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Trees for Protection and Privacy

by Contributor January 25, 2016

In addition to the planet-wide benefits they provide, trees provide solutions for a number of tangible, small-scale challenges. The very types of challenges that face homeowners and property managers every day.

Some reduce their energy consumption by using large canopy trees to shade southern exposures or air-conditioning units. Others plant fruit and ornamental species to attract wildlife or improve the aesthetics of the land.

However, one of the most effective uses of trees is to use them as a protective shield where you need it. In effect, you can create solid barriers with trees, which is helpful for a wide variety of challenges. Assuming proper species selection, site consideration and planting, trees can shield your property from almost anything short of radiation, asteroids or Velociraptors.

Perhaps that is a bit of an overstatement, but trees do provide great protection from things like wind, sun, noise and nosey neighbors.

Suitable Species

Virtually any tree species can be used in a protective or barrier-style capacity, but, as always, you must match the species with the location. You could use coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) or Baobab trees (Adansonia spp.) to make an effective privacy hedge, assuming of course, you are trying to block aliens from spying on you from space. They will be of little help blocking the noise from the local highway once they mature, as their crowns will be far above the road.   

In most cases, you will be trying to block things like wind, sight lines or noise originating from ground level to a height of about 20, 30 or 40 feet. Such applications lend themselves well to a handful of species often used to form screens or barriers. 

Various arborvitae (Thuja spp.) species and cultivars are excellent candidates for shielding purposes and among the most common choices. Although there are several varieties from which you may choose, most arborvitaes exhibit the key traits sought for shielding purposes. Most exhibit a columnar growth habit, grow quickly and thrive amidst the challenges inherent to urban and suburban locations. However, you must match the best cultivar to your location, to obtain the best results. 

Several other species can work in similar capacities. Arizona cypresses (Cupressus arizonica) work well in arid, sun-drenched locations, while Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica) are better suited for areas in partial shade. You can also select broad-leafed species if you prefer, such as many hollies (Ilex spp.) or wax myrtles (Myrica cerifera), both of which will keep their leaves all year long. 

While evergreen species are generally preferable for the year-round protection they provide, deciduous trees can provide unique solutions. For example, those living in places with hot summers and cold winters may plant deciduous trees along their southern exposure, which will block the sun during the summer, yet allow the winter sun to bathe the land. A wide variety of deciduous tree species, including hedge maples (Acer campestre) and several southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) cultivars, work well in this capacity, depending on the site conditions.

For that matter, there is no rule that says you have to plant a monoculture like screen; you can mix and match species to your heart is content, provided that each tree is well suited to the site. This allows you to mix evergreens with deciduous species, to obtain the best of both worlds.

Planting a privacy hedge is a rather substantial undertaking. You certainly can complete the task yourself, but it is much easier – and likely to be successful – if you solicit the help of a competent tree service provider. Give us a call and let us help design a screening plan for your property and install it as only the best San Francisco yard cleaning services and best arborists can!

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