Q. What can I plant against a large, white fence?
I am looking to plant in front of a white shiny solid fence my neighbors put up. What is your suggestion for this? your thoughts on a couple Red Maples? with plants underneath. The fence is 6 feet high and 45 feet long. I get sun most of the day.
This is a nice big area to plant!
The five foot depth suggests against using red maples or other trees. Even narrow ones will become deep over time and shade the yard (and your neighbor's yard). (Also, maples exude allelopathic chemicals through their root systems that inhibit plant growth so we will need to choose carefully what you grow underneath.) You could use some tall shrubs instead to disguise the fence and mix perennial and lower shrubs in front for color.
Typically, for such a long stretch, a variety of plants looks best but it will depend upon your personal preferences. Breaking up the expanse with a variety of textures, plant shapes and leaf shapes, planted in clumps of same type plants can end up looking more natural and appealing than a long stretch of one thing.
Here is a guide to some choice plants that will add interest to your garden (and the fence). If you go to the bottom of the first page, there are a list of evergreen shrubs. You should have some of the border planted with evergreens to disguise the fence, though having some deciduous shrubs as well, particularly those that have nice berries or bark in the winter, will add some interest and texture to the garden. One plant that is not on the list, Euonymus kiautschovicus 'Manhattan', is a semi-evergreen to evergreen shrub that is dense and covers a fence very well, without growing very deep. It can be clipped like a hedge if you want to have a more formal appearance, or just to control size.
Once you have the shrub backdrop worked out, you can move on to the fun of adding additional color. There are all different ways to do it. You can go to a good local nursery and buy what appeals to you (again, plant in swaths of multiple plants, repeated along the border, and look for a variety of height and texture profiles). You can visit a botanical garden where plants are labeled and take notes on what you like and in what combinations. You can select a theme to work with that gives your selection some direction. Here are some guides to planting a Butterfly Garden, A Native Plants Garden, a Shakespeare Garden and a Bird Garden, in case any of those appeal to you. A native plants garden is always a strong choice as those plants are well adapted to the location and likely to grow the most easily.
I am also sending links to some other guides that may give you ideas about what you want to do with the space: Simple Garden Design, Azalea Use and Design, Color Theory in the Garden, Flower Shapes and How to Use Them, Winning Plant Combinations, and Site Inventory and Analysis.
We are happy to answer any questions as your design develops!