave out nice cherries. (Point being someone tried a diversion/screen before we moved there.)

    I'm thinking bamboo in pots would make sense in that area, although i will certainly consider the Eucalyptus gunii, or birch (my favourite tree) and also the idea of a trellis on top of the wall. 
  • ElizaRoseElizaRose East AngliaPosts: 121
    Just to add, we have pruned considerably, more on the right as that is our area. Sadly I'm stuck with a mature pyrocantha, philadelphus and a lilac (that is doing poorly). We were considering getting rid of all of them, but it would be a heck of a job even for a tree surgeon. And then we would be stuck with no privacy so in would go a fence (not my liking) or more shrubs!

    Our neighbour on the left moved in January 2017 and other than make a mess of her garden (which was beautifully maintained by our previous neighbour) she has done absolutely nothing with it. So it's all overgrown. I'm so cross (but that's another post!)
  • ElizaRoseElizaRose East AngliaPosts: 121
    Here's an idea. You will see on the close up that I have a standard olive. It is in a tub, but if I put it in the ground, will it grow bigger? (silly question I suppose, but I just don't know how bit it would get).
  • ElizaRoseElizaRose East AngliaPosts: 121
    But olive trees are very slow growing aren't they. :-(
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 7,319
    Certainly ours in a pot hasn't grown much but you could think about a bigger pot on a plinth to raise it up so it would look taller. You would have to think about exposure to winds and or frost though.
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