Ask a Gardener – Privacy Screens

Friday September 9, 2016

You know what they say, “good fences make good neighbors.” A hedge, tall shrub or a line of trees can be the perfect way to get a little privacy. Before your start planting, take a look at your yard and ask yourself a few questions.

What kind of sunlight, water and soil is available?

It’s always important to take into account the environmental factors – sun, water and soil. Any shrub you plant will need regular water for at least the first season to establish itself. We always recommend amending the soil with Colorado’s Choice B.O.S.S. or another organic compost before you plant, too.

What are you trying to screen?

If you need to block off the whole side of the yard, a hedge or row of shrubs might be the best bet. If you only need to block off a corner or hide a certain eyesore, maybe a single tree or shrub would do.

How much space do you have?

Tall shrubs used for screens and hedges also tend also to be wide shrubs, so be sure you have enough space in your yard.

Do you want year round privacy?

Deciduous shrubs will lose their leaves in the winter, so if you’d like the screen up all year long, you might consider an evergreen solution.

Here are some plants we recommend for hedges and screens:

Privet – Large privets, like ‘Cheyenne’ or ‘Golden Vicary,’ are among the most popular hedge shrubs. They can grow up to 8’ tall and are easily formed into dense walls of foliage. Privets do great here in the Denver area with a sunny location with regular water.

Upright Junipers – There are many varieties of upright junipers, but most share the same two characteristics – tall and thin. Some of the most popular varieties, like ‘Skyrocket,’ ‘Spearmint’ and ‘Spartan,’ can grow up to 20’ tall while staying only about 5’ wide. This makes them a great option for smaller spaces. Planted in a row they make for a great year-round screen. Most junipers prefer a sunny location and require low to moderate water.

Vines – If you have a chain-link fence, pergola or a trellis, a fast growing vine can provide great cover. Vines like Hops, Trumpet Vine or Virginia Creeper grow big and they grow fast. Some can cover 20’ or more in a single season.

Crabapple – Relatively compact for a tree, crabapples can be useful for privacy screens. They tend to be fairly short, 15’ to 25’, with a wide canopy growth. A row of two or three over the top of a fence can make for a very effective screen. They also have great spring color when they burst into bloom with white, pink and yellow flowers.

Viburnum – Taller varieties of viburnum, like ‘Allegheny,’ ‘Korean Spice,’ or ‘Burkwood,’ can get between 6’ and 10’ tall. Viburnums are often considered “semi-evergreen,” because they lose their leaves only for a short period. Viburnums bloom with bright white flowers in the spring time and are known for their spicy, gardenia-like fragrance. They do well in full sun to part shade and like a moderate amount of water.

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