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Poplars [Archive] - Arbor Day Forum


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CJ Paul
10-25-2004, 12:40 PM
Hello, my wife and I want to plant some variety of poplars at our new house. We want some fairly tall skinny ones that grow in a row but are also hardy and disease resistance. We also want trees that do not produce a lot of seeds/pods/fluffy stuff etc. and we want them to grow FAST (which I understand is about any poplar). The trees will be planted on a slight slope in moderately clay soil. They will be on the east side of the house, but the trees themselves will not be shaded by anything except the house in the very late afternoon (i.e. basically full sun). We want the trees to be able to be planted 8-15 feet apart (depending on how columnar they truly are) because we want them to provide some shade (for plants growing at their feet) but mainly to block the view of the road from our house and vice versa. I'd also like it if the trees can be left to have branches as low as 4' from the ground as the overall slope of the lot requires a tree that has lower branches but also is tall to provide the screening we desire. We also wont be living in this house forever, but I dont want to leave a liability for the new owners. Uhm, I dont think I'm forgetting anything. We live in Omaha Nebraska.

Quirky Quercus
10-25-2004, 12:49 PM
I have had success with the hybrid poplar from here. Now that's a fast grower! It's a test tube tree so it may have some disease resistance but with many fast growers, they aren't particularly strong wood so if it's on a slope and you get some kind of storm, you might have some problems. These grow pretty narrow and I think 9 or 10 foot spacing will create the dense screen you are looking for. By the second year, I would say they will be 6-7 feet tall. Then again, nothing grows as fast or provides privacy like a fence.

CJ Paul
10-25-2004, 01:23 PM
Thanks. I have been researching the hybrid poplars but almost all the sites are about growing them for crops/firewood/fiber, etc. Do they live very long? Also, RE: the fence, the development puts in a privacy fence along the boarder, the problem is, the lots are terraced, so the gross slope between the windows at the back of the house and the road below is signigicant. We're going to need 20' - 30' to truly block the view. How about quaking aspens I think they get "rounder" on top which may be a problem planting them close together. I just dont want to make a huge compromise.

Quirky Quercus
10-25-2004, 04:36 PM
No they aren't that long lived from my understanding. There are different varieties and you may have noticed there are quite a few varieties with different traits and tweaked for different areas for lumber purposes.
The number 30 years is rattling around in my head but don't know for certain. They also have pretty overactive shallow roots too. I know there's another member here who will chime in any minute that knows a great deal more about those than I.

But I have a similar problem where I am. I am on a corner of two busy streets and the town digs these 4' drainage canals around each house and also requires new homes to be built 4' above the ground on hauled-in fill. They also have a law- no fences higher than 6' and no fences forward of the front wall. So the end result, I put in a fence really close to the house and kind of forfeited the rest of the yard, and even that didn't help much. Cars passing by can still see right over the fence. Hybrid poplars and a combination of other trees would have been the answer for me but I am the process of moving to a different area so I aborted the project.

Basically, what you want to do to is put the h.p.'s on one side, then on the other side use longer lived species. That way by the time the HP's die or fall over, you'll have some better trees behind them that are a good size. And rather than a straight, perfectly measured row, make it somewhat random so it looks natural that way if one falls in a storm, you aren't left with an awkward gap in the middle of a row. In my area, bald cypress are native trees and they grow very fast. Just as fast as the hybrid poplars. They are long lived, some to thousands of years, and do very well in storms. I had designed a natural planting of native trees that are typically found together in the wild, although it wasn't what was here before the land was cleared. I never finished the project because I'm getting the heck outta here.

My recommendation would be to research what native trees in your area grow fast or what you would like to have that is long lived and find these species growing in the wild where you can see how they look without any pruning and take note of their spacing and light requirements. Then try to hunt down these trees from a place that stands by their product. Getting them in different sizes will also make for a more natural setting. Finding some small understory plants would also be nice. What you'll have is a low maintenance, man-made woods and if designed well will be the envy the neighborhood.

Don't forget hybrid poplars are deciduous so in the winter months, you won't have the same level of privacy.

CJ Paul
10-25-2004, 05:04 PM
OK, I'll probably need to look for something else then. There is no way I'll be in that house for 30 years, but I dont want to leave someone else with a mess. On top of which, if they are prone to toppling because they are a more fragile wood, well, you are responsible for the "privacy" fence as it passes your property and I dont want to be responsible for replacing a chunk because a weak tree knocks it over. Sounds like my best bet is to get some recs from the two local, highly reputable, nurseries and then come back here with more questions.

