By Glenn DiNella
When you look for privacy in your yard, you can pretty much rely on two things: structures and plants. Structures, such as fences, walls, and lattice panels, offer instant solutions. Plants may take a little longer to deliver, but they’re the easiest, most attractive, and cost-effective methods to create privacy.
The thick hedge of Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Glauca’), above, grows 6–8 feet tall and offers blue-gray foliage for year-round interest. If space permits, add a backdrop of fast-growing trees, such as the river birch (Betula nigra) behind the junipers. They can block the view into your yard from a neighboring second-story window.
Many homeowners need something for more compact spaces. This Foster holly hedge does a terrific job of screening the homeowner from a busy street. Keep in mind that a tall, sheared hedge requires regular trimming — perhaps three or four times per year — to keep it looking fit.
Tip: You can cut down on maintenance of a sheared hedge. Once plants achieve the desired size, feed them Ironite or other iron-rich fertilizer to maintain a rich, green color without promoting a lot of growth that needs trimming.
These Italian cypress trees provide a dramatic evergreen barrier between neighbors. The cypress trees can provide privacy for two or even three stories because they reach up to 40 feet and have foliage from ground to tip. They also are fast growers, springing up 3 to 4 feet per year.
To create a quicker privacy barrier, some homeowners plant evergreens much closer than the recommended spacing. Then, as plants mature and begin to crowd each other, they remove every other tree in the row and allow the others to fill out.
This hedge of ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ hollies forms an effective screen between a home and a nearby highway. The hollies’ wide spread and thick leaves also dampen road noise. Magnolias can do the same.
One problem with planting a row of one species is you’re left with a hole if one tree or shrub dies. By planting a number of species in a mixed border, you can easily replace a plant without anyone noticing.