Creating privacy in yards and gardens is very important to many homeowners, especially as houses in many cities get larger while lot sizes shrink. An evergreen privacy hedge can provide an attractive screen that fits into the landscape better than fencing alternatives. There are many factors to consider when planning a privacy hedge, including plant selection, available space and growing conditions.
Besides adding beauty and color to the landscape, an evergreen privacy hedge also offers certain practical advantages. The hedge can be grown much higher than would be acceptable with any type of fence. The cost of plants and materials to start the hedge is usually far less than having a fence installed or even doing it yourself. Hedging plants with a wider spread act as both a sound barrier and a screen.
From a privacy point of view, the main disadvantage of establishing a hedge is that it takes time. It may be several years or more before the hedge reaches the height of a fence. Hedges also require yearly maintenance and pruning to keep them shaped and at the desired height. A mature hedge of yew, laurel or thuja can have a spread of 12 feet or more. This consumes a lot of yard space and may be unworkable for smaller gardens.
Privacy Screen Plants
English laurel, green giant thuja, common yew and boxwood are all potential candidates for creating a nice evergreen privacy screen. Each plant has characteristics that suit different growing conditions and objectives. English laurel and green giant thuja are fast-growing compared to yew and boxwood, but they can't be pruned with the same precision for which the latter two are well known.
For shady conditions and generally poor ground, English laurel is an excellent choice. It seems to thrive where many other plants are hopeless. If speed is the deciding factor, choose the green giant thuja, which can grow up to 3 feet a year. Although a slow grower, boxwood has a narrow profile, which makes it a good choice for small gardens or narrow areas along property lines. Precision and elegance of form can be achieved with yew tree, which is the traditional hedging plant in many of Europe's formal gardens.
Planning a hedge should not be rushed. Hedges are easier to plant than remove, especially when they've reached 10 feet in height with an equal width. Decide how much yard space you are prepared give up for the privacy screen. The higher the screen, the more it will need to spread at the base. Also consider how much maintenance is required for different plants. Laurel must be pruned faithfully to keep it at the right size, whereas green giant thuja will need far less attention.