Landscape plants, shrubs and trees are used to define areas, hide or change a view, create privacy, block wind, control noise, filter light and direct traffic flow. Landscape plant materials are selected for their form and shape, foliage density and special characteristics such as branch arrangement, thorns, unusual foliage or showy flowers. You can use a variety of plants for screening small utility areas around a house such as garbage can storage or air conditioner equipment.
Deciduous shrubs create attractive screens and it's easy to control their height and shape with pruning. Many shrubs have interesting foliage and produce beautiful flowers, and they come in dwarf varieties as well as standard size. Forsythia produces early spring showers of bright yellow flowers and green shrubbery through the end of fall. Lilacs have pretty, heart-shaped leaves all season and fragrant, showy purple, white or pink flowers in spring. Burning bush has striking red foliage that stands out in any landscape.
Ornamental grasses are versatile landscape plants used in a variety of ways. They make excellent screening plants in front of views and areas that are undesirable, turning a disadvantage into an asset. Many grasses grow at least 3 feet tall, have upright growth habits and have interesting leaves and seed heads. They often last through the winter season, adding visual interest and movement in the garden and landscape. Karl Foster grass has a pleasing straight, vertical growth habit that works well to screen square or rectangular areas and equipment. Pampas grass grows into a wide swath of gently arching foliage and produces attractive, feathery plumes for seed heads. Zebra grass's green and yellow striped foliage and silvery tassellike seed heads add interest to any area.
Evergreens are valued for their formal look and yearlong greenery in the landscape. They are available in many shapes and sizes, from low growing to bushes to trees. A wide variety of evergreens are used for screening purposes. Arborvitae has shiny, flat fragrant foliage available in many growing habits, although the most common is an upright, columnar shrub. They are easily shaped and controlled through pruning and are long-lived evergreens. Junipers grow well in many conditions with little attention. They are hardy, fast-growing, drought-tolerant evergreens that grow well in any soil condition. They also provide winter berries that sustain wildlife.
Many screening plants need little care to grow well and do their job, which is to cover an undesirable view. A key to good screening plants is selection. Measure the area and learn how large the mature plants will be, and consider using a temporary cover such as lattice fencing behind newly planted materials until they have grown large enough to cover the area. Be careful not to plant screening plants too close to the area or item to be covered and to space them far enough apart for healthy growth to maturity to prevent disease problems.
- "Taylor's Guide to Shrubs: How to Select and Grow More Than 500 Ornamental and Useful Shrubs for Privacy, Ground Covers, and Specimen Plantings"; Kathleen Fisher; 2001
- "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Landscaping Illustrated"; Joel Lerner; 2003
- Colorado State University Cooperative Extension; Creative Screening With Plants; Kathy Brown; 2010
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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