Using fence to add privacy to yard

Credit: Jupiter Images


Q: I would like to add more privacy to a section of my yard. We already have a 5 ft wooden fence erected, however we would like to grow something in the lines of a vine or perhaps a small tree to another 3 ft higher than the fence for a 20ft length section of fencing. We would be planting in the north side and because we live on the north tip of the Charlottes – the north side of a fence has a tendency to remain quite cool and damp even in the summer. We also experience quite strong winds – and again even in the summer (over 80 kmph).

To gain some extra privacy, I extended the fence in my small garden by adding trellises that stick up above the fence. This gives support for vines and shrubs that I’m training. I wonder if this approach would work for you. It would also buffer the plants against those winds! In terms of vines, Parthenocissus quinquefolia (zone 3) and P. tricuspidata (zone 4) are wind-resistant.

I’ve done a bit of research on trees that did well in hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. and many of these plants also grow in B.C. It’s important to prune for wind resistance (open out the branches so the wind can blow through) and encourage a strong root system with good gardening practices (for example, avoid walking on and compacting the soil when it is very wet). Amur maple (Acer tataricum subsp. ginnala; zone 3) is a bushy deciduous tree with a rounded crown to 10 m (30 feet) and red fall color. Shantung maple (A. truncatum; zone 4) is of similar proportions. Perhaps not surprising for a tree that evolved millions of years ago. If the soil is very wet, the swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum; zone 5) would perform beautifully, but it will get to 20 m (70 feet) or more in height. Upright European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’; zone 4) is narrow and upright, gradually reaching 15 m by 12 m (50 x 40 ft). The cultivar ‘Frans Fontaine’ spreads only half that width. The eastern Canadian conifer arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is standard hedging fare and is wind resistant. Of course, don’t rule out the wonderful weeping yellow cedar, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’, which originates in your part of the province.

As a last resort, consider this approach: When visiting Spain a few years ago with a busload of botanists, we puzzled over the rocks around the bases of the ancient olive trees. It turns out the rocks kept the trees grounded during winter winds!