Privacy Screening in Your Native Plant Garden

Privacy screening from rosebay rhodis

Privacy screening from rosebay rhodis

A common request among many of my garden design clients is evergreen screening. Whether its to keep the neighbors from peering in or to keep my clients from seeing out to their neighbors gardens, it seems many gardens just dont offer enough privacy.

It can difficult when youre designing a habitat garden with native plants to find the right tree or tall shrub for the job. Lets face it, some native evergreens grow quite tall too tall for the many residential landscapes. And many clients looking for privacy screening really only need something that will shield a 2nd story window at best. Why plant something you know will turn into a headache down the road?

Evergreens, either conifers or broad-leaved evergreens, offer much needed winter shelter to local wildlife. If you plant one with flowers, fruit or berries you add another layer of food source to your garden.  From a design perspective, evergreens are the bones of your garden. They define areas, provide structure and winter interest, and are ideal backdrops for an array of plants.

Three Tried &True Options

Here are a few suggestions for native evergreens that will offer year round screening but wont take over your garden as soon as you turn your back.

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

 

Two eastern red cedar provide instant screening from passing cars.

Two eastern red cedar provide instant screening from passing cars.

Native to much of the eastern US, eastern red cedars begin to take center stage in the garden during the fall and winter when they turn from a silvery-blue to all shades of cooper, cinnamon and rust. Females produce ghostly blue berries, actually scaly cones, that attract both migrating and over-wintering birds. While eastern red cedar can grow quite tall in its native habitat, it is typically more restrained in a garden setting. It is also salt-tolerant, so appropriate for use near the seashore or even along a road. Keep in mind, eastern red cedar is an alternate host plant for cedar apple rust, a fungal disease that can harm apple trees.

If youre looking for something a bit more refined for your garden, consider cultivars such as Juniperus virginiana Manhattan Blue which turns shades of purple in the winter and Juniperus virginiana Canaertiii or Juniperus virginianaEmerald Sentinel. All are females so they will provide berries.

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Mountain laurel  Photo credit:  Manfred Mielke, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Mountain laurel. Photo credit: Manfred Mielke, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

This broad-leaved evergreen prefers a spot in light shade with moist but well-drained acid soil. It tends to become leggy with age, revealing its gnarled, exfoliating bark but in mind that only enhances its beauty. If knobby knees both you, consider planting a lower growing native shrub or some perennials in front of mountain laurel.

Native to the eastern coast of the US, the species grows to 20 tall and sports white to pale pink cluster of fragrant flowers in the late spring. There are many cultivars of Kalmia latifolia available but not all will offer tall screening so do your research before buying.

Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)

Rhododendron maximum flowers

Rhododendron maximum flowers

Not quite as showy as its non-native cousins, rosebay rhododendron, native to much of the US east coast, brings an understated elegance to any garden.

In early summer, weeks after the garish orange, neon pink and traffic stopping purple-blue flowers of the hybrid rhodis are a distant memory, the soft pink blooms of this native rhododendron begin to unfold. Like mountain laurel, rosebay rhododendron appreciates some shade and acidic soil.

What kinds are plants do you use for screening in your habitat garden?

© 2014, Debbie Roberts. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Dont Miss the Wren Song Community

Wren Winter Singing crop

Free Exclusive Content and Member's Forum

Sign up for a free membership in the Wren Song Community and you'll have access to a lot more valuable information published exclusively for our members.

Meet other passionate wildlife gardeners from around the country. Share your successes. Learn from your failures. Discover the best resources to help you create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your gardens with native plants so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other wildlife to your garden.

Learn more about the Wren Song Community

Comments

  1. RamblingWoods says

    This answers my questions..thank you so muchMichelle
    RamblingWoods recently posted..Raising Monarch Butterflies Day 6 July 19, 2014

    Reply
    • Debbie Roberts says

      Hi Michelle, Im so glad you found it useful.
      Debbie Roberts recently posted..Celebrating National Pollinator Week

      Reply
  2. Marilyn says

    Thanks for this helpful post!

    Reply
  3. Marcia says

    Thank you for the article. I can attest to the success of some of the recommendations. I had planted a screen of

    1. eastern red cedar
    2. eastern red cedar emerald sentinel
    3. alta southern magnolia

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/97455920@N02/sets/72157636127944324/#

    The eastern red cedar grows very fast and must be pruned. I have done this twice this year. Of course, we have had lots of rain and I fertilize in the Spring. The beautiful sentinels produce a huge number of cones for the birds and stay quite green over the winter, The magnolias are attractive and fragrant.

