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Tree choice?


I'm a relatively novice gardener.  We have a London property we've recently moved into with a West facing garden we plan to do up.  (Future plans include building a wood fence in the back, and creating an area of turf.)  We have a primary school located behind our garden.   We have two very large trees but they've grown to a height they don't really screen much.  I would love to add a little more privacy with another tree or two I'm just not sure what to plant.  I worry that a lot of evergreens end up being very thick and blocking out too much light.  I liked the look of chanticleer(pyrus calleryana) but read that it can be quite smelly?  Maybe hornbeam?  And would it be an issue planting it next to the big trees already there. Attaching a photo and appreciate any advice or suggestions.  (We'd be removing the bamboo and some of the other brush currently there).

Thank you



  • Have you considered holly?  It can be quite happy growing amongst other trees and there are lots of different leaf colours including variegated, so it needn't be like a solid block of green, and you can control it's size by judicious clipping (with the bonus of free Christmas decorations).

    If you plant female types you'll get berries (if there's a male around to pollinate them, and there usually is, or you can plant one).  Good for wildlife too, as bees love the flowers in the summer, birds love the berries in the winter, and blackbirds love to nest in a holly bush image

    If you prepare the ground  and look after it, holly grows more quickly than most people think, so it should get to a decent size in a reasonable period.

    And of course, something prickly can be a help security-wise - although not all holly varieties are very prickly. 


    Last edited: 19 February 2017 11:57:22

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

  • Personally, I'd seriously consider having those two trees removed and stumps ground out, even if you have to save up to do it.  They look overly vigorous for that position and haven't been pruned well.  Growing grass beneath them will always be tricky if not impossible.  That would give you a blank canvass and you could plant some smaller, much more well behaved trees and shrubs.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • As so often is the case, I agree with Bob about removing the trees - if that is an option image

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

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439

    It looks to me as though your picture has been taken from an upstairs window so I am assuming you want some height to screen the playground from the upstairs windows.  Am I right in my assumption?  If so I would keep the trees but maybe get them pruned as once in leaf they will provide some screening.  What kind of trees are they; hard to tell in the leafless state. The ivy growing up the left tree provides further screening so maybe add some more to go up the right tree too.  When ivy is old like this it flowers and fruits which is very good for some birds and pollinating insects.  I like the holly suggestion; other possibilities could be an evergreen  berberis or escallonia.

    Last edited: 19 February 2017 14:19:50

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • I'm just wondering whether they're a type of tree that would respond well to being pollarded?  It might be worth asking a reputable tree surgeon what he/she thinks. 

    Of course, they'd need re-doing every few years, but pollarding them at the height where the trunks fork would certainly screen the school from the upstairs windows, and you could still screen lower down with holly bushes.

    Last edited: 19 February 2017 14:41:14

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

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    If you are only looking to screen the view from ground level  a quick way of screening would be to plant quick growing climbers along what looks like the 6 ft fence at the back. The trees do not look very pretty so yes, take them down if financially viable and plant some nicer ones for the longterm. 

    Unless you intend to be there very longterm I don't think you will be able to replace the trees with anything that will screen the view from the top story. 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439

    The original thread from this post has gone????? Wonder what's going on.

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • It's still there for me Redwing.  Check you haven't accidentally 'ignored' neilberry in your forum settings.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Thank you everyone for your thoughtful advice.  To answer some of the questions, I believe the trees are Sycamore and Ash.  We actually had the trees crowned (at neighbour's request) in September, but it was done a bit haphazardly.  We'll see how they come back this spring.  I probably should have done a bit more thinking about these trees first.  

    I have had the thought maybe it would be best to remove considering how out of control the one on the left is especially.  But you've hit the nail on the head as far as the conundrum, in that we have the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors of the property and from the upper floors there actually is a nice canopy of green as part of the sight line that I fear we'll miss (this picture was taken on the landing between 1st and 2nd floor) and may take a long time to recover.  Appreciate the shade from the trees will make grass very difficult to grow.  Our neighbours manage to do so (their grass is closer in to their property) with similar trees at the back. But evidently it's with great difficulty and a little patchiness.  Suppose there's always artificial grass, but we don't really love the idea.  So definitely some trade-offs to consider here. 

    As for the fence, our thought would be to do slatted wood (maybe a little light would get through?).  Again I wonder if the tree's growth, if it remained, would be a problem up against a fence and an ongoing  source of frustration. I'm open to some better planned vegetation/hedging as an alternative.

    At any rate a lot to weigh and research further in your feedback, thank you. 

    Last edited: 19 February 2017 20:11:38

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