Create a living privacy screen in your backyard

A newly planted privacy screen. Photo by Joe Covington.

I don’t skinny-dip in my backyard pool and I’m not a streaker, however, when I’m in my backyard I do enjoy my privacy. I love the endless evolving nature in my landscape and the peace and quiet it embraces.  Also, I like friends and family to share in this joy of nature’s beauty.

In order to achieve this “island of joy,” a thick screen – not just a wood, metal or mortar fence – is essential to make my oasis a reality.  How does this happen?

Living screens can accomplish this beautifully and once mature, require practically no maintenance!

Use shrubs such as Nellie R. Stevens holly, which grows into a large pyramid attaining 15 to 20 feet in height and 6 to 8 feet in width.  Trimming can keep its height at 8 feet or less, and trimming the “point” off the pyramid causes a wider canopy at the top.

Mature privacy screen. Photo by Joe Covington.

Other popular hollies including Savannah, Liberty, Foster, Oakleaf and Eagleston do the same thing and all have red berries, although “Nellie’s” berries are more abundant and larger in size.  Trees such as Magnolias and Eastern Red Cedar also make exceptional living screens.

For screens which are needed in shady spots (two thirds of the day or more), try Japanese Yew, a columnar upright shrub that reaches a height of 12 feet with a 3 to 4 foot spread (may be kept trimmed to as low as 6 or 7 feet).

Cleyera Japonica is a wider growing spreading shrub which can attain 6 to 8 feet in width and 8 to 15 feet in height depending on trimming and variety.  Large leafed Viburnums grow very similar to Cleyera Japonica and have fragrant white flowers.  All of these need mostly shade in order to thrive.

For a more tropical look, many types of Bamboo will provide a tall screen and they are fast growing, both sun and shade tolerant, and some of the newer varieties are “clumping” which makes containment much easier.

So whatever the need to seclude your “Oasis” – whether it’s height requirements, width, sun and/or shade – there are plenty of shrubs and trees to keep you from being heard or exposed! Plant in the winter to minimize transplant shock, reduce water needs, and establish roots before next summer’s dry, hot period so no “peeping” will occur.

By Blue Ribbon News special contributor Joe Covington, owner of Covington’s Nursery & Landscape 5518 President George Bush Highway (formerly Liberty Grove) in Rowlett.

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