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A bit more detail would be helpful

How tall?

Are there any restrictions?

How far from house?

And what do you mean by safe?

Hi Sotogeoff

Errr, as tall as possible, but I believe there might be rules 2 to 2 1/2 metres would be an excellent start.

I'm not sure about restrictions. The housing developers planted a eucalyptus (now gone), so I presume we're ok.

The hedge or shrubs would come to within 1.5m of the house (well, garage, which is attached to house)

Ideally looking for something light and airy, without too big a 'footprint' at ground level. I love beech, but I'm not sure it's suitable.

My soil is heavy clay.

It's the roots that worry me!
Got to go out now, but I'll check back in later...

Slightly less cold in Devon today, so looking forward to getting some of those winter gardening jobs done this weekend!
Shrinking Violet

Having had a beech hedge which took years to get rid of you will gather I'm not a fan!  They shed their leaves all in one go in the spring, grow at a rate of knots (I once planted a delphinium "in front" of the hedge - by the time it bloomed, it was inside it!)and they suck the moisture from the soil.  They are the devil to keep under control, and the trimmings take some getting rid of! 

What about considering a trellis fence with climbers?  Clematis Montana grows very fast - but is very tolerant of hard pruning after flowering, in my experience.  It's beautiful in flower. 

btw in Somerset we, too , have found it less cold, thank goodness.  But there's still a lot of snow on the moor! Rain predicted for tomorrow - but I have daffodils in bloom already and crocus in bud.  Spring is on the way, I hope.



1.5m from a building is too close for beech, or indeed any similar plant with strong roots. If it is that close to a building I'm not sure you should grow any thing as tall as 2m.

Often the trouble is roots getting into the drains and blocking them.

Eucalyptus can grow very, very tall.  What do developers know?


Hi there! Sorry, I typed in a reply, but it obviously didn't work!

It looks like beech is a definite 'No-No' then! Shame - it looks so lovely and innocous as bare-root plants in the garden centre with its lovely coppery winter leaves!

What about something like the smaller ornamental birch, or patio crab apples? I realise that won't got to the ground, but that's Ok. Or scarlet willow? Looks fab in winter, airy in summer, but what are the roots like.

By the way, I have a beautiful winter lime maybe 2m from the garage. Must be 5 metres tall now, but I realise it's going to have to come down before it does any root damage. I'm dreading the enormous gap it's going to leave.

I'll investigate the privit option. Thanks for suggesting clematis montana too. I suspect my first step might have to be to put a 2 metre fence inside the 1.5m party fence, and get some trellis up on it. Space very precious though - it's the only sunny bit at that end.

Right, out into the rain now. Slimy decking needs scrubbing (another developer 'enhancement', but not great in deep shade!), and more re-potting and top-dressing to do. Hellebores starting to look lovely now


Forget willow, it's well known for its damaging roots. Scarlet dogwood would be a better bet

or what about a good strong fence with a mix of climbing plants

Laurel bushes......?
Lavender Lady

Hi  red claire 

We had the same problem when we moved to a new housing estate.  I posted some pics a while ago which you may want to see. I have tried to copy and paste to the page but not sure if it will work. 

Some pics of my before and after garden


Lavender Lady

I hope it has worked.  Let me know if not and I will try again.  Also further down the post I put some more pics of the garden in the winter so you can see the structure in more detail and how we did the trellis on the fences.  Just a few ideas which may help.


It's worked beautifully. I remember seeing it the first time. It's really lovely.


It's lovely LL. I hadn't seen it before.



RedClaire I saw you were interested in patio crab apples. You can grow one in a large pot, if you are worried about roots. Other small trees to replace the lime - rowan (mountain ash), amalanchier.

flowering rose

if dense housing you will need a hedge you can keep trimmed easily and not come into conflict with other neighbours.A Hawthorn Hedge can be good if kept trimmed at a reasonable height ,any hedge will become a problem if not looked after ,but you need to consider containable varieties,privet can be smart and right but not if it gets out of control,look for small leaf shrubs .

Thank you so much everyone for your advice!

Lavender Lady, your garden is stunning! It gives me hope to see what you have achieved. Like you, privacy is our biggest problem (along with being in deep shade most of the year!) but your fences and walls look amazing! Such a beautiful, lush garden, but with a strong structure too.

Can I ask how you keep your gravel clean? We have terrible trouble with ours in the winter - it's impossible to get all the soggy fallen leaves up, and by the time the debris from the bird feeders has fallen on it too, it's disgusting. Last week I tried to clean it with hot water (prefer wildlife-safe solutions), and it's still sitting on top of the soggy gravel in a big puddle! I think I'd like to get rid of the gravel, rip up the weed suppressing plastic altogether!

I was delighted to hear that you have a visiting hedgehog - that's so rare on new estates!

Busy Lizzie, thank you for your small tree suggestions. I didn't know rowan stayed small, so that's great - they're light and airy and good berries for birds too. We already have an amelanchier - beautiful blossom and amazing autumn colour, though it hasn't performed so well in the last few years, which I put down to the soggy summers. I'll have a look at crab apples too.

Nut cutlet - I had better heed your warning about willow. I'll just have to admire others from a distance!

Flowering Rose, thanks for suggesting a Hawthorn Hedge. I like that idea too, not least for the blossom and being good for wildlife.

By the way, is there always a correlation between the size / height of a tree or shrub and the potential problems with roots? Just wondering if there's an easy way to tell?

Big trees have big roots but some go deeper than other. Willows and poplars have a bad reputation which is deserved. Hawthorn is never a big tree, even when mature and unpruned.


My hawthorn hedge grows 6' a year so beware.   It will want to take up a lot of width too if you can't keep it regularly trimmed and that means losing the berries for teh birds. 

Given you want to maximise space I think a fence and trellis with climbers are going to be your best baet and will avoid problems with roots and neighbours.   You can add one or two evergreen pyracantha to the mix of plants.  They have blossom which provides nectar in spring and then berries for birds in autumn.   Mix it up with roses and clematis and winter flowering jasmine and you'll have something of interest all year without taking up too much space.