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TREES for Screens

The need for screening is common to many gardens and a requirement which can cause many gardeners much upset and annoyance. Whether the need originates from recent change,  completion of new building works,  or provide shelter from a intrusive wind, or simply block an unwanted view, the choice of screening deserves careful consideration, especially in small sites and/or built up urban environments. Although some might still choose to plant inexpensive and fast growing evergreen trees like Leylandii, increasingly gardeners are seeking alternatives and growing interest and willingness to select a more subtle screen. Here I would like to provide some details of popular choices for trees but it would be wrong to omit any reference to Bamboo, technically a  member of the grass family, is a hugely popular choice for providing screening. Not surprising when one considers the general growth characteristics of certain bamboo, upright growth (> 4.0m) with small foot print (c 1.5m-2.0m), Phyllostachs 'Aurea' is a vigorous and evergreen choice. Apart form requiring some attention during the settling in phase (initial 3-6 months) Bamboos are thereafter independent grow well especially in sheletered sites. They are expensive to buy but otherwise offer ideal growth characteristics for screening apllications. There are several Bamboo varieties from which to choose for screening.    Trees seem to fall in and out of fashion, but as the market re-discovers old reliables, gardeners seeking solutions for screening are prepared to be more adventurous and new alternatives are also becoming very popular: Malus ‘Evereste’ (ornamental crab apple) is a conical tree with lobed leaves and ideal specimen for small gardens. Malus is one of the best for early spring blossom with eye-catching red buds and fantastic autumnal fruit. Olive ‘Europea’ when it comes to selecting a stunning evergreen specimen, the olive tree with its silvery green foliage and rugged stems are certainly a very popular choice. Slow growing and easy to maintain looks great in a row or as a specimen. Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ (Hawthorn) offers a very interesting spring and autumn colour. A popular deciduous tree with red blooms in May and deep red berries in autumn. Betula jacquemontii (Himalayan Birch) a very popular deciduous tree with architects is increasingly winning favour with gardeners for its striking peeling white bark scored with dark lines. Unlike the common Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) the leaves of the Betula Himalayan are oval turning golden yellow in autumn. Great planted in a row or for added interest as a specimen look out for a multi-stem. Sorbus acuparia ‘Autumn Spire’ is a relatively new variety of Mountain Ash, boasting an extraordinary compact and upright growth habit. The popular columnar tree has fantastic fine cut foliage and glossy yellow berries with red tinge making it an ideal choice for growing in a row to provide a dappled screen. Excellent red coloured foliage in Autumn can provide added interest in the planted border. The list is by no means exhaustive and other trees worthy of consideration include Amelanchier (Ornamental cherry), Sorbus 'Joseph Rock' (Mt Ash), Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer' (Ornamental Pear). Ultimately choice of screening will be largely influenced by urgency of requirements including immediacy and extent required, but perhaps before making final decisions, it might be more beneficial for garden to use  some trees which offer an alternative but unique 'dappled' alternative to the previous ubiquitous opaque Leylandii look which has had many disatrous consequences for owners, gardens, etc.

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