Monster Problem

Credit: Courtesy Daniel Mosquin/UBC Botanical Garden

Q: Help! There is a monster house being built right next door to us, and I mean right next door. There is a very narrow planting space, approximately a metre (3 ft.) from our house to the fenceline, and it is now in full shade. How should we plant it to gain some privacy?

The issue of how to gain privacy from a large house next door is a huge challenge, one more and more people are facing. Probably the best way to plant in the narrow space between your house and fence is vertically, using vines, though the deep shade narrows the selection available. For an evergreen vine in shade, your best choice is a non-invasive ivy or semi-evergreen vine such as Akebia.

Building an arbour that extends past the top of the fence will provide a brighter place for the vine to grow. Many vines don’t mind having their feet in the shade (some, such as clematis, practically demand it) as long as they can reach up to the sun. An arbour will not only give you a place to grow a vertical plant, but will also distract your eye from the building next to you. Check with your local municipality about restrictions on structures at the property line before you go ahead.

If you prefer to plant the space and don’t want to build a structure, determine whether or not you need space to walk there. For instance, you might be able to plant bamboo along the fence line if there is enough light. To do this you would want to dig in a proper bamboo root barrier and plant in that. This would give you an attractive evergreen plant that moves gracefully and distracts from the house next door.