En EspaŅol

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?

Share

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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - June 27, 2012

From: Reading, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Privacy Screen for Reading MA
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Best tree to grow for a privacy screen - Hello, we recently moved into a new house in Reading and have an open area on the side of our house where we can make a privacy screen from our neighbors. What is the best trees to plant in MA?

ANSWER:

You’ve got a lot of options of very good native trees or shrubs, so the choice of “best” will fall very much to your preferences and to the specific growing conditions at your new house.  Mr. Smarty Plants generally bases his recommendations around the recommended species lists for the area sorted for desired characteristics. Mixed in are a few quoted previous answers for the area.  This should give you some good directions to consider.

The recommended species list for Massachusetts has 19 results when sorted for plants that are 12-36 foot high, so we’ve got lots to work with. 

One of the characteristics often mentioned as a choice is whether the tree is evergreen [all year privacy] or deciduous [do you really care in the winter!].  There were three native evergreens on the recommended list - Ilex opaca (American holly)Pinus virginiana (Virginia pine) and Rhododendron maximum (Great laurel).  This previous Mr Smarty Plants question was from Virginia, but recommends and discusses very similar species. 

I found two earlier questions that discussed evergreen privacy screens in Massachusetts.  Interestingly, one aimed as a relatively low species [arborvitae] while the other discussed quite tall evergreens!

The other direction is deciduous trees, the majority of the recommended list are these, and this gives me an opening to discuss a couple other possible attributes that should be considered.

If you choose a slow-growing tall tree as the major screen, you may want to consider interplanting a lower, faster-growing species to provide an intermediate screen for the first decade or so.  Rhododendron arborescens (Smooth azalea) is specifically mentioned as fast-growing.

Several deciduous trees are noted as ornamental, this can include either good flowers or fall colors.  Ones that caught my eye are Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud), Cornus florida (Flowering dogwood) or Rhus copallinum (Winged sumac).   Another interesting attribute would be fruit and the bird attention that can bring.   Fruit trees on the Massachusetts list include Malus coronaria (Sweet crabapple),   Prunus serotina (Black cherry), and Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry).  Do pay attention to the warnings about the fruit you may choose!

Hope that this gives you something to think about in planning your privacy screen.  Enjoy your new house!

 

From the Image Gallery


American holly
Ilex opaca

Virginia pine
Pinus virginiana

Great laurel
Rhododendron maximum

Smooth azalea
Rhododendron arborescens

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

Winged sumac
Rhus copallinum

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana

More Trees Questions

Small ornamental tree in Buffalo, NY
August 05, 2009 - Hi.. My family and I have recently moved from coastal North Carolina to Buffalo NY. We have chosen to live in south Buffalo and therefore have a small front yard. We are looking for the perfect tree...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of redbuds from shoots in St. Louis MO
July 17, 2009 - I have a beautiful, healthy old redbud tree that I love. Every year, I find baby redbud trees rooted all over my yard, Since they are deep, I can't seem to dig them out so I simply cut them down to...
view the full question and answer

Care of lemon cypress from Winter Springs FL
April 14, 2011 - Please send me information on care of lemon cypress plant. I have one in small container on my patio. Should I take it in the house? Send any helpful information on its care. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Hardy Tree for Kansas
March 14, 2012 - I'm hoping to find a tree that is hardy and will survive all rough seasons in Wichita, KS. The spot is in front of a northern exposure window.
view the full question and answer

Further explanation of retaining walls and trees from Washington MO
March 11, 2013 - I had a question previously about putting retaining walls across the root system of a 40' tall bald cypress tree(not like spokes on a wheel, but concentric to tree trunk). How wide can the walls be? ...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center