Although most gardeners enjoy sharing the beauty of their yards, not many enjoy being on permanent display. Privacy can be a serious issue, especially in neighborhoods in which the houses are closely spaced, and creating privacy without ruining the aesthetics of the landscape can be challenging. A hedge of evergreen holly or fragrant sweet olive enhances a garden while protecting your privacy.
Japanese Dwarf Holly
Although many homes have the ubiquitous privet or boxwood hedge, the dwarf Japanese holly (Ilex japonica) is increasing in popularity. It has the small, dense leaves of boxwood with a richer, dark green color, and it lacks the offensive scent and invasiveness of privet. Once established, dwarf Japanese holly can tolerate drought, is evergreen, cold hardy, and can be pruned or left to grow into a naturally rounded shape. It prefers well-drained, slightly acid soil. Ideal for a hedge, the 'Convexa' variety grows to 10 feet, but is usually smaller in the home garden. Although Japanese dwarf holly is a moderately slow growing shrub, this is an advantage when trimmed into a formal hedge; when other hedges begin to look shaggy and unkempt, holly remains neat and tidy.
Two varieties of euonymus are heavy hitters in the landscape; winged euonymus and evergreen euonymus. A deciduous shrub, winged euonymus (Euonymus alata) has dense, twiggy growth that provides privacy even in winter. Leaves are dark green during the summer, and although spring blooms are nondescript, this hardy plant glows a rich red in the fall. For this reason, it is often called "burning bush." A common winged euonymus grows moderately to ten feet high and equally as wide at maturity, but the variety 'Compacta' will mature to roughly half that size. Its elegant, horizontal branching looks best when left natural, and it grows well with average sun, soil and water.
Tough spots with poor soil and hot sun call for the evergreen euonymus (Euonymus japonica). Cold-hardy as well, this shrub will even survive salt spray. The smaller varieties are often used in commercial or street-side landscaping due to their tenacity, but their attractive color is a major draw; this is one of the few variegated plants for privacy hedges. 'Aureo-marginata' has bright yellow leaves edged in green, and, just the opposite, 'Gold Spot' has green leaves edged in yellow. Many other varieties exist. The glossy leaves are tough and leathery, and when grouped together in a hedge, variegated shrubs form a cheerful, unique backdrop for foreground plantings. Evergreen euonymus is a moderately fast growing shrub, reaching 6 to 10 feet, and is easily shaped into formal hedges.
In warmer areas, the sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is not only attractive, it has a delicious fragrance that carries on the breeze. Although the flowers are small, they make their presence known in late spring and at various times throughout the growing season. Sweet olive is rare among evergreens in preferring some shade, and is a good choice when adding a privacy hedge under established trees. Average soil and moderate water will keep a sweet olive happy. Leathery medium-green leaves densely cover the plant, and take well to pruning, but the sweet olive grows just as well with neglect and is rarely bothered by pests or disease. This tender shrub has moderately slow growth but is long-lived, growing up to 10 feet tall in the garden.