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All About Screens &Hedges  

Good Screens or Hedges Make For Good Neighbors


What are the best evergreens for a screen or hedge?

Before deciding on what plant material to use, it’s best to ask a few basic questions:

  • Is the desired planting location in full sun or shade?
  • How tall will the screen need to be to block out a view or create the privacy you desire?
  • Will the area have a formal or relaxed design?

Considering the cost of installing a screen - which generally requires the purchase of many plants bought all at once to create a look of uniformity - selection of the right plants from the very beginning can make all the difference in how the screen will look many years from now.

One thing for sure: the cost of a screen using plants or trees is usually much less expensive than building a fence or wall - and screens plants can be selected that will quickly grow to their mature height of a few feet to 30 feet or more in height! Too, many people build a pretty fence only to cover it up with screen plants later.

In the past, screens/hedges have typically been composed of only one kind of plant, but through years of experience we've found that this thype of design, though easy to implement, can create the perfect condition for the rapid spread of disease. A single infected plant may spell demise for an entire row. This is what happened in the case of the now almost extinct 'Red Tip' photinias that became so popular during the 1980's. Too many people planted too many hedges and screens using just the non-native Red Tip in tightly-packed rows, and Mother Nature came along to maintain a balance.

It's time for a change. An ideal screen consist's of a variety of plant material. While this may not be the best approach for very formal plantings, it is quite suitable for most other garden landscapes. Imagine how beautiful a mixed row of conifers, hollies, magnolias, pines and various other evergreen screen plants and trees would look.

Creative Screening with Evergreen Plants & Trees

Start by studying your particular screening problem.

  • Is it a large area or a very small area?
  • Are you trying to hide something unsightly, looking for a little privacy, or wanting to plant a hedge to separate the "rooms" of your landscape/garden?
  • Will the plants be planted in sun or shade?
  • Do you want your screen planting to be low maintenance and low cost?

Evergreen plants provide continuous screening year-round. If you use deciduous trees and shrubs (one's that lose their leaves) in layers, select plants with multiple or curly stems to provide screening as well as visual interest in the winter months. Or use evergreen and deciduous mixes.

Make a sketch of the area to be screened, and make notes about your requirements and preferences for the project. Keep in mind that some screens may need to serve dual purposes, such as privacy and windbreak, shade and screen, security and privacy, and so forth. Use the Screen & Hedges Listing to review descriptions and photos as well as the sample screen plan to help in your planning. A professional landscape designer in your area can be of great assistance, providing you with a screen design.

TIP: If possible, stagger screen plants (as shown on the left side of the design above) and in our sample screen plan. Staggering them will create a better visual, noise and wind barrier as well as a more asthetically pleasing appearance.

There are a number of plant options to consider that provide beautiful and easy care screening and hedge solutions:

  • Large-growing evergreen trees for larger area screening (25'+ height)
  • Smaller growing evergreen trees and large-growing shrubs (10'-25' height) for mid-size area screening.
  • Lower growing evergreen shrubs for hedges (2 to 10 feet in height)
  • Vines that can be planted on trellises, fences, lattice or other structures.

Large Area Screening

For very large areas, where using fewer trees can help cut costs, evergreen trees are most practical. Examples of very large-growing evergreen selections for screening are Southern magnolias and Deodora cedar.

Deciduous trees such as weeping willow, oaks, and maples can be used as a screen screen, but keep in mind that they will lose their foliage for the winter months. We usually use these large deciduous trees as a background for lower growing evergreen shrubs.

If you have plenty of room to work with, consider a tiered or layered look. Plant larger evergreen trees in the back, with medium flowering shrubs and ornamental grasses in the middle, and lower-growing shrubs, annuals, and perennials along the border.

For areas requiring tall evergreen screens but with little planting area, look into Italian cypress, weeping yaupon, or Sky Pencil holly. Stay away from those poplars and other fast growing selections you see in mail order catalogues that grow 10 feet in a year. Anything that grows that fast is usually short-lived and to weak-rooted to handle the winds we experience in Zone 8.


Mid-size Area Screening

Some screening situations may require less height, such as a divider between houses, a screen for privacy around a pool, screening from the street or to block off an ugly tool shed or other smaller structure. These situations usually don't require plants over 15 feet in height so mid-size screen shrubs and trees will do. Wax Myrtle, Hetzi Column Juniper, Camellias, and the wonderfully fragrant Tea Olive (to name a few) fall in the mid-size category.



