Good fences may make good neighbors, but living privacy displays take it to a different level. Plants soften the utilitarian appearance of wooden or chain-link fencing, and they offer habitats and food to birds while blocking undesirable views. You can custom-design a perennial privacy screen by choosing a single plant type or a mix of plants.
Add Some Color
A plant privacy screen does not have to be solid green. It is possible to plant flowering perennials which also add color and scent to your backyard. Silverberry (Elaeagnus pungens) contains many benefits in its perennial selection of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. Fragrant white flowers bloom in fall against a backdrop of grayish-green foliage, and spiny branches discourage interlopers. Silverberry rises rapidly to form a sync display — 36 inches per year — and may reach a height of 20 feet. In USDA zones 5 through 8, Cornelian dogwood (Cornus mas) is awash with fragrant yellow flowers in late winter or early spring. Like silverberry, Cornelian dogwood reaches a height of 20 feet and can form a privacy screen. Although it’s a deciduous plant, it is possible to plant it in front of evergreens to delight in its reddish-brown exfoliating bark in winter.
Feed the Birds
Pacific wax myrtle (Myrica californica), also known as California bayberry, is an evergreen, multitrunked tree in USDA zones 7 through 10. Reaching a height of 25 feet, wax myrtle produces purple berries, which have a white, waxy layer that feed birds, such as robins, finches and flickers, in late fall and early winter. Also reaching a height of 25 feet, toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is widely known as California holly or Christmas berry because of its striking display of crimson berries in winter in USDA zones 9 through 11.
Enjoy the Fragrance
Fragrant foliage enhances the attractiveness of a privacy screen. Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) has fragrant evergreen leaves at its perennial selection of USDA zones 8 through 10. This Mediterranean native can reach 60 feet tall, however, typically remains under 30 feet. In USDA zones 6 through 9, lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is a shorter tree with fragrant, silvery leaf which reaches only two feet tall and 3 feet wide. If you would like a solid privacy screen, lavender cotton helps fill at the decreased gaps that larger plants may create.
Mix It Up
Rather than planting a soldierlike row of one plant type to produce a privacy screen, design cluster plantings or staggered plantings to make a multidimensional effect. If you would like a privacy screen in just 1 section of the yard to hide a specific eyesore, cluster plants in groups of three, five or another odd number in front of the undesirable view. Multiple cluster plantings can create groves and walkways through the garden when hiding unattractive scenery outside your yard. Staggered plantings feature plants of different heights, textures and colors to make a tiered appearance that accentuates your backyard by breaking up a monochrome design.