Privacy matters. One of the main reasons that customers come to us to buy trees is to provide screening from overlooking windows or to hide unsightly views. Therefore it is only natural that people would ask for evergreen options but as soon as you plant two or more evergreens close enough that they form a continuous screen, ie touching, they potentially become subject to the “High Hedge Legislation” just as if you’d planted a line of Leylandii conifers. In many cases this isn’t a problem but if there is a chance of the screening trees leading to a complaint from a neighbour about them casting shade on their property then it may be prudent to plant something less likely to cause a problem. So customers then ask “What can I plant for screening that won’t cause legal problems with the ‘High Hedge’ laws?”
The simplest way to provide screening without risking issues with the High Hedge legislation is not to plant evergreens, or just plant individual evergreen trees to cover specific key sightlines and then plant deciduous trees in between. Most deciduous trees will provide varying degrees of cover from spring until autumn, but one of the best to provide screening in domestic gardens is a type of ornamental pear tree, Pyrus calleryana Chanticlear, which retains its leaves far longer than most others.
Pyrus Chanticlear is a good option for screening in most gardens as it doesn’t take up too much space, has a well contained root system (ie the roots aren’t too invasive) and, most importantly, as well as leafing up earlier than most trees in spring it usually holds its leaves into December. This ornamental pear tree produces white blossom in early spring and, if it gets enough direct sunlight, gives a show of coppery-red foliage in autumn.
Pyrus trees prefer a well-drained soil, anything from slightly acid to slightly limy, but not too dry – add plenty of organic material if planting in sandy soils. Unlike pear trees grown for fruit, which need a relatively warm, sheltered site for the fruit to ripen, these ornamental pear trees do not produce edible fruit and can therefore be grown in pretty exposed areas. In fact, an exposed site can actually be an advantage for Pyrus calleryana Chanticlear as, although they’re generally quite problem-free, good airflow can help to reduce potential issues with the airborne fungal diseases that can affect pear and apple trees, such as Mildew and Scab, which can cause spots on leaves or curly foliage.
For some gardens it may be necessary to limit the size that these ornamental pear trees will grow to; Pyrus Chanticlear could eventually reach thirty to forty feet tall if never pruned, but they respond really well to training and to being clipped and are easy to prune. The best time to prune ornamental pear trees is when they’re fully dormant in December or January, using clean, sharp tools and cutting above a healthy bud.
Pyrus calleryana Chanticlear can be clipped into semi-formal shapes, such as ‘lollipops’ or ‘box-headed’ trees, but where space is really limited, or simply to provide an attractive backdrop, the ideal screening option is to plant ‘pleached’ trees, where the trees have been trained into a relatively flat shape (usually above a clear stem or trunk) to give the effect of a hedge on legs! To achieve this effect you can plant the pear trees as younger stock, training the branches against a sturdy wire or wooden framework as they grow, or you can buy pleached Pyrus Chanticlear pre-trained and ready to plant as more mature specimens for instant results; for either option, talk to your nursery for advice. Pleached trees need to be clipped every year, so when pruning pleached pyrus it is still best to perform major pruning jobs during dormancy in December or January, but a basic annual tidy up can be done by trimming back the younger growth in late summer.
So, to sum up, if you want a useful tree to provide screening from overlooking windows or to block unsightly views, one which does not cause problems with “High Hedge” laws, has flowers in spring, foliage colour in autumn, has well behaved roots, is easy to look after and is easy to prune and train then the ornamental pear tree, Pyrus calleryana Chanticlear, may well be the tree for you.