Landscape Solutions: Death of pines spurs need for screen

09/29/2012 7:48 AM

09/29/2012 7:58 AM

Between extremes in the weather, the proliferation of diseases and pests, and the growth of plants through the years, our landscapes evolve – and usually need help at one time or another.

The drought and intense heat of the past two summers alone are changing the area landscape.

We recently asked readers to send in their landscape problems for suggested solutions from area landscape designers and architects. In the coming weeks, we’ll feature some of the scenarios in the hopes that they’ll help others whose yards are in a similar situation.

This week, Wichita independent landscape architect Teri Andreas Farha helps Katie Mitchell-Koch with her backyard.

Problem: loss of pine trees in backyard

My family just moved to Wichita in July. The previous owners of our house said there used to be six pine trees along the back that provided privacy and interest. They were cut down due to disease, and we need something new back there! Hopefully something that would provide height quickly for privacy along the back fence (I’d say we have “an unattractive view”). There are three things that inspire me in landscaping: using native plants for wildlife and water conservation, autumn color and incorporating edibles.

– Katie Mitchell-Koch

Landscape factors: east Wichita, west side of the house, full sun, electrical lines above back fence, 30 feet long.

Solution: a living privacy fence

Planting a living fence is a great way to screen unwanted views and provide privacy for you and your family while enjoying your backyard. This living fence can take on a formal look or a more natural one, depending on your taste.

Since you indicated a love for natives, I would suggest a more natural-looking screen, planting in a zigzag pattern and in groups of two to five.

I would also suggest planting a mixture of evergreens and deciduous plant material, keeping in mind that the deciduous trees will lose their leaves in winter, but the branching structure of the tree will still provide a screen as well as visual interest. By planting a variety of plant material, you can avoid the possibility of a disease taking out the entire living fence (which is what happened to the row of pine trees that had to be removed. In fact, I would avoid pines altogether, as they are being damaged by pine wilt and tip blight).

And the final thing you need to consider is the height of the electrical lines along the back of your lot. Planting anything that gets tall enough to interfere with the lines should be avoided.

Plant list

A wide variety of plant materials will work in your living screen. I have narrowed the choices down to a few evergreen trees, a few deciduous trees and a few shrubs. These plants all require little watering once established, will provide good cover and food source for wildlife, and will provide excellent fall color as well as winter interest in the form of berries and evergreen foliage.

I have selected plants that are all moderate to fast growers. For more money, you can order them in larger sizes for faster results. Otherwise, be patient, water well the first two years, and you’ll have a beautiful living privacy fence before you know it!

Evergreen trees: Easter red cedar, Keteleeri juniper, Spartan juniper, Emerald Green arborvitae and (one of my favorites) Wichita Blue juniper

Deciduous trees: Eastern redbud, Autumn Brilliance serviceberry, flowering dogwood

Shrubs and grasses: viburnums, cutleaf staghorn sumac, compact burning bush, shrub rose

About Annie Calovich

Annie writes about home and garden, including her Bit of Earth column on Saturdays. She has been at The Eagle since 1985, working as a copy editor, a nation/world editor and a reporter. She’s a KU graduate who started out at The Coffeyville Journal.

Contact Annie at 316-268-6596 or

Follow Annie on Twitter: @AnnieCalovich

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