Trees for Screening
8 October 2007
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
Fall is a good time to plant trees, for the most part, and except that we are currently living with water restrictions in some places we still recommend this time of year for shopping for trees. While your local restrictions may vary, the Albemarle County water restrictions say it is not illegal to water your new trees if the capacity of your watering container is three gallons or less. This should work fine for those planting and maintaining a few new trees but I am afraid that a large new planting might be more labor intensive than some would like.
One popular use for trees is as screens for a variety of things. Using trees as living screens can easily enhance living and working spaces. Before selecting trees for screening it is a good idea first think through the purpose, whether functional or environmental. Screening can be used to define an area, modify or hide a view, create privacy, block wind, dust, salt and snow, control noise, filter light, and direct traffic flow.
Before selecting any tree, consider characteristics that may change as the tree grows. A little research can prevent the cost and trouble of removing a tree that has become unsuitable for the place where it was planted. The special characteristics of a tree determine its suitability for a particular situation. Give careful consideration to each of the following factors such as size at maturity, form and shape, deciduous or evergreen, site conditions, and special characteristics such as thorns or susceptibility to pest problems before selecting a screening tree.
One technique for maximizing the effectiveness of tree screens is massing or grouping trees of either the same type or of different heights or forms. Row plantings of columnar or fastigiate trees give a neat formal appearance. Trees with multiple trunks (such as birches, redbuds and crape myrtles) give the appearance of more trees in a smaller space.
Try planting trees and shrubs together because shrubs can quickly fill in areas giving time for trees to reach mature sizes. Vines or climbing plants will work in these combinations. Use large shrubs instead of trees for a small-scale landscape grouping. Many shrubs (such as viburnums, vitex, wax myrtle, witchhazel) can be pruned into tree form.
Trees growing in containers make an instant, temporary screen. Containerized trees offer the advantage of moving and rearranging, and their containers can add a decorative element.
If you would like a list of recommended trees for screening, contact your local Extension office or visit our web site http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/nursery/430-025/430-025.html.
For more technical information on the planting and care for trees we are offering a workshop on October 19 called Its All About the Trees. While this workshop is geared toward professional tree workers and offers ISA, VNLA, and pesticide applicator recertification credits there is something for everyone interested in trees and it is open to all. For more information or to register please call 872-4580.
For more information about this and other landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.