Windbreaks provide protection from wind for people, animals, plants and buildings. They sometimes consist of multiple elements, including shrubs, trees and other plants, as well as fences or walls. A multiple planting of a single type of shrub does not always form an effective windbreak, but some shrubs are better-suited than others for that purpose. Planting a variety of shrubs may produce a hedgerow that is both useful and attractive.
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Taller Evergreen Shrubs
Evergreen shrubs provide good wind protection year-round. Dense, tall evergreens can provide very effective protection for distances at least twice their height. Kim Powell of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension recommends sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua), evergreen holly (Ilex spp.) and viburnum (Viburnum), which reach heights of 6 to 12 feet. Each has ornamental as well as utilitarian value.
Shorter Evergreen Shrubs
Some windbreak designs call for shorter shrub rows interspersed with trees and taller shrub rows. For these, slower-growing evergreens, such as some boxwoods (Buxus sempevirens spp.) may be more desirable. Dwarf species of evergreens, such as hollies, as well as lower-growing evergreens, such as some juniper cultivars, may be used in the same manner.
Taller Deciduous Shrubs
Shrub dogwoods properly maintained with routine prunings create dense thickets that can easily grow 10 feet tall or higher and often have colourful bark for winter interest. Some native species, such as red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) and silky dogwood (Cornus amomum), are particularly desirable for wildlife habitat, as well. Deciduous hollies, such as possum haw (Ilex decidua) and winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and viburnums, such as arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) and highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. Americanum), can also form windbreaks.
Shorter Deciduous Shrubs
Shorter deciduous shrubs planted near trees reinforce the density of a windbreak at ground level. Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) and shrub roses, such as Rosa rugosa, are examples of flowering shrubs that make attractive windbreaks.
Choosing shrubs suitable for your climate and growing conditions is just the first step in planting your windbreak. In order to put your shrub choices to best use, consider their placement and spacing in relation to the structures or plantings you wish to shelter, as well as their proximity to each other and other elements of your wind protection. Ideally, your windbreak shrubs should create a continuous, dense barrier placed to deflect prevailing winds. You may need multiple rows of shrubs planted with trees for greatest effectiveness.
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- Utah State University Extension; Windbreak Benefits and Design; Mike Kuhn; May 2010
- Purdue University Extension; Tree Windbreaks for Farms and Homes; Brian K. Miller and Brian J. MacGowan
- University of Missouri Extension; Planning Tree Windbreaks in Missouri; John P. Slusher and Doug Wallace; December 1997
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service; Conserving Energy with Plants; M.A. Powell; April 1996
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service; Redosier Dogwood; M. Kat Anderson; May 2006
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service; Highbush Cranberry; Guy Nesom; January 2003