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)
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)
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)
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?
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