I'm looking for a small tree or shrub recommendation for the bed on the side of my driveway. I live in Providence, RI (zone 6, maybe zone 7 since we're in the middle of the heat island that is our city.) The bed is ~2 & 1/2' wide by ~25 feet long, raised, in full sun and has good (perhaps somewhat acid) soil. I'm looking for something that'll give us some privacy from our neighbors: I think that means evergreen or something deciduous with a dense branching structure, and grows to at least 8' (as large as 20'.)

I'd also love something that flowers: Elderberries might work there but I'm not sure if it fits the description (bonus re: this plant, I can make wine from the fruit and, double bonus, it's native to RI.) What I definitely don't like is juniper/arborvitae/hemlock/cypress. As far as I'm concerned those plants just sit there and do nothing. C'mon, do something to entertain me, plant. At least have foliage that changes, or flowers, etc.

It would also be helpful to be able to hedge/train/prune the plant into an upright form so our car can get by.

What would you suggest!?

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    Please clarify the width measurement - I understand you to be saying this 25 foot long bed is only 30 inches wide, is that the case? And that it runs alongside your drive, so you don't want anything that gets wider than that? Is there another obstruction, like a fence, one side of the border, or is it open both sides, one side your drive and the other something else, like maybe next door's garden?
    – Bamboo
    Jul 8, 2017 at 19:21
  • @Bamboo The bed itself is 30" wide and 25 feet long. We won't mind the plantings going a bit wider than that, overhanging the drive a little at or near ground level -- say, 48" wide. And where the plant growth is well above ground -- say, at 6' -- the width is essentially unlimited. Jul 8, 2017 at 19:37
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    Don't go for one species. In the UK I would put in a mixture of native species, like dog rose, dogwood, hawthorn, blackthorn, wild cherry, rowan, crab apple, hazel, holly, etc. These are all native hedgerow plants which will survive any amount of abuse. For pruning, just slice the lot off once or twice a year to whatever height and width you want with a power tool - job done in 15 minutes. Modify the species to suit your location, of course. And if you buy bare-rooted plants to plant in winter when they are dormant, they are dirt cheap as well.
    – alephzero
    Jul 8, 2017 at 22:44

3 Answers 3


Highbush blueberries or highbush cranberries both come to mind, and also make fruit you can use in various ways. If you're up to the initial work and long-term maintenance pruning, espaliered or cordoned peaches, plums, apricots, cherries or dwarf apples. Place some scaffold wires for those.

Row of espaliered treesrow of cordoned trees

Rosa Rugosa will provide a nice harvest of hips and can grow to quite a dense hedge, in the 7 foot range of height. It has trouble being tidy, but it can be trimmed/shaped.

Northern Bayberry would be another good choice, evergreen in your climate (probably) and with a different harvestable (if inedible) product.

Getting out of "useful to humans" fruit, burning bush offers some fall color and a pretty dense growth habit.

  • That would in part depend on how & when you prune it, and it would in part depend on how secluded you feel the need to be.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 8, 2017 at 20:06
  • That trellising is marvelous -- thank you for the inspiration. Highbush blueberries were on my list early, but I suspect we'd let them grow to hedges instead of pattern you've illustrated here, for both maintenance and privacy reasons. As for Rosa rugosa, they grow all along the shoreline where I grew up in Maine, and now you have me thinking they might have a place here, too. Thank you very much for the suggestions. Jul 8, 2017 at 23:01
  • I don't think you could really get the full espalier effect anyway with blueberries. It's more of a thing done with trees, such as those listed - perhaps pears too, Hmm - speaking of trees, are you warm enough for figs (without the bother of burying them in the winter) there? Brief research says probably you need to either bury or wrap (with one guy having framed his fig tree with posts around it, and screwing insulated plywood to them each winter to make a house for it.) Ah, well. Fresh figs would be lovely but I don't think I have that much effort reliably in me.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 9, 2017 at 1:27
  • Accepted because this is the answer closest to what we actually did: we decided to go with elderberries in this bed after all, and are going with Rosa rugosa in another bed in the front. Sep 11, 2018 at 6:57

Well, Ecnerwal's suggestion is GORGEOUS and very very needy of a full time gardener. But this should show you there are many ideas for a 3' space to make privacy.

25' at 3' width gives you quite a bit of room. I would definitely be thinking of at least 2 or 3 different species at different height that love the same type of soil. Amelanchier is one of the rare 4 season beautiful trees you'll be able to find. Use no less than 3. There are also different varieties of Ilex such as Sky Pencil that are designed to be vertical and they are evergreen. They would work well with small trees. Then you should think about a filler and you could go crazy with one mind boggling perennial such as Crocosmia. The more of one plant will give you the biggest bang.

The most immediate and valuable would be a 'screen' with an arbor top. Similar to a fence yet allows air and light and space to flow through...yet extremely private.2X2 lapjointed screen off set screens for privacy

This is my screen I have used for almost all privacy. These will be allowed to go dove gray. I use this UV stain that allows the wood to gray as well as be protected. 2X2 lapjointed...it isn't the easiest to make but to make it any simpler would be a waste of money.

Using screens like this; offset if you are able will allow many more choices in plant material. Just an idea.


I'd recommend Amelanchier lamarckii, and I chose that variety because it reliably produces good autumn colours, usually bright red, before the leaves fall. Has blossom in spring, green leaves all summer, fruits (inedible) followed by fall colours, and the multi stemmed nature of these shrubby trees is attractive in winter, with a reasonably interesting bark. There are different varieties of Amelanchier - commonly known as Serviceberry in the States, see here for nine varieties: Meet 9 Species of Serviceberry Trees and Shrubs - Amelanchier lamarckii is the last one mentioned - has the RHS Award of Merit.

However, whilst this tree fits the interest requirements you've listed, whether you'd want more than 2 or 3 of these is another matter - they won't give privacy in winter, so you'd likely need to interplant with some evergreen shrubs.

  • Dang Bamboo!! This is one of my all time favorite of all trees! Serviceberry has taken a long time to get known!!
    – stormy
    Jul 8, 2017 at 21:55

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