If you can’t stand living with that heat reflecting metal panel fence, the windows of your neighbours blinking into your home or the view of the local shops, then screening plants are here to save the day. Some can even make alternatives to fences, and all will cool down your garden, provide a wind break and enrich your home in some way as well as giving you privacy. What’s the difference between a hedge and a screen? Hedges are dense and completely block out the view while screens break up the view. Screening growth lets airflow and dappled light through, and they can often look a little more natural. Privacy screening growth is somewhere in between. It will block the view to provide privacy, but will still be a little looser in growth than hedges to allow some airflow and light in.
Types of Plants
Evergreen trees and shrubs are going to be the choice for many as they provide year-round screening and although any plant could be trained to become a screen, including well trained vines, here are a few I recommend. Mock Orange aka Orange Jessamine (Murraya paniculata)
is one of the most popular hedging and screening plants. With its divine orange/jasmine perfumed flowers along with glossy green foliage it’s easy to see why. They can reach up to four meters in height and require a spacing of between 75 to 100cm to create a screening effect. They need regular feeding, a very well-drained rich soil and do prefer part-shade.
Viburnums are not known as ‘the hedges friend’ for nothing! They grow incredibly quickly and so can do the job of providing a screen fast and without the garden intrusiveness issues something like bamboo can pose. There are many varieties of this plant, and each have varying needs, so look for one that suits your light and soil position. Personally, I have a Sweet Viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum)
screen along one of my front fences, planted to make the area a little more private from the street. Sweet Viburnum likes full sun to part shade, moderately rich and very well-drained soil and loves to be well-mulched, kept watered but not overly wet. It will grow up to nine meters in height and in ultra-fast time but pruning to keep it in check. Bottle Brush (Callistemon spp.)
is often overlooked as a screening plant and one I am currently cultivating in another area of my garden. Not only do you end up with a hardy, beautiful looking native screen but also gorgeous flowers for you and the native birds and bees! There are many varieties that grow in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have lots of different foliage and leaves. Have a chat to a friendly local nursery person to find one to suit you.
Vicki of Narara Valley Nursey agreed, and I asked her for other suggestions. She said, “Hands down I think Lilli Pilli (Syzygium smithii)
is one of the best choices as well as it is a native, fast growing and you get edible berries from most types.” She said that they can get to an impressive five metres in height so are perfect to block out that towering thing you no longer want to see but smaller varieties are available as well. Spacing to create a screen should be around 75cm and they like a very free-draining, rich spoil structure that is kept moist.
“There are so many varieties and look out for psyllids resistant types because that can be a problem in your area” she advised.
Planting and Growing Tips
Get your spacing right to begin with. Roots can easily overcrowd and contribute to disease or death of your plants in a too closely planted screen or create a dense hedge that may not suit you. Too far apart may not afford the look or privacy that you are after. Don’t just use the recommended spacing on the plant label, check the recommended spacing for planting a privacy screen using that plant.
Scale is important to the overall look of your garden so think of the final size of your screen. Large and high screens/hedges look better with larger leaves while more compact ones suit smaller leaves. Prune and trim your screen regularly to encourage and maintain the shape you are looking for and when you do, make sure you feed your plants as you are reducing their available food-making structure. Water as suggested for your plants and reduce as they attain full size.
This article first appeared in Coast Newspapers