Obscuring the View

Back garden April 2008

I’m a person that needs a project to motivate myself.  Without a deadline or plan I have little impetus to get going.  As we are heading into Winter my thoughts are turning to next Spring and what I want to try to achieve in the garden.  Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that I have been trying to find an identity for the slope at the back of the garden.

When we moved in 6 years ago the back slope was dominated by a huge Laurel.  I found the above photo which was taken in April 2008 but it didn’t survive much longer than that.  The Laurel drove me mad as it dominated the view of the back garden as well as sucking up all the moisture from the soil around it.  I knew when it came out that my view would change dramatically but decided to go for it anyway.

Behind my garden is the a bungalow.  As we are on a slope the bungalow is about the same height as my upstairs windows so this now means that we look straight into their garden and vice versa.  This didn’t really bother me as we now had a good view of the Malvern hills.  But over the last two years the neighbour’s washing line has begun to irritate as well as the neighbour.  He is one of those little men who has to stick his nose in things that are nothing to do with him.  He also has what I call the ‘scorched earth’ approach to gardening.  From what I can see there is little growing in his garden more than a couple of feet tall.  However, what really irritates me about him is his refusal to let anything cross the boundary line so my beautiful Prunus which must have been there for years, gets butchered from his side on a regular basis.  It is the only flat backed Prunus tree (as you can see from the photo).


I did win a small victory this month as when he informed me that he was pruning the tree again back to the fence I told him that he would be getting rid of the prunings.  He started to argue, last time I came home to a pile about 4ft high thrown over my fence.  Luckily after the last time I had checked my facts and informed him, with more authority than I felt, that he was required by law to offer me the prunings but if I didn’t want them then it was up to him to get rid of them – and I didn’t want them.  Well that didn’t go down well but it made me feel better!

Anyway, I need to sort the fence out as I am sick of looking at it – to me it dominates the view. This year I bought a beautiful Vitus to grow along the fence to cover it and provide some fab autumn colour.  Needless to say as soon as my son  started to drill the holes for the vine-eyes irritating neighbour was peering over the fence wanting to know what was happening (we share responsibility for the fence).  I went for climbers in order to cover the fence and also because if I plant a tree or large shrub it will get massacred by the mad neighbour and I don’t want that to happen.  However, I have now got to the point where I don’t want him to be able to look over the fence, nor do I want to look at his house or his washing line any more.

So I have decided that the best plan will be to plant some bamboo along the fence.  I have a large clump forming bamboo which I have divided before successfully so I think come the Spring  I will divide it again and plant at least two clumps along the top.  No doubt that will make mad neighbour twitch as of course all bamboo is known to be invasive! I will move the Buddleja down the slope a little and I am going to add a dwarf Crab Apple to add a little height but far enough from the fence to protect it.  I might move the vine to the side fence as I don’t want it getting destroyed by his pruning.  I am thinking that if I use Bamboo as the backdrop then I can add shrubs etc along the top of different heights etc to produce a thick shrubbery which he can’t see through.  Hopefully the Bamboo will grow tall enough to block the house from the view but still leave me the hills.

View from our upstairs window

View from our upstairs window

If you have any bright idea of plants I can plant along the fence line that will grow tall but won’t grow over the fence please let me know – all  ideas will gratefully be received. I have even considered Leylandi but this would cast a huge shadow in my garden so that’s out.

16 Comments on “Obscuring the View

  1. Hi Helen. I sympathise with your boundary issues – or more accurately, neighbour issues! I think the bamboo will work really well – I use Phyllostachys nigra in a similar role and it is a good 8′ now, after 8 years growth, but grew to over 6′ within a year of planting. I’ve also found Fatsia japonica works well, looking wonderful with the bamboo, growing to around 6′ very happily, and providing a great backdrop. Planted a little forward of the fence it shouldn’t get too butchered. You could also try a columnar flowering cherry, or perhaps a Rowan, many of those have a narrow canopy which might survive the neighbour’s attentions… Defensive gardening isn’t much fun, good luck finding a solution which keeps the wonderful view but makes your neighbour irritated but impotent!

  2. PS VP just reminded me – in a comment on a post I did about boundaries recently – about pleached hedges. Might that work for you, if you set it back from the fence a little? Could be a stunning feature, though would take time to establish.

  3. Thanks Janet. Good suggestions. I have already got a Fatsia further along but another one might not be bad or I could move the original one – will ponder

  4. I so feel for you, Helen. I have a similar neighbours (next door) and while you can’t call them bad neighbours I dread them knocking on the door or catching me in the garden. As most of my garden is open plan, it makes me a nervous gardener! Your plans for the back of the garden seem great, I really think they will solve your problems even if they are not quite what you would have chosen. I am hoping that having to get rid of the pruning will encourage him to leave your tree alone!

