Planting near (very) well established conifers

(9 Posts)
FireflyGirl Fri 21-Oct-16 21:48:38

Our front garden is North-facing (I think - if we look out the front window, we're looking North-ish), with very well established 8+feet conifers on either side but nothing at the front. They get a lot of light. We're a corner house, meaning any traffic that comes down to the rest of the cul de sac looks straight into our front garden and consequently our front room.

We want to reclaim the front, and add some privacy. DH would like us to plant shrubs/bushes rather than a fence, but we'd need something that could grow to at least 5 feet and compete with the conifers.

Is this realistic?

shovetheholly Sat 22-Oct-16 16:59:02

Yes, I think you can definitely do this! If the soil is dry, the plants may need a bit of extra water to establish. You need to choose something that will cope with north-facing shady conditions, and whatever soil you have.

If you want a hedge, laurel is a fast-growing thug that will cope, yew is a posher and nicer option but much slower to grow. Beech for dry, hornbeam for wet soils are lovely - they are deciduous but keep the dead leaves on over winter. Privet copes with just about anything.

Or you can do a mixed border using lots of different shade-loving shrubs, which would be less monolithic than a hedge!

FireflyGirl Sat 22-Oct-16 22:19:54

Thanks holly.

DH fancies a mixed hedge, but as it will be me doing most of the nurturing (his gardening responsibilities stretch to mowing the grass and hacking at the conifers a couple of times a year), I wasn't sure whether it might be a bit too much work.

Might try interspersing laurel (which I quite like anyway) with Sweet Box for a bit of colour in winter...

shovetheholly Sun 23-Oct-16 08:49:45

OK, I understand a bit more now.

A hedge will give you the screening you want, and you can grow it as high as you like. However, it does require a bit of maintenance. If you're worried about this, I would avoid fast-growing things like the plague. You do not want laurel or privet, because they will need cutting 2 maybe 3 times a season, and this is heavy work. (I have a couple of hundred feet of privet and it's rare that I can get away with only 2 cuts. I bloody hate the stuff).

The lowest maintenance option of all might be to go for a more mixed set of back of border shrubs, some deciduous some evergreen, that will give you a bit of strategic screening, and a looser, more informal feel than a hedge. You can vary the height and density so that you still get some light through, which also means you don't get a kind of dead space between the hedge and the house where nothing much will grow. Often people think that with screening they need a really thick, dense barrier, but actually one or two strategically placed things can sometimes be as effective and more beautiful.

Sweet box is gorgeous, but it's possibly a bit low for your purposes - it only grows to about 1.5 metres and takes years to get there. It's often more effectively used when you only want 2-3 feet of barrier.

MissMargie Mon 24-Oct-16 13:36:54

I think your hedge will end up taller in the middle than at the edges where the soil is dry due to conifers.

Laurel is very tough and grows fast so you could put a couple in with a view to removing them once other stuff has grown. Or keep them to cut line of sight of passers by.
Mahonia will grow in very dry conditions such as next to conifers.
Both are evergreen.
The shrubs nearer the house, if you plant a mixture of shrubs, will get the sun so should do well. There are lots of flowering ones weigela, lilac, buddleia, etc etc and if they get too big over time you can take them out or cut them back.

FireflyGirl Thu 27-Oct-16 15:32:36

Thanks for more ideas. Will have a look at Mahonia, and evergreen shrubs.

From what you've said, holly I might try doing a double layer of shrubs. Maybe sweet box at the front, furthest from the house, and then something taller and evergreen behind. I did really like the look of the sweet box blush

shovetheholly Thu 27-Oct-16 15:37:34

Yes, if you have the space you could have a proper border - high at the back, lower at the front. Good idea to get plenty of structure from shrubs, but you can add spring bulbs, and shade-loving perennials for a bit of summer colour as well! My back garden is north-facing, and there are loads of lovely things that will grow in shady conditions! smile

FireflyGirl Fri 28-Oct-16 08:12:46

Quite excited to have a look now! I thought we were just going to be stuck with a fence. Thanks for the suggestions flowers

shovetheholly Fri 28-Oct-16 12:51:33

I haven't done any posting on it for a while, but I started a shade gardening thread here:

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/gardening/2441728-Shady-characters-a-permanent-home-for-shade-garden-suggestions

I should really post some more in it!

An important thing to think about will be how dry your shade is. This can vary within centimetres -under a conifer it can be quite dry, further away it can turn quite claggy. Different plants will like it drier or wetter. It sounds more complicated than it is, because if you get a plant in the wrong place and it flags, you can always move it!

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