Garden bloggers design workshop: Screening out the road


This is my post for the August edition of the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop - Trellises and Screens.

We seldom use our front door. But it -- and our living room -- sit about 35 feet from a busy rural 'connector' road. It's the shortcut for commuters traveling from the east to Cornell University, which employs about 10,000 people, not counting the construction workers.

When we moved in here in 1999, there were three spruces (none taller than I am) between us and the traffic. We lost one in the midnight bowling ball accident of 2003. At that post, you can see the bare 'before' pictures from the year we moved in.

Since then, I've tried to put up a buffer of mixed shrubs and perennials in a bed along the road and next to the house to separate us visually from the road. Here's what it looks like now:

Click on images for larger view.
screen from the road

Here's what makes up the barrier (see numbered image below):

  1. Clematis growing on doorstep pole.
  2. Plume poppy growing in front of living room window.
  3. Bittersweet vine growing on pergola.
  4. Filipendula and burning bushes in front of pergola.
  5. Hybrid willows along road to the west.
  6. 8-foot tall Inula with 6-foot tall polygonum behind it.
  7. Shrubby willows.
  8. Monarda and Cornus alba transplanted from the woods.
  9. Tall willows.
  10. The little spruce, all growed up.

screen from the road

Here's the view from the front door looking slightly left ...

screen from the road

... and slightly right:

screen from the road

How does it work? Could be better. The deer have kept the Cornus alba (above) too short to fully block the road and the driveway beyond. Everything in these images is at full height and in full leaf now. But that's not the case early in the season.

I don't notice the traffic as much during winter when the house is shut up tight. But that's probably a rationalization. I was afraid to plant evergreens due to the wet soil out front and the salt spray from the road during winter. But the remaining spruce have done fine. If I'd planted two or three more in '99, we'd probably have a solid wall of evergreens out front. Oh well.

Along the stretch of the road to the east of our driveway, I planted a screen of Miscanthus floridulus, or at least that's what I think it is. It does a nice job blocking the view of the road from our patio behind the house. The bamboo-like stems also make good pea brush and wattle-building material.

screen from the road

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August 31, 2008

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August 15, 2008

Nan Ondra @ 3:09 pm #

Thanks for your contribution to the Design Workshop, Craig. Your plantings sure have made a difference from the “before” shot. Yes, *maybe* the additional spruces would have looked good by now, but maybe they wouldn’t. I think the mixed border you created, with its seasonal changes, is much more interesting than a solid fence or hedge would have been.

August 18, 2008

Apple @ 11:27 am #

I live on a busy state road, even busier this summer because of truck traffic being detoured out this way due to construction. Unlike you my house is set back from the road but it would still be nice to have some feeling of privacy from the road and maybe block out a bit of the noise. You have some great ideas for creating a seasonal screen! Some of your plants I’m familiar with and others not but it will make a good winter project to see if I can come up with a workable and affordable plan. Thanks!

I like the mixed planting screen, it’s much more interesting than the usual monoculture evergreen thing. You probably don’t need as much screening in the winter anyway. It’s not like you’re sitting out there in the snow with a cold brew in hand watching the world go by.

August 31, 2008

HUGE difference from the before shots! It looks great and definitely blocks all that traffic from your view. So much nicer than the usual boring hedges or fences you see everywhere.


September 2, 2008

Lisa at Greenbow @ 5:26 pm #

I really like your green wall. It seems to screen the road quite well during summer. That is probably when you are in the garden the most anyway.

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