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GardenSMART :: Living Screens to Plant Now for Privacy This Winter

Living Screens to Plant Now for Privacy This Winter

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

Your garden may be green and lush now, but when winter hits, you may find your home more exposed than you would like. Before the leaves drop, stand in your neighbor’s yard and take a look at your home from their perspective. Are there a few bare spots where you could use a little more coverage? If so, it’s time to plant a “living screen” this fall. Here’s how.

Viewing your landscape from your neighbor’s perspective can be a real eye opener. You may think you have privacy when you’re sitting down to dinner, but there may actually be an easy view right into the kitchen from your neighbor’s home or from the street. You might want to consider planting a few evergreens, large shrubs or fast growing grasses to create a living screen.

Take a walk outside and stand in front of your main picture window looking out towards your neighbor’s house. Is there a direct line of sight from one of their windows into yours? Or is there a line of sight directly from the street into your home? An obvious fix would be curtains, but a more creative one would be to plant a living screen.

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This graceful specimen of Soft Serve® Chamaecyparis (False Cypress) was strategically placed to screen the view into this family’s living room windows.

A few well-placed evergreens, ornamental grasses or shrubs can interrupt the line of sight into your home just enough to create the privacy you need while maintaining your own view and keeping the natural light flowing into the room. In extreme cases, a solid hedge may be necessary. Many of these types of plants are fast growing and benefit from being planted in the fall, so this is the perfect time of year to remedy the situation before the trees go bare.

Use stakes and rope to help visualize and mark the best spot to plant a new tree, set of shrubs, or mass of grasses to improve your privacy and enhance the view out your window. You may need to sacrifice a bit of lawn to install a new bed, or it might be as simple as editing what’s currently in your landscape. If you really need something taller in a particular spot, fall is a great time to transplant what’s already there and replant with something that better suits your privacy needs.

Maybe you’ve already made an attempt at privacy by erecting a fence, but it really hasn’t improved your view. While it can be true that “good fences make good neighbors,” most fences are pretty boring to look at. For a quick fix, plant Red Wall or Yellow Wall Virginia creeper at the base of the fence at intervals of 6-10 feet and watch it race to the top and scramble down the line. Its brilliant red or yellow leaves will be the highlight of your landscape in fall and it is a cinch to grow.

Here are a few more ideas for using plants to create privacy for your home and garden.

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When you plant extra-large shrubs like this mature Black Beauty Sambucus (Elderberry), you only need one to make a tremendous visual impact and define the property line. Its foliage remains near-black all season and is punctuated by pretty pink, lemon-scented flowers in summer.

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Ornamental grasses like this one called Prairie Winds ‘Desert Plains’ Pennisetum (Fountain Grass) are useful for creating a natural screen that blocks the view in from the street but are airy enough to let the light through. Most are fast growers, so it won’t take long to get this look. Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens.    

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A living hedge like this one made from Little Lime hydrangeas can serve several purposes. It leads visitors down the long drive and directs them to the parking area. It maintains its impressive stature all year long, even through winter as the dried flower heads are topped with tufts of snow. It also provides an unending supply of cut flowers to use in long lasting bouquets from summer through fall.

Find more Proven Winners plants for creating privacy for your home and landscape at  

Patent Info: Soft Serve® Chamaecyparis pisfera 'Dow Whiting' USPP20883. Red Wall® Parthenocissus quinquefolia 'Troki'. 'Yellow Wall' Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Black Beauty™ Sambucus nigra 'Gerda' USPP12305. 'Miss Ruby' Buddleia USPP19950 CanPBR3603. Prairie Winds® 'Desert Plains' Pennisetum alopecuroides USPP20751. Little Lime® Hydrangea paniculata 'Jane' USPP22330 CanPBR3914.

Contributor Bio: Susan Martin is a lifelong gardener and perennial specialist with 18 years of experience in the Horticulture Industry. She is a native of Michigan where she has been gardening since the age of four in sandy and clay soils. 



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