I hate to answer your question with questions, Kristen, but: How tall do you want the privacy barrier to be? How wide is the area? Do you need it to be evergreen, or is it OK if the plant is deciduous (loses its leaves in the fall)? How much light does the area get? Are there any other site considerations, such as it is a wet area?
wow @Kristen esbensen , you are really COLD! Zone 5a
I am with @Douglas Hunt , if you can provide a bit more information we can (taking into the 5a zone ) offer some suggestions that will work for you. Looking forward to your reply post.
Hi, Thank you for responding. I'm thinking maybe a height of 8 ft. or so. Cedar shrubs, in my limited experience, seem to become gangly and thin. Cypress arborvitae? I'm open to anything.
Oh, and the area is lining both sides of my yard on the lot lines.
Do you have neighborhood deer? The Cedar Arbovitae is like crack cocaine for deer, I have clients in the Boulder area that had to install regular fencing to block their "privacy fencing" plantings. The urban deer can be problematic, In my neighborhood we have bigger predators that keep the deer pops down.
If you do not care if the plant is evergreen, Kristen, you may want to consider ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). It is a Wisconsin native, grows quickly and there are cultivars with lovely foliage colors. If deer are an issue and you want something evergreen, you might consider some of the compact pines, although this is likely to be an expensive option.
the Labrador Tea looks interesting for your neck of the woods. You might want to incorporate several different shrubs to create an interesting view vs just a wall of all one thing surrounding your property lines. Do a curvy landscape line with a mix of Hollies, Rhododendrons and the Ninebark (great suggestion from @Douglas Hunt ) to create a visually appealing landscape. The post by HGTV would be a great view for you to take a gander at! I will see If I can find it and post the link to you.
Thank you all! The trees will be on either side of my yard, lots of light, not damp at all...I think evergreens are what I want. I like the idea of having a variety of shrubs.
Kristen, you could do a mix of evergreens with other shrubs for visual interest and attracting birds to your yard. Viburnums are particularly good in this regard. I have always been a fan of the Japanese umbrella pine: Sciadopitys verticillata. You're in the perfect climate for pines and firs, you'll just want to make sure they are yard-sized, not mountain-sized.
Kristen, I understand your reluctance for Cedars. We have them on a property that we just bought. They are getting kind of scruffy looking and have gone without needed water since the property was not taken care of. Personally I like Cedars they repel all kinds of bugs and they are only about 15 ft from the house. What we are planing is getting some young Cedars and planting them in with the old that are dying. Also you need to test the soil and make sure you have the nutrients for what ever kind of trees your getting. I think they have them at Walmart as well as the nurseries. Good luck!
@Kristen esbensen we have a columnar oak - grows quite tall. It doesn't loose its leaves until spring - but they do turn brown in the winter. Easy care - for me virtuallly none! You have to be careful about mixing evergreen with deciduous as the evergreens tend to make the soil very acidic which most desiduous do not like. You will end up treating the deciduous a couple of times a year or more to neutralize the soil around them. Do let us know your decisions. Thanks for posting.