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Advice on planting a magnolia (or something else?) for screening

Hi all, I’ve been reading this forum for a couple of years and want to start by saying thank you for this amazing resource!

I’m looking for some advise - we have a north facing garden and we’d like to plant something towards the back left corner (gets full sun) to help improve the current view of houses. I’m not overly concerned about our privacy (we chose to live in a city :smile: ) and I certainly don’t want to completely block the neighbours light but would like to plant something to break up the row of houses and generally improve the view. 

Ideally I’m looking for a tree that I can plant in the back left corner (near the greenhouse) where the trunk will clear the greenhouse but then branch outwards to provide some dappled screening, without getting too tall to be a nuisance for the neighbours. We have a very old apple tree in the far right corner and this is perfect - not too high but provides some screening (you can see the edge of this in the top corner of the second picture). About 18 months ago I planted a Magnolia Cleopatra (small tree that can be seen in the left border near the greenhouse). I’ve now learnt that this won’t get a whole lot taller (max of 4m when mature) and certainly won’t branch out to provide the cover I’d like. I’m thinking of moving this to somewhere better suited and getting a new tree to plant near here (probably further from the fence, maybe a bit in front of the greenhouse) to achieve what I’m looking for. 

I’d really like a Magnolia here and initial research suggests a Magnolia Soulangeana (once mature) could be a good fit but I don’t want to make the same mistake twice so wanted to see what others thought? I realise it will take many years for a tree to mature and I’m happy to wait as long as I know it will eventually be the size I want (so not the Cleopatra!)

Other points that may help: I’m planning to make the beds wider (and work some curves into them). We’re also thinking of putting a pergola over the decked area and growing something up that. The tree between the raised beds is a pyrus chanticleer (so won’t spread much). The greenhouse doesn’t matter too much to me so I’d prefer to have the houses screened a bit and a less useful greenhouse (I’m aware that planting a tree here will reduce the greenhouse light)!

I’ve attached a couple of photos and any advise is very welcome! Thank you!



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  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    I'd be very wary of planting any tree next to, or near, a greenhouse.
    Virtually impossible to maintain either, and there would be problems further down the line with possible damage .

    If you don't really use it or want it, move the greenhouse somewhere else, and then consider the tree.  It will be several years before it makes any kind of screen though :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Thanks @Fairygirl , that’s helpful! The greenhouse was left by the previous owners and whilst I do use it, I’d prefer to improve the outlook from the house so it’s definitely the greenhouse that will go!

    My main concern is whether a Magnolia Soulangeana (grown as a single stem tree) would work or if there’s something better. It’s a big expense for a fairly mature one (online I’ve found a 6-8cm girth 2.5m one for £210 or a 14-16cm girth 3.5m one for £600(!!) - I’m going to try some local places too).

    And I’m assuming moving the smaller magnolia that’s been in place for 18 months shouldn't be too difficult if done over winter? Thanks again!
  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 2,274
    https://forum.gardenersworld.com/discussion/79903/i-want-to-hide-the-houses-at-the-end-of-the-garden/p1
    There are a couple of suggestions in the above thread about planting away from the boundary line that might work for you.
    Easiest way to try is have someone stand on the grass holding up a cane and with a bit of imagination you can get an idea of  what area it would cover as a tree, 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    There are loads of trees that would suit, but I would also agree that often the best way is to plant at around a third in from the back with something smaller. It depends on how you want to use the grass.
    It's an old design trick and often works better. It would allow you to keep the greenhouse there too.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Thanks both - super helpful! 

    I like the idea of planting away from the boundary, that should give better screening without impacting the neighbour’s light. We have young kids so want to keep a fair bit of the grass (I’d like to reduce it but that’s a constant argument with my wife  :smile:). 

    The garden isn’t very deep (it’s pretty much a square), so will go out with a cane and figure out the best place for it to be planted. I’m thinking maybe something like this (making the borders wider and planting a couple of metres in front of the greenhouse and away from both boundaries): 


    With the pyrus chanticleer growing too, a pergola over the seating area and deeper borders I think that will help to make the houses less prominent.

    Please let know if you disagree or think I’d be making a mistake!  :)
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 6,529
    Have you considered a fruit tree.
    You can choose the vigour of the rootstock which will determine the size of the tree giving a mature height anything from about 6ft to a full size 20ft tree.
    You have spring blossom and lots of tasty fruit in the autumn too :)
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • I haven’t actually but that’s a good idea, thanks @Pete.8 for the suggestion!

    Another option that I see recommended a lot is a flowering cherry tree so will try looking into that too.

    Hoping to move the young magnolia and get its replacement in this winter then deal with the border widening etc in spring. Thanks for all the help and suggestions!  :smile:
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    There are loads of trees, depending on what you like , and what time you have for maintenance etc. Some need more care than others - fruit trees, while some need next to nothing - Sorbus, Amelanchier etc. Some have airy, light canopies, some are more dense. Some are great for colour, and/or wildlife, some aren't.  :)

    It's a good time to buy young trees for planting, but take a little time to think about it. Bare root season lasts until March or so, which gives you plenty of time to consider all the possibilities.
    Have a look here to get some more ideas
    https://www.mailordertrees.co.uk/
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Thanks @Fairygirl, that website is useful  :)

    I already have an Amelanchier (due to all the recommendations on this forum!!). I’m looking for something that has a bit of spring interest, gets big enough to screen the houses a bit, but not too big (so will most likely take a while to get to maturity which I’m fine with).

    I really like the look of the magnolia soulangeana, something like this:



    But can’t even decide whether I should get a single or multi-stem one, I’m too indecisive and it feels like such a bit commitment given the cost and time to maturity!

    I’ll take some time to look through the options on that website, thanks again!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    Nothing is going to screen that within a few years, so just be realistic.  :)
    Most Magnolias also like more of a neutral to alkaline soil, so if you don't have that, it might be better to look at something else.
    Again - have a look around the area and see what grows well, or ask neighbours [difficult at the moment I know!]  if they have one, as they won't be flowering just now.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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