    Best wishes Sylvia

  5. Oh dear, how I sympathize! Janet’s suggestion for pleached hedging sounds good – also the bamboo would be evergreen for you, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it be a treat to have a simpaticogardening neighbor – hardly ever happens!

  6. Neighbours can certainly be much more of a problem than plants, Helen; I sympathize with you. Shame you took the bay out you could have pruned it into a good solid shape that would have dealt with part of the issue. Pleached trees sound a wonderful idea but are a lot of work and maybe expensive to get started. Bamboo on the other hand could be a great option. You can plant them with a constraining divider so they don’t invade your garden and well your neighbour can do what he likes! I think shrubs with good form often hide a fence much better than something actually on the fence which only emphsize it. Good Luck, Christina

  7. Helen, what a flipping laugh, mind you I am a little mannie. On a serious note I have a new neighbour his garden is at the left of mine. It once offered complete privacy with mature trees and shrubs, he removed everything, however I have now planted trees on my west facing border which is going to completely piss him off. I agree with Christina, planting in front of a fence is definately better than climbers. Columnar trees spaced far enough apart with shrubs planted in between in a constructed manner would look good. Janet mentions cherry, look for one named Amanagawa, There are column growing Yew trees and perhaps the Rowan Cashmeriana with pure white large berries, doesn’t grow too wide and looks fantastic. The Bamboo Nigra is also a good choice, it will probably creep under the fence and grow at his side, pay back time. Or as Christina says you could contain it, put it in a large plant pot fill it with compost and get your son to cut away the bottom of the pot. The evergreen Pittosporum would be a good srub, not the red leafed one as it is too short, also Camellia Donation would look good. Good luck

  8. I would be tempted to plant something very thorny by the fence ~ that might cure his urge to prune 🙂

  9. Sylvia – I’m glad it isnt just me that dreads the neighbours peering over the fence. The ones either side are fine and keep themselves to themselves but the one behind – grrr

    Janet/gardeningalsylum – I like the idea of a pleached hedge but I dont think it would work in this location plus it would be expensive and wouldnt give me winter coverage – thanks for the suggestion though

    Christina – I took the Laurel out as it was huge. We did try pruning it but because of the steep slope it was really really difficult to do and caused us loads of problems. Now we have added some terracing the slope is more manageable

    Alistair – many thanks for the suggestions. Hope my comment about small men didnt offend – just speaking from experience!

    Anna – I’m way ahead of you, there is already a Berberis and will have toyed with a white bramble just to wind him up!

  10. A little over a year ago our neighbor cut down ALL of the small trees growing on his side of our fence – flowering dogwoods, sassafrass, cedar, a small magnola and more – my blog post on that at http://ginnysgarden.blogspot.com/2009/09/mourning-loss-of-neighbors-trees.html . Those trees were beautiful with the branches draping over our fence and they also obscured our view of his house and the utility poles and electrical lines. We planted a dogwood on our side of the fence and trained Carolina Jessamine to grow along the top of the fence to soften it. Virginia creeper grows on the fence in a few places. The fence itself doesn’t bother me – it’s the view of the other side. I totally empathize with you on this one!

  11. Now you know why previous owners planted that huge laurel there. 🙂

    How about planting a beech hedge on stilts? Not too expensive (at least not here) and privacy in winter too as it keeps most of its brown leaves during the dormant season.

    BTW good for you that you told him off re the prunings.

  12. I think bamboo is a good idea. But I am really surprised that your neighbour is allowed to destroy your trees. Is there no law against that?

    • The law here in the UK is that you can prune back to the boundary line – regardless of the damage it does to the plant!

  13. So sorry to hear of your not-so-nice neighbor. What is it with these people? I don’t get their desire to destroy plants. The clumping bamboo should look great. We have a huge bamboo farm near me. I need to get by there and see her beautiful bamboo.

    I also like the sound of bamboo as it rustles in the wind.~~Dee

  14. That laurel had to go. Your photo of it showed it dominating the view in such an overpowering way. How would you scale plantings around it that would be able to compete? We have a neighbor that has just put on a new deck that now has front row seats of everything that happens in my back garden. I’m starting to think bamboo myself! Really, it’s a lovely plant, and not all of them are invasive or hard to live with.

  15. Phyllostachys vivax aureocaulis. Crocus do this plant for £19.99 a pop, plant a row of 5 and stand back! This is the same bamboo that Victoria has in her front garden, if you remember it? The new shoots are edible too.

    Also you could do a mass planting of Buddleia – I’ve recently done this using dwarf to large cultivars. Should be amazing in another year or two! They’re also semi-evergreen which is quite handy, and easy to chop back when required. Think of the butterflies!

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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