The Privacy Screen Guideline

Garden Guidelines

Privacy Screen

By definition, a hedge is “a fence or boundary formed by a dense row of shrubs or low trees.” A privacy hedge is a living fence within your landscape meant to provide privacy and a sense of enclosure from neighbors and those passing by on the street. The shrubs, trees or other plants that make up your privacy hedge or screen can delineate your property boundaries and can also function as windbreaks, sound barriers or a means to hide unsightly views. Thorny shrubs can do double duty and provide both privacy and security.

For many of us, when envisioning a privacy hedge, the image of an over-sheared yew or a scraggly privet pops into our minds but there are many options depending on the function and look you are trying to achieve. In general, plants that can be used will fall under one of four categories: Conifers or needled evergreens, such as arborvitae or cedar, broad-leaved evergreens like holly and rhododendron, deciduous shrubs like forsythia and smoke bush, and ornamental grasses and bamboos.

One of the biggest advantages of evergreens is that they provide a green screen all year round plus they are good at reducing wind and noise. They come in a range of greens, blue-greens, and yellows. Whether you choose needled evergreens or broad-leaved evergreens, there are a plethora of textures available, from delicate lacy needles to broad, leathery leaves. Some plants have berries which will attract birds. Choose conifers or needled evergreen trees if you want a strong vertical element and an imposing presence.

If choosing a deciduous plant, of course there will be none or few leaves in winter. Good privacy shrubs in this category will have a dense growth formation and their thick growth will continue to provide a visual barrier. Many deciduous shrubs have the advantage of interesting flowers and colorful fall foliage.

Although not a traditional choice, taller varieties of ornamental grasses and bamboo can make effective privacy screens. Ornamental grasses can be left in a natural state all winter so as to continue to provide privacy while also enhancing the beauty of the winter landscape. When choosing a bamboo use, pick a clumping variety to limit invasion.

In addition of the desired height and width of your privacy screen, one final consideration prior to choosing the plants is the look you are trying to achieve. Do you want a formal arrangement with one type of tree or shrub in a line or do you want more informal groupings of different types of plants?  Consider planting a group of evergreens where you need the densest screen and fill in bare spots with deciduous shrubs or other varieties of evergreens. Also, consider height and growth rates and combining groupings of taller plants flanked by lower growing ones. There are any number of combinations and looks to choose from. Use your imagination, ask our sales staff or even have a design consultation.

The following list is intended as a guide to exploring the diverse options for privacy screening. Please note that we have primarily listed the species of plants rather than the specific cultivars or hybrids within the species. When specific cultivars or varieties are listed, they are capitalized in single ‘quotes’ and follow the species designation. 

Tall Evergreen 
Abies spp.Fir
Juniperus virginianaEastern Redcedar
Picea abiesNorway Spruce
Picea glaucaWhite, Canadian Spruce
Picea pungensBlue Spruce
Pinus spp.Pine
Thuja occidentalisAmerican Arborvitae, White Cedar
Thuja plicataWestern Red Cedar
Tsuga canadensisCanadian Hemlock
Tsuga caroliniana Carolina Hemlock
Medium Evergreen 
Cephalotaxus harringtoniaJapanese Plum Yew
Chamaecyparis obtusaFernspray, Hinoki Cypress
Chamaecyparis pisiferaSawara, Threadleaf Cypress
Chamaecyparis thyoidesAtlantic White Cedar
BAMBOO Fargesia denudataNaked Clumping Bamboo
BAMBOO Fargesia nitida Blue Fountain Bamboo
BAMBOO Fargesia rufaRufa Clump Bamboo
Ilex x meserveae hybridsBlue Holly
Ilex opacaAmerican Holly
Juniperus chinensisChinese Juniper
Juniperus communisCommon Juniper
Juniperus scopulorumRocky Mountain Juniper
Picea glauca ‘Conica’Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Pieris japonicaJapanese Andromeda
Rhododendron  spp. and cultivarsRhododendron
Taxus cuspidataJapanese Yew
Taxus x media cultivarsAnglojapanese Hybrid Yew
Small Evergreen
Azalea spp.Evergreen Azalea
Buxus sempervirensCommon Boxwood
Cryptomeria japonicaJapanese Cedar
Euonymus japonicusJapanese Euonymus
Ilex crenataJapanese Holly
Ilex glabraInkberry Holly
Deciduous
Amelanchier canadensisShadblow Serviceberry
Aronia arbutifolia Chokeberry
Azalea calendulaceumFlame Azalea
Azalea schlippenbachiiRoyal Azalea
Azalea vaseyiPinkshell Azalea
Azalea viscosumSwamp Azalea
Betula nigra ‘Little King’Fox Valley River Birch
Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’Pyramidal European Hornbeam
Chionanthus spp.Fringetree
Cornus spp. (shrub form)Dogwood
Cotinus coggygriaSmokebush
Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’Winter King Hawthorn
Enkianthus campanulatusRedvein Enkianthus
Fagus sylvatica (Dawyck cultivars)Dawyck Gold, Purple Beech
Fagus sylvatica ‘Red Obelisk’Red Obelisk Beech
Forsythia spp.Forsythia
Fothergilla majorFothergilla, Bottlebrush
Hamamelis x intermedia cultivarsWitchhazel
Hamamelis virginianaCommon Witchhazel
Hibiscus syriacusRose-of-Sharon
Hydrangea macrophyllaBigleaf Hydrangea
Hydrangea paniculataPanicled Hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifoliaOakleaf Hydrangea
Ligustrum spp.Privet
Magnolia (Little Girl Series)Magnolia
Magnolia stellataStar Magnolia
Myrica pensylvanicaNorthern Bayberry
Philadelphus spp.Mockorange
Physocarpus opulifoliusNinebark
Quercus ‘Crimson Spire’Crimson Spire Oak
Quercus palustris ‘Pringreen’Green Pillar Pin Oak
Quercus x warei ‘Chimney Fire’Chimney Fire English Oak
Rosa spp.Rose
Salix discolorPussy Willow
Salix integraWillow
Syringa (various hybrid cultivars)Lilac
Syringa vulgarisCommon Lilac
Viburnum spp.Viburnum

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