By Julie Martens Forney
Use your green thumb to generate a little privacy. While fences are the standard go-to ideas, you can draft plants to create a living screen. Strategically placed vines, shrubs, ornamental grasses, and containers can add both beauty and privacy.
Vines. Vines are a natural when it comes to providing privacy. They do require a support, such as a trellis or arbor, but the structure provides another layer to screen views. Choose perennial vines (such as trumpet vine, passionflower, or honeysuckle), or fast-growing annual vines (such as morning glory or cardinal creeper). You can even grow edible vines, such as grapes or hardy kiwi, for a savory privacy screen.
Shrubs. Plant shrubs solo for a privacy hedge, or arrange them along an open-weave fence to screen views. In those parts of the Mid-Atlantic where deer are an issue, choose deer-resistant shrubs such as Black Lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’). Leaves resemble those of Japanese maples, and deer usually leave them alone. The leaves’ dark color combines beautifully with a white fence.
Ornamental Grasses. For outdoor living areas that need warm-weather privacy, ornamental grasses offer easy-growing, low-cost solutions. Team a fence with ornamental grasses for a living screen with multiseason interest. Non-evergreen grasses have downtime in early spring, when old stems are trimmed to the ground, so consider this when choosing where to use grasses.
Containers. Sometimes you need ideas for privacy in areas that don’t have soil — for example, decks and porches. The solution is to plant a container garden. Choose a large container, and fill it with a mix of shrubs, perennials, and annuals for steady color and effective screening.
Before you invest in a privacy fence, consider plants. They add beauty, soften outdoor living rooms, and can even bring something to the dinner table.