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Southern California Gardening: Planting for Privacy

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Using year-round greenery you can create a lovely sense of enclosure and privacy for your Southern California garden.

Pride of Madeira and New Zealand tea tree

By Evelyn Alemanni

Whether you skinny-dip in the hot tub or want to create a sense of nature’s embrace, using plants to shield your yard for privacy can be much more attractive than a fence. Wouldn’t year-round greenery provide a lovely sense of enclosure?

Most communities allow fences up to 6 feet tall, but what to do beyond that? Strategically selected plants can make the difference between seeing into your neighbor’s home and enjoying a wall of foliage and flowers.


New Zealand tea tree

Hedges are a common way to create green screening. Choose plant material wisely, or you may frequently find yourself on a ladder with a trimmer. Watering infrequently helps control growth once your hedge has reached the desired size.

Consider creating a tapestry hedge by mixing several types of shrubs such as pittosporum, podocarpus, Pride of Madeira (Echium spp.), New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium), and even oleander. It’s so much more interesting to allow several kinds of shrubs to grow into one another than to use one type of shrub.

bamboo hedge

A good choice for a hedge is bamboo (Bambusa spp.), but be sure to choose a clumping variety rather than a running variety, which can become a nuisance.

Ficus hedge

Other good hedge candidates: privet (Ligustrum spp.), Indian hawthorne (Rhaphiolepis spp.), cypress (Cupressus spp.), crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.), hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), and ficus, right.

If you have a fence and want to use the adjacent area as a planting bed, consider trees whose trunks extend to the top of the fence, with branches emerging higher on the trunk. Choose trees whose mature height blocks as much of the neighboring scenery as needed.

Potato vine on trellis

What if you have a second-story deck or patio? Consider using shrubs or vines in pots. You can use small trellises or even concrete reinforcing mesh in pots, then grow vines on it to create an interesting screen. One vine I like is potato vine (Solanum spp.), right.


Other options include morning glory (Ipomoea spp.), star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), creeping fig (Ficus pumila), orange clockvine (Thunbergia gregorii), and bougainvillea, right.

Remember to choose vines that are evergreen, or you’ll find yourself back in the fishbowl at the end of the season.

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