Leyland Cypress – Too Close to Patio

Q: I live in an in-fill community with our patio’s facing the back of another small community. The homes are seven years old. During construction the builders planted Leyland cypress along the common property line, for privacy. The trees are now 30 feet high and are set back from the homes by approximately 15feet. All of the homes along this property line have very small courtyard type patios/lots.

We have problems:

1) Bottom limbs have thinned significantly or in some instances have been limbed-up by owners, thus reducing privacy.

2) The trees are starting to thin in the middle, reducing privacy on second floors.

3) Due to the size and proximity of the trees, sunlight is greatly reduced and it is difficult to plant shrubs.

A: Yow! I understand why the Leylands were planted originally…but you now understand why they were not such a good choice. They are eating up all of your patio space!

Pruning should have been ongoing from the start. If you prune the limbs back they won’t grow new foliage in that amount of shade.

I am very doubtful that pruning at the top will do anything for foliage at the bottom. Leylands don’t mind being pruned but they don’t put out new growth more than a foot below the cut…the bottom trunks would still be exposed.

I think you need a plant-savvy landscape architect to advise…he/she may tell you to pull everything out and start over.

I asked my friend Bruce Holliday (www.landscapeplansplus.com) for his advice. He suggested installing a fence for lower level screening. Since a plain wooden fence would be boring, he advises you plant aspidistra, heuchera, Lenten rose, ferns, and hosta in front of the fence to provide a woodland garden look.

You could also hang dinner plates or art on the fence to decorate it.

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