    The eastern red cedar is THE bird perch compared to the the other two.I have a male and female and, as of now, a few years after planting, they are a terrific screen. The other two are taking longer.
    The sentinels and magnolia will max out at ~15 feet and will not have to be topped. The eastern cedars will have to be topped to keep at 15 feet if I desire.

    Of note, as indicated, I had to dig out my beautiful winter king hawthorn as the rust has just decimated it.(In its place, I planted a Cornus floirida Cherokee Chief which resists powdery mildew and anthracnose):
    http://www.aaes.auburn.edu/comm/pubs/highlightsonline/spring99/dogwood.html)

    Marcia

    Reply
    • Debbie Roberts says

      Marcia, Thanks for sharing your experiences with eastern red cedar and southern magnolia. And for sharing the link to your photos. I planted a winterking hawthorne in my garden last year and am already finding that rust is a much bigger issue than Id anticipated. Already many of the developing fruit is hairy with rust.
      Debbie Roberts recently posted..Celebrating National Pollinator Week

      Reply
  4. Ginny Stibolt says

    Debbie, The mountain laurels and evergreen rhododendrons dont work for us in Florida. Id add the wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) to your list. It provides a good evergreen screen and it feeds the birds. It takes to trimming if needed, but it does send up lots of suckers. Its range is from Texas to New Jersey and down to the southernmost counties in Florida.
    Ginny Stibolt recently posted..Terrible taro and other invasives

    Reply
    • Debbie Roberts says

      Ginny, Thanks for adding to the list for other southern gardeners. We see it here in CT primarily along the coastline, its just beginning to gain a following for broader use.
      Debbie Roberts recently posted..Celebrating National Pollinator Week

      Reply
  5. marcia says

    Curious. Why is it that every time I try to post a comment, it indicates its moderated, then never posted? I linked to some of my photos of my screen of trees mentioned in the article so readers could see my success with them. I wonder if others have this problem and thats why there are few comments on these very good postings. Also, ive never used bad language or trolled.

    Reply
    • Debbie Roberts says

      Marcia It looks like you made it past the spam filter this time!!
      Debbie Roberts recently posted..Celebrating National Pollinator Week

      Reply
  6. Flora says

    I like to plant mixed borders of native trees and shrubs, including both evergreens and deciduous plants. That way theres always something interesting going on. It looks more natural and provides more diverse habitat for wildlife. And if one species doesnt do well, other species in the border soon fill in the gaps.

    Reply
    • Debbie Roberts says

      Flora, Thats an important point for a variety of reasons. Increased wildlife value is certainly high on the list.
      Debbie Roberts recently posted..Celebrating National Pollinator Week

      Reply
  7. Val says

    Too bad evergreens are not an option for me:-( Need another post with suggestions for areas inappropriate(wrong word since they just are not native and will not tolerate the heat and lack of moisture in SW Missouri) for evergreens.

    Reply
    • Debbie Roberts says

      Val, Unfortunately I dont have any experience with SW Missouris native plants so I cant offer you any suggestions. Hopefully one of my team members or a reader will chime in with some advice for you. Good luck.
      Debbie Roberts recently posted..Celebrating National Pollinator Week

      Reply
      • Marilyn says

        http://grownative.org/native-plant-info/plant-picker/

        http://www.gardenguides.com/95353-cedar-trees-missouri.html

        Eastern Red Cedar is native to Missouri according to both these web sites.

        Reply
        • Val says

          Unfortunately, Red Cedar is quite invasive on adjacent glades, so not something I want to encourage, Marilyn:-(

          Reply
    • Gail says

      Val, I live in Tennessee and believe that Alabama Snow-wreath Neviusia alabamensis would be a good screening shrub. Its native to Missouri, too. Ive seen at a local native plant nursery and it can make a dense shrub planting that offers cover for birds and lovely blooms in the spring. gail
      Gail recently posted..Wildflower Wednesday: Embrace imperfection in your garden!

      Reply
  8. John says

    While not evergreen, bottlebrush buckeye makes for a great privacy screen. Im using it in a border area with winged sumac, musclewood, and sweetbay magnolia. Goal is to have the dense border during the summer months, when most of our time is spent outside. I live in PA.
    John recently posted..Pollywog Pond is a Certified PA Pollinator Friendly Garden

    Reply

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge