Green Screens

Hedges, climbing plants make for attractive, verdant borders
Photo by SVproduction / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Good fences may make good neighbors, but variety is the spice of life.

Many homeowners are bidding adieu to bland paneled fencing and opting for diverse, vibrant and eco-friendly flourishes of shrubs, hedges and tall, grassy textures in marking their territories.

“With quarantine going on, people have been spending more time than ever at home, and yards are becoming a necessary extension of their indoor living spaces,” said Jonathan Burns, tree and shrub manager at Tallahassee Nurseries. “As people start to use their back porches more, many of them realize they don’t have as much privacy as they thought. Privacy hedges are a great solution, and many homeowners are rushing to get them planted.”

The biggest request, said Burns, is for “fast-growing plants that stay nice and full.”

Popular among clients are plants that bloom, offer splashes of color and are evergreen. In recent years, landscaping design has shifted from a natural, forested look to one of intention. Modern, streamlined shrub placement that is properly maintained contributes to a clean-cut and crisp looking yardscape.

“The current trends are all about providing color and interest,” said Ashley McLeod, landscape designer at Fielder & Associates in Tallahassee. “They can be used as a stand-alone plant or massed together for impact.  We talk with our clients to see if there are specifics that they would like to see added to their landscapes and help guide what will really look great with all elements considered.”

A few of McLeod’s current favorites include the “heart throb” hydrangea, a shrub with striking, deep red blooms, and the Florida sunshine anise, an upright, golden, chartreuse-hued plant.

“The architectural features of a house will also dictate the landscape design,” said McLeod. “My goal is to guide and create enjoyable outdoor spaces that reflect the beauty of my client’s home. Many people would like to screen between theirs and their neighbor’s home for privacy, and hedge plants provide nice curb appeal for the front of homes.”

The most sustainable hedges, said Burns, are ones that thrive without a lot of help.

“Plants that are drought-tolerant, pest and disease-resistant, and strong growers allow gardeners to avoid the application of toxic pesticides and excess fertilizer,” Burns said. “Sweet viburnum, recurve ligustrum, pineapple guava, Ocala anise, loropetalum and wax myrtle are some of our most popular hedge plants.”

Podocarpus, or the plum plant, is an evergreen, needle-texture shrub with a moderate growth rate while viburnum, McLeod added, is a hardy, fast-growing evergreen shrub suitable for natural screening.

“Hedges will make the biggest impact where they block open lines of sight from neighbors or the street,” said Burns. “Many choose to line their whole property with hedges, but you can use fewer plants by strategically placing large shrubs near the seating areas or porches that get the most use. Make sure to place hedge plants where they have enough room to grow, and that there’s enough room for you to trim and manage the plants over time. If you plant too close to a wall or fence, you won’t be able to get in there for proper pruning.”

Too, green screening can encompass a combination of vegetation and wood.

Vine-wrapped trellises, while requiring more maintenance, add elegance and an element of fragrance to outdoor partitions.

“One of my favorite climbing vines to plant on a fence or trellis is Carolina jasmine,” said McLeod. “Its evergreen, fragrant yellow flowers bloom in the spring and are very hardy in Tallahassee. The Lady Banks rose, a thornless, semi-evergreen vine with miniature yellow flowers, blooms in early summer and creates a romantic look for any garden.”

But Burns says to be prepared to prune as often as monthly to maintain a formal look.

“Plants labeled ‘low-maintenance’ doesn’t mean they are maintenance free,” said McLeod. “All growing things require maintenance, and even the best design will decline if not properly cared for.” 

Categories: Gardening