Lilac Lane

Along time ago we had a problem neighbour at our rural house and 800 yards of shared property line. There was an existing wire and post fence travelling the length of the line – falling down here and there but mostly intact. On the other side of the fence there were assorted naturally grown trees but not too much privacy for us. They say that good fences make good neighbours – but in this case no amount of fencing was going to improve the relationship – so privacy was of the utmost importance.

The one thing that I would advise new homeowners starting gardens is to think of the outer surrounds of your new property first and then to build the gardens inward. While we had loved our prior senior neighbours, our new neighbours were spiteful and scary. Nothing to be done about that – just do the best that you can with the property that you have. How will your yard look in 5 years, 10 years as your neighbourhood evolves?

Lilacs in purple, dark purple and white along property line

Down the part of our property line that had a view of our back yard – we built berms of earth and planted Blue Spruce trees. Not everyone has the space or budget for these – but if you do – these were our best investment as they grew quickly with lots of watering and fertilizing from us. They eventually provided awesome levels of privacy to us – but we wished we had planted them earlier. The berms were mounds of earth that elevated the roots of the spruce trees and also gave us some more height for more privacy. The ground in our yard was at the base of a valley, so the berms kept the roots of the spruce trees from being waterlogged in the spring. We had several truckloads of inexpensive earth delivered and wheelbarrowed all of the earth into the back yard ourselves.

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Lilac hedge along property line with blue spruce on berms in background

The rest of the property line was problematic as there were some gravelly areas, some occasionally wet areas, lots of wild growth and even some shade. I thought that it would be lovely to put in a series of blooming plants – as the garden centre sales permitted. This would be a somewhat wild blooming hedge – not too much trimming and weeding!

So as shrubs went on sale at the garden centre – usually after the bloom, we puchased and planted over the years. We alternated lilacs with forsythia and explorer roses, and planted cedars wherever the ground and drainage would support them. In swampy areas, we planted swamp cedars – those thin cedars that can be bought in large quantities for a song. Along the driveway, we planted those columnar cedars that are sold in garden centres for $20 in the spring. The cedars required lots of watering and fertilizing – and were less successful than the swamp cedars. The swamp cedars required no maintenance at all.

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Hardy Explorer Rose John Cabot along fence line helps fill in a wild looking hedge

All of the shrubs we fertilized with slow release fertilizer, but only the garden centre cedars and blue spruce were watered.

The variety of lilacs gave us a gradual and constant succession of blooms. Forsythia,then purple lilacs, then white lilacs, then pink Korean lilacs, then roses. Lilacs can be purchased in varieties that have early, middle and late blooms if you check your nursery catalogues. They bloom best in 6 hours of sun, but they will also take a little bit of shade, they just won’t bloom quite as well.

Lilacs in bloom along property line and gravel driveway

In our previous “farm” neighbourhood, I like to think of Pioneer women planting lilacs beside their farmhouses, with the large purple shrubs – or their descendants still surviving today. This sturdy plant is so hardy in our area, that it’s sure to be successful without too much maintenance. Lilacs enjoy cooler weather, and so they are best in zones 3-9, with some re-blooming varieties like Josee – most successful in zones 4-5, (may not re-bloom as successfully further south without the cool weather).

White lilacs had a later bloom along our property line fence

Our combination of blooming hedge, cedars and bermed blue spruce successfully filled a long and problematic property line, providing a low maintenance, naturally wild looking view, making us happier neighbours.

In our new much smaller in-town yard, we are once again trying to plant a blooming hedge. I have written previously that we are planting shrubs that will have to endure shade from our towering Norway Maples. This hedge is also on a sharp dropoff, so we have to worry about the ground eroding. Here, we have planted Hydrangea, Daphne, Lilacs and Korean Lilacs. Although the lilacs will not likely give me much bloom in this shady area, they are surviving, while my other shrubs are struggling. I am looking forward to planting more plants in spring.

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