Renovating the Garden – Good and Bad Views
In recent columns on garden renovation, we have focused on planning, removing unwanted plants and hardscape, and analyzing the garden’s soil. This column takes a closer look at objectives for the landscape.
Earlier, we wrote, “Envision how you will use the landscape: outdoors living, with parties, barbeques, etc.; recreation for children or adults; growing fruits and vegetables; or simply enjoying horticultural displays. Write it down.”
The intended uses are basic in landscape planning, but more specific objectives might be relevant to a given property. Here are two examples.
Block an Undesired View
Many homes are close to other homes, public buildings or commercial establishments, and garden renovators might wish to block the view of adjacent structures or activities. Blocking a view has creating privacy as its corollary.
This objective can be accomplished by installing one or more shrubs or trees to interrupt a sightline between a favored spot on the landscape and the undesired view, or between a spot where privacy is wanted and a place where an off-site viewer might be.
This strategic act will succeed most quickly if the renovator installs large plants, but that can be very expensive. The garden renovator should be patient enough to install plants of affordable size, and savvy enough to select shrubs or trees that are fast-growing but otherwise garden-worthy.
Resist any inclination to install a shrubbery wall to block the view to and from the public sidewalk and street. This landscaping device announces, “A recluse lives here.” Adjustable window coverings are better alternatives.
Frame a Desired View
The viewshed of some homes might include a field or forest or mountain or ocean or some other scene that pleases the eye. It might be the natural environment or a built structure. In such happy situations, the first landscaping objective should be retain or reveal the view. This might require removing poorly placed trees or shrubs, and not installing plants that would grow to obscure the view.
The second objective should be to develop landscaping that draws attention to the viewshed and to its best features. This might involve framing the view from a selected observation area, which might be inside the residence or on a deck or patio. Just as a picture frame separates a picture from it surroundings, carefully positioned trees can highlight a desired viewshed.
In time, an undesired view could become unobjectionable, and new construction could block a desired view. Whatever happens, your view shed rights stop at the property line, so manage your landscaping accordingly.
Trees that are fast-growing but otherwise garden-worthy.
Proving once again that the Internet provides access to a vast store of information, Clink this link to the website Fast-growing Trees. There are three pages of trees that are fast-growing and suitable for USDA Hardiness Zone 9, which includes the Monterey Bay area.
When selecting a fast-growing tree to install in your particular garden, consider (in addition to the hardiness zone) the mature height and width of the tree, appearance, and any other factors that are important to you. Some of the trees listed on the Fast-Growing Trees website are too large for a smaller property, and some are too small to be useful as a screen of an undesired view.
Here is a link to This Old House on Fast-Growing Shade Trees.
In my own garden, several years ago I planted three seedlings of Pittosporum tenuifolium fairly close together, to screen a nearby property. The seedlings, which had sprouted in another part of the property, grew rapidly to over 30 feet, which is taller than I expected, based on the available information. This shrub (also called P. nigricans, because of its dark branches) is evergreen and trouble-free, so it has been a very successful screen.
Here are those three large shrubs in my garden. doing a good job of concealing the house beyond (click to enlarge).
Finally, here is a link to SF Gate for more information about this large shrub.