Hedges make very effective screens as well as barriers and dividers that can seperate areas of the landscape. They can seperate a vegetable garden or fenced in dog area from the rest of the landscape, or enclose a patio or jacuzzi. They can be grown at various heights, from very low to quite high (over 10 feet). Although used as a barrier, hedges can also provide security if thickly grown and prickly or thorny.

Hedges can be grown naturally or trimmed to formal shapes. Be aware that trimmed hedges can require more maintenance than other types. Too, it might take a little longer for trimmed, formal hedges to grow to the desired height. For tight hedges pruning must be done often to keep the proper shape.

Some popular evergreen shrubs for hedges in the mid-size range are holly, juniper, arborvitae, loropetalum, and ligustrums.

In the 4-5 foot height range, there is the disease-free Knock Out Rose which now comes in cherry red, pink, and light pink. There's also the new Carefree Sunshine rose that grows very similar to Knock Out but blooms yellow! These roses will lose most all of their foliage during January & February, but and are very vigorous growers producing an abundance of thick, attractive disease-free foliage and colorful blooms throughout the rest of the year. Thickly planted, roses can also serve as a security screen to keep the neighbors animals or children out of your yard.

  The Knock Out Rose is the most disesse-free, low maintenance shrub rose we have come across ever! Living up to its name, masses of pretty, single cherry-red flowers are a knock out from April through November. We planted the first Knock Out in our trial garden in 2002 and since then the foliage has shown itself to be virtually disease free. We have yet to spray them. A rose we would recommend to everybody and therefore a Wilson Bros. Favorite!
Knock Out Pink, Blush, and the 2006 New Introduction 'Double Knockout' (pictured left) are three more recent introductions having the same disease-free qualities as their brother, Knock Out Cherry.
  Another fabulous 2006 New Introduction from William Radler, the famous breeder of the award winning Knock Out®. Radler combined the Knockout and a Carefree rose to create this amazing yellow beauty. Clear yellow blooms appear in abundant clusters from spring until fall. These non-fading blooms survive even the hottest of summers. This outstanding performer is virtually maintenance free, and another rose you won't want to be without!
  The Home Run rose is yet another new disease-free introduction. This flame-red offspring of the famous Knock Out kicks the competition up a notch when it comes to disease resistance. Home Run has a phenomenal fortitude against the dreaded black spot (like its father). But, unlike Dad, it is also completely resistant to powdery mildew & has a much higher level of tolerance to downy as well. Rounded, bushy, fast-to-flower and nearly always in color (10 months), it hits a grand slam in the landscape & scores lots of points in a pot, too!


Live Walls & Fences

Another idea for screening is a trellis with vines or some nicely staked berry bushes such as raspberry and blackberry.

If privacy is needed for a patio, where there is no room to plant outside the patio area, a row of containers might work. Large containers can have trellises trained with vines such as clematis for extra height. Small trees that grow well in containers also can be used. But remember, container plants are more vulnerable to weather and need more watering than other plants.

Planting Shrubs

In Georgia, we are usually dealing with clay, whether it be hard-packed or sandy clay. Clay soils tend to hold alot of moisture during wet periods. The general rule of thumb when planting shrubs in clay soils is to provide for good drainage. We accomplish this by planting shrubs in a slightly raised mound so that their roots don't sit below the water table. Use the diagrams and instructions found in Planting a Shrub and Planting a Tree for proper planting.


In Summary

Some patience is required in starting screen plantings, but the time is worth it for the beautiful result. Plant screens are low cost as compared to fencing and other hardscape structures. Many people build a pretty fence only to cover it up later with prettier screen shrubs and trees.

Notice: After years of planting Leyland cypress as in the Atlanta metro area, it might be becoming apparent that this is not going to be the answer to everyone’s prayers for a perfect screening plant. Although its fast growth and inexpensive price made it a very popular choice for that function, a fungal disease known as Seiridium Cankor is beginning to take its toll on a few older, established plantings.

Weed Control Around Shrubs

Pruning Shrubs

Fertilizing Shrubs

Disease Control For Shrubs


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