Top screening plants for your garden
There’s a saying that your garden is not complete until you can walk around naked without the chance of being spotted by a nosy neighbour. That can be a tough undertaking particularly in a new landscape in a young suburb lacking in established greenery. Up steps humble screening plants or hedges. Whether you prefer a manicured box or a tall bushy shrub, screening plants come in all shapes and sizes to fit any and every requirement.
So give yourself some privacy and add a touch of charm with these top screening and hedging shrubs.
Tall and skinny
People often require screening options for small courtyards or narrow garden beds and an option definitely worth consideration is Sky Pencil Holy (Ilex crenata). It has a unique look and style all its own, Sky Pencil holly is a versatile plant with dozens of uses in the landscape. The first thing you’ll notice is its narrow, columnar shape. It is a cultivar of Japanese holly and has evergreen foliage that resembles the form of boxwoods more than its namesake, hollies.
Sky Pencil hollies are narrow, columnar shrubs that grow up to 2.5 metres and just 60 centimetres wide. With pruning, you can maintain them at a height of 1.8 metres and at tiny 30-centimetre depth. Perfect for even the narrowest of spaces.
Trimmed Sky Pencil Holy with its upright habit. Source: The Planting Tree.
Pleaching is a form of tree shaping used to create dense coverage from a tree not usually used for screening as such. The technical definition entails a technique of interweaving living and dead branches through a hedge to create a screen. Trees are planted in lines, the branches are woven together to strengthen and fill any weak spots until the hedge thickens. Often the lower sections of the trunks are ‘cleaned’ of all old branches moving the canopy up to eye level or above, perfect for screening height.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a temperate climate of Australia such as most of Victoria and New South Wales, Ornamental Pear trees are the perfect pleaching option. Alternatively, try it out with various species of clumping bamboo by removing the lower foliage to make them look more like trees. The density of your painting makes for a striking feature.
Manicured Bamboo. Source: Secret Gardens, Sydney.
A formal affair
You can’t have a list of screening plants and not include the perennial favourite, Murraya paniculata (orange jessamine). Most often seen lining the picket fences of Brisbane’s older suburbs, a pruned formal mock orange hedge offers a wall of green dense screening. Not a fan of all the hard work in a formal hedge? You can also allow it to grow out to around a 3-metre bushy informal screening plant. Cut an established tree back hard every 5 years or so to encourage dense foliage.
When establishing and maintaining a formal hedge it is important to trim regularly in order to achieve a box type finish. Nathan Sharp from Sharp Hedges, a Brisbane based hedging specialist says “In order to achieve and maintain the formal box I like to schedule a trim regularly. Once a month in the growing season and every other month through the winter or a month after a rain event.”
Formal Murraya Hedge. Source: Sharp Hