Privacy Screens

    • Choose chrysanthemums in a variety of colors now. They are hardy perennials which will brighten your garden each fall.
    • When blackberry vines are done fruiting, prune back the canes which bore fruit this summer. Twine young canes around the fence or trellis.
    • Replace tired petunias with bright pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock for garden color this fall and winter.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • Fall is for planting! Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will grow twice as much next year as those planted next spring.

Plant a Little Privacy

Whether we live in the city or the country, we all need a certain amount of privacy, and sometimes plants can create a living fence or screen to serve that purpose.  

There are many reasons for screens. Maybe you want to put a screen between you and the neighbors, or to give you privacy from the road. 

A tall hedge can be used to keep down unwanted noise, hide undesirable views, keep out dust and other pollutants, and provide wind protection. It can also be used to frame desirable views and provide the feeling of enclosure. Screens can be used within the landscape to create outdoor “rooms” and separate utility areas from pleasure areas.

Evergreen shrubs and trees that have foliage from the ground up are the most desirable, and so are “fast-growing” plants. When you decide where you want a screen, determine the height and width needed, as well as the amount of sun or shade the planting will receive. Then choose plants which will meet the exposure requirements without excessive pruning.

For a 6 to 8 foot hedge some good shrubs include Oregon grape, San Gabriel holly and heavenly bamboo. They are upright-growing and make tall, narrow screens with a little pruning.

For an 8 to 12 foot tall screen Photinia, with its bright red new growth, and waxleaf privet are good choices. They make large, wide bushes but can be kept narrower and denser with pruning. 

If you have a fence there already, you can use Photinia trees. These are the same plant as bush Photinia, but they are already 8 feet tall with a 5-foot trunk, so they will give you privacy above the fence right away. If it is a wire fence, consider ivy which will make a dense, evergreen covering in a few years.

Pyracantha is a bit unruly, but can also be shaped with pruning. The white flowers and red berries are attractive and it is very fast-growing. Grecian laurel, English laurel and oleander make attractive natural hedges, screens or background plantings.

Even taller screens can be achieved with evergreen trees and conifers. Italian buckthorn and redwood trees have been used along the freeways in Sonoma County to provide both visual and sound screening.  

Leyland cypress is one of the fastest-growing evergreens. It will reach 15-20 feet in 5 years and makes a dense hedge when planted 8 feet apart. Arborvitaes, like Thuja ‘Smaragd’ , are bright green and make a thick, permanent hedge when planted 4-5 feet apart. Our native incense cedar and bay trees can also be used for large screens.

Deciduous hedges can be useful where mostly summer screening is needed. Flowering quince makes a thick hedge and covers itself with flowers in early spring before the glossy, dark green leaves appear. It can be sheared but is best as an informal hedge. Spiraea prunifolia grows 6 feet high with arching branches and beautiful white flowers in spring. Forsythia grows 6-8 feet tall and welcomes in the spring with its bright yellow flowers.

Whether you want a living fence or a tall screen, fall is an excellent time to plant evergreen shrubs for privacy and beauty.

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