The Plant Man by Steve Jones www.landsteward.org
These trees quickly add privacy and a sound barrier
QUESTION: "I have two problems that I hope you can help me with. I live in zone 4/5 and I am looking for a fast growing, sturdy tree or hedge to plant at the back of my yard to provide privacy and a sound barrier. What trees would you suggest? Would the cedar Green Giant be a good choice? I also own 5 acres of waterfront property. I am looking for a fast growing, sturdy tree or hedge that can provide privacy and withstand some high winds. I would also like to plant some nice hardwood trees on the property as well. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated." – Brandon M. Adams
ANSWER: Yes, the Green Giants will grow in your region. They are fast growing plants and should provide you with privacy in about 3 years.
For your waterfront property, you might consider the hybrid poplars or hybrid willows for a fast growing privacy screen and plant other, longer growing plants in the area. For a more natural look, plant varieties of plants that are already growing on the property or on neighboring property. Elm, Siberian peashrub and lilacs make nice hedges with a natural look, also.
Trying to keep a natural look on the property would also hold down the maintenance. To add a little "spice" you might plant some specimen plants near the house. Suggestions: Forest Pansy redbud (which needs full sun) or any of the other redbud varieties, dogwoods, hydrangeas, dwarf bald cypress or Gold Leaf Dawn redwood. Hope this gives you some food for thought!
QUESTION: "We recently logged off around our cabin which left us open to the road in front. We have already replanted with red pine, but would like to plant a border to shelter or block the view from the road. Is there something that you would suggest that the deer wouldn't just decimate immediately after planting?" – Joe Jett
ANSWER: Some deciduous plants that deer aren't fond of are barberry, burning bush, green ash, forsythia, lilac, viburnum, ornamental grasses and rosa rugosa. One evergreen that they don't care for is the cedar Green Giant. The green giants would fully block the view from the road. Just a reminder that planting oaks or other food-producing plants will encourage the deer to come onto the property, so you still run the risk of having them damage any type of planting, whether by eating or stomping.
QUESTION: "I have two large pots on my front porch. Every year we have been putting large ferns in the pots. I am ready for a change. What do you have to plant or put in the pots that would look good inside the pots? Something that is rather large or will become large. (But not elephant ears!) Our front porch has limited shade. It faces north with trees on the west side of the house. " – Walter Shepherd
ANSWER: Here are a few ideas: Ninebark Diablo, redbud Don Egolf, trailing (creeping) redbud and hostas will work better in the shaded area. The redbuds will grow a bit taller than the ninebark or hostas, so it's just a matter of preference. You should take into consideration what color your house is (as a background) and go from there. For example, if it is a red brick, the Ninebark would visually disappear!
QUESTION: "I have a problem area on the side of my house where grass does not grow well. The area has a northern exposure and clay soil with some tree roots too. Can you suggest a ground cover that would work here?" – Corinne Crownover
ANSWER: You don't mention whether or not the area is shaded. Either way, the hardiest groundcovers (in my opinion and experience) are pachysandra, ajuga, vinca, corsican mint, golden thyme, and woolly thyme. If you have decent drainage in this area, you could add some sand to the clay soil and plant one of the thymes or the mint. They don't like moist ground and will not do well if it stays wet. However the pachysandra, ajuga and vinca are a little more forgiving in that regard.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org