Among the most common garden challenges homeowners encounter when landscaping their homes is the need to create privacy, screen an unsightly view, or divide outdoor spaces into distinct living areas. Selecting the right plants for the job is essential to ensure success and these five tips will get you going in the right direction.
First things first, make sure you're only considering plants that are appropriate
to your growing zone and the soil and water conditions you have on offer. If you're not sure what zone you're in, follow this link, enter your zip code in the widget in the upper left, and it will tell you your USDA
zone. As you're browsing the site, make sure that you're focusing on plants that will grow in your zone. You'll also want to consider how much sun
your site will get, how and if the plants will be watered, and the condition of the soil. These are big considerations and you'll want to eliminate
any plants that don't make this first-round cut.
Next, consider whether your need is seasonal or whether it's something you need to have in place all year. If year-round, you'll want to focus your search on evergreen plants. If your need is centered around the spring to fall months, deciduous plants, even large-scale perennials and grasses, can be added to the mix of plants under consideration.
Should you repeat one plant, aligned in a row, or use a tapestry of various? What are your design goals? Oftentimes the choice is driven by an aesthetic preference, other times by practicality.
A hedge of one type of plant creates an orderly scene and is an invaluable and oft-used garden design device; like the walls inside your home, a wall of one type of plant can create space and division in your outdoor spaces as well. And everything is great with this approach, until it's not. The achilles heel of monocultural schemes is plant loss—one dead plant can spoil the whole bunch. Using a mix of of different plants can protect against such losses dismantling your design intent. I'm not suggesting that you absolutely avoid using a repeated plant, but you do want to be aware of the possible implications. I am suggesting that you stick with reliable, predictable plants to use in this manner.
Determine the required size and proper position of the plants. Do remember that screening plants set back from your property boundaries can work very well; they don't need to be lined up in a narrow perimeter bed running along the property's edge, as is too often the case. More interesting and equally effective, a carefully positioned tree set into the interior of your garden can provide screening and shelter. This is an especially effective means of providing privacy from looming neighboring buildings: think about how sheltered you feel when sitting under an outdoor umbrella.
Here’s a tip for determining what size and shape of a plant you’ll need to achieve your screening objective and for honing in on its placement. Grab a broom, a stick—or better yet a large piece of cardboard—anything that can be a stand-in for the plant mass you’re considering and which is light enough to be held overhead if needed. Situate yourself in your garden where you’ll be hanging out—your patio, dining or seating area—and then ask a friend to go to different spots in your garden while holding the broom or cardboard above their head. This low-tech exercise will help you figure out how tall your plant needs to be to get the job done. What you find may surprise you; for example, a carefully positioned small tree or shrub can do a fantastic job of creating privacy, while hedges placed at the edges need to be pretty darn tall to hide a neighboring structure.
You've now described what you're looking for and have effectively narrowed the field of possibilities from all the plants in the universe to a select few. The design-centric filters baked into eGardenGo make it a great tool for identifying plants and combos for a particular purpose or design aesthetic. Criteria in hand, you might want to search the eGardenGo database of plants or refer to the list of possibilities below for ideas to get you started. Once you land on a plant to start with, use the database to get ideas of what to plant with it to round out your garden scene.
Plants to Screen and Divide Space
Plant Combos That Make Good Screens
Focus: Contrasting Foliage and Texture, Foliage First, Low Maintenance, Mixed Border, Winter Interest, Privacy and Screening
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Filtered Sun, Morning Sun
Zone: 7, 8
Focus: Foliage First, Privacy and Screening, Mixed Border, Low Maintenance, Winter Interest, Wildlife Friendly, Seasonal Flow, Color Theme
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Sun, Part Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9
Focus: Foliage First, Privacy and Screening, Seasonal Flow, Winter Interest
Exposure: Full Sun, Sun, Part Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9