En EspaÑol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - March 17, 2011

From: Nassau County, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Trees for privacy in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I am looking for trees native to New York that I can plant in front of my backyard fence that is six feet tall that will not hide my fence or overshadow my east facing garden beds and plants underneath them in the afternoon, but will provide a year-round screen of my neighbor’s property.I want trees w/ erect growing branches that are thin near the bottom and fuller near the top; so, I was thinking of columnar fastigate trees that grow up fast, but not out. How about Lombardy poplar or hornbeam before arborvitaes? Thank you, Mr. Smarty Plants


It sounds like you know exactly what you want but it is not clear that there is such a tree that grows that way.  Most evergreen trees are wider at the bottom and look somewhat awkward with their lower branches removed.  Single stemmed (one trunk) deciduous trees have the form you are looking for but will not give you a year round screen.

You are right to be thinking about a tree with a fastigiate form and the European hornbeam displays that form more than our native Ostrya virginiana (Eastern hop-hornbeam) and Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) as does the Lombardy poplar (a short lived, European import that we would never recommend planting).

There is a columnar cultivar of Pinus strobus (Eastern white pine) which is the only fastigiate evergreen that comes to mind.

Your other choice would be a small (relatively), vase shaped multistemmed tree.  These are all deciduous and would only provide partial coverage in the wintertime.  Some suggestions are:

Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian serviceberry)

Betula nigra (River birch)

Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud)

Hamamelis virginiana (Witch hazel)

Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay)

Ostrya virginiana

Carpinus caroliniana

Amelanchier canadensis

Cercis canadensis

Betula nigra

Hamamelis virginiana

Magnolia virginiana







More Trees Questions

Roots in mulch around Live Oak in Austin
March 10, 2011 - I have a 20 yr old Live Oak that has about 6-8 inches of mulch buildup around the base (I had landscaped around it). I went to break up the mulch to remove it from the base of the tree, but found it ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Live Oak in Boerne TX
April 24, 2011 - I had my large Live Oak trimmed last year. This spring there seems to be a problem with leaf growth. Most leaves are small in nature and appear to have been attacked possibly by bugs. Many of the bran...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for clay soil in Lathrop MO
March 21, 2011 - My family just moved to the north Kansas City, MO area and would like to know what native species, both perennial and tree, will do best in the clay soil. It has already proven problematic as we have ...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen for privacy in PA
July 18, 2011 - We need to plant a privacy/sound barrier hedge/hedgerow and my husband says it must be evergreen. I am not familiar with which species would be native to our area and I just don't trust those big sto...
view the full question and answer

Oak sprouts in flower bed in Colleyville TX
April 04, 2011 - We have a raised flower bed in our back yard that includes 2 live oak trees. We have a TON of shoots that keep popping up and make our bed look very untidy. My husband doesn't think the shoots are ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center