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Conifer Advice please

We moved into a new house last year. We have a row of very tall conifers at the back of the garden. Whilst I hate the conifers themselves I like the privacy they afford us. We have a nice sized garden but without the tall conifers we would be overlooked by the top floor of the houses backing us. 

We could just remove the conifers and plant new trees. My concern with this approach is that we can't afford very mature trees and it will take a long time for them to reach a similar height to the conifers. 

Another option someone suggested, was to cut back all the branches to the trunks. To then leave the trunks and possible extend wires between them. We could then grow rambling roses or jasmine up the trees. With the idea that they will grow up the trunks and across the wires between the trees creating a lovely canopy. 

Has anyone got any experience with this approach. Will it work? Will the conifer remain alive and dry out the ground underneath preventing things from growing?


  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    Conifer roots rot very quickly once the tree is dead, so I think that last option is out as they will be simply be blown over by the wind ns a few years.  I've seen folk try it, but bare conifer trunks are not a thing of beauty, even if covered in climbers.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,096
    I agree with @BobTheGardener ... I’ve seen it done ... I’ve never seen it work 😞 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 9,594
    I think in your situation I'd probably keep the conifers, leave a gap of 2 or 3 feet for access to trim them, maybe with bark chippings or similar to keep down any weeds,  and make a big deep bed in front to grow a mixed border of nice shrubs and perennials.  Maybe a small airy-canopied tree or two for height as well (depending on the width of the garden).
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • BenCottoBenCotto Posts: 4,494
    I certainly would not take up the option of a row of dead stumps. Indeed, I would go right back to the foundation of the question which is being overlooked from upstairs windows. It is theoretically possible, but does it actually happen? Are those rooms pretty much only occupied at night time when you’re unlikely to be out in your garden anyway? 

    From the top part of our garden we can look down into neighbour 1’s garden, but we don’t. From our sitting room window we look right across the road onto neighbour 2’s terrace but a sun umbrella gives them complete privacy. And neighbour 3, from their bathroom, can look directly into our orchard area. As we never sit out, and rarely even garden there, no problems exist for either party.
    Rutland, England
  • Thank you for your answers. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge and experience. It seems like they will have to go and be replaced in time by other trees. 

    Any suggestions of trees to replace them would be much appreciated. I like the idea of mimosa trees as they are evergreen and I love the colorful flowers at this time of year.

    I also like eucalyptus, but had heard it can grow too fast!? 
  • AuntyRachAuntyRach Posts: 5,101
    Just a vote for keeping them here. I don’t like conifers and wouldn’t choose to plant them but our row at the back affords us privacy that other trees couldn’t match. A private garden is very valuable and thus would be a deal-breaker for me. We have a tree surgeon every other year to trim the tops to keep them at a certain height (£££) and we trim the fronts and any wayward bits ourselves once or twice a year. They are a haven for birds too. 

    Consider growing something in a border in front of them, for your own benefit (the ground will be dry and poor however) and if you do get rid of them, place your chairs etc to face your house so you feel less overlooked. You could also ask the neighbour if you can have a look from their side to help judge whether the privacy issue is a reality (beware neighbours persuading you to get rid of them though (every year) - ask me how I know). 
    My garden and I live in South Wales. 
  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 4,591
    Agree with BobTheGardener.
    In addition it would look horrid.

    I don't think a border in front of the conifers would work...
    Ground will be full of conifer roots, these roots would make ground far too dry for normal shrubs.

    Beware of planting Eucalyptus.....they grow fast and have surface roots that spread miles from the trunk...sucking every drop of water from the ground.

    Mimosa...will they be hardy where you live?
    Where do you live.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
  • Great, thank you. I live in Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex and I've seen many gardens with beautiful mimosa trees. 
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,645
    We have inherited 2 in a climate they love.  I would not choose to plant them.  They sit there for 11 months of the year looking dull and dark with their glaucous foliage tho the leaf form is attractive and now that we've raised their crowns and cleared some crossing branches their structure is better.  See this thread -

    In February or earlier in a mild winter, they produce acid yellow flowers which look good for about 2 weeks then darken to a better gold colour for a few days and then the flowers go brown and ugly.   Then they drop those and we get seedlings all over.  And suckers.  

    There are far better trees you can plant with a longer season of interest and a better size for an average UK garden but if you do remove and replant you will need to do a great deal of soil improvement and root and stump removal.

    As for your conifers, they will have stripped all the nutrients and much of the moisture where they are planted and for a distance either side.   You could have them topped to a height that still give you privacy but doesn't block light form your neighbours.   You can trim back their width a bit but only cutting back a bit into green foliage.  Once you go back to brown wood or leaves they do not regenerate.

    Make, or leave, a path at least a metre wide in front of them and then create a new bed or spaces to plant more interesting trees, shrubs and perennials to break up the solidity of the conifers and give changing seasonal interest.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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