10-25-2004, 07:34 PM
Personally, I would go for evergreens for privacy. Actually, I'm doing just that!

There is a very narrow strip between my property and a new house - I've got a Scotch and an Austrian Pine in there, along with a Colorado Blue Spruce and a native hemlock. I'll soon be adding a smattering of Canadian Hemlocks and Norway Spruce.

On the other side - much further away, thankfully - there's already a maple, black gum, and pitch pines (tall, with all the needles above house level). With the level of shade, I'm going to scatter Canadian Hemlocks all around as I'm able to.

10-26-2004, 12:59 AM
Go for variety if you want a natural look. Evergreens naturally are the only trees you can expect to give year round privacy. The Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae is a popular choice, but feel free to mix in some others.

CJ Paul
10-26-2004, 08:55 AM
Well, I've done a bunch more research and I think we are going to end up going with the Hybrid Poplars. The evergreen idea is nice because, of course they would provide a screen year round, however, this is suburbia, and thus we have a smallish lot (135ft deep lot, then subtract the house). I'm afraid the bases of large evergreens would take up too much real estate, as well as the fact that they would be comparitively slow growing vs. the poplars. Thanks for all the help and suggestions though. I think the landscape will be diversified enough with the other plantings (shrubbery, perennials, etc.) that a single row of trees wont look too unnatural.

10-26-2004, 10:19 AM
Beech hedges are very popular in Europe and the nice thing about them is that they keep their leaves through the winter, dropping them in spring shortly before growing new ones. If you do a bit of research online you can find some interesting photos of beech hedges and even a photo of the world's largest hedge in Scotland.

CJ Paul
10-26-2004, 10:27 AM
How fast do they grow? and how tall. In my second post, I note that there is a pretty large gross slope to the yard, so we need a tree that is going to reach 20-30 feet quickly.

10-26-2004, 10:32 AM
My tree encyclopedia says that the European Beech grow to 12' in 10 years and 35' in 20 years. The growth rate is described as "slow to medium".
As the earlier posts mentioned, fast-growing trees have weak wood and can form surface roots, but if you don't mind picking up sticks after thunderstorms and mowing over some roots they're almost immediate privacy.

Quirky Quercus
10-26-2004, 05:16 PM
That's the problem with many evergreens... I'm glad you researched it before finding out they need a lot of space when they get older. Plus they are slow growers. BUT! There are some other evergreens to check out that might be of interest if they will grow in your area because they are narrow and grow quickly and those would be:

Southern Magnolia (
Loblolly Pine (
Slash Pine (

CJ Paul
10-31-2004, 12:10 PM
None of those trees will grow in my zone (I dont think). I'm in zone 4-5. Omaha Nebraska.

Quirky Quercus
11-02-2004, 02:02 AM
What about some quacking aspens? Same family, nice fall color fast growers etc.

CJ Paul
11-02-2004, 07:47 AM
I'm way ahead of you. I'm planning on planting some quaking aspens elsewhere in the yard. Question though, how bad do they sucker? My mom told me to do some research because they are kind of a weed tree and can really be hard to contain. Is that right? How bad are they?

11-02-2004, 08:02 AM
I know the quaking aspens have male and female flowers on separate trees - but having many of them would probably result in pollination. I've never heard anything about whether or not they sucker a lot, though.

Quirky Quercus
11-02-2004, 12:34 PM
Yes, from what I've read, they do sucker from their roots, which can create a dense stand of "clones" of the original tree in a pretty short period of time. But one person reported on another site the babies are easy to pull out.

I guess a lot of times in drier locations, the trees are found in pure stands but associated shrubs that are commonly associated with this tree are beaked hazel, mountain maple, speckled alder, bush honeysuckle, raspberries and blackberries. For herbs found in the understory, large leaved aster, wild sarsaparilla, bunchberry and fragrant bedstraw. When mixed species of treees are found, they are usually spruce or firs.

I mention these in case you would like to create a more diverse habitat that is charactaristic of a real aspen forest. so it doesn't look quite so blaahchy.

11-02-2004, 02:22 PM
The Zip:##### article in the latest issue of National Geographic features a nice photo & sketchbook notes related to the aspen thickets found @ zip 83011 - was going to link to the online teaser for the article, but, even better, here's an "online exclusive": Check out the print version also - very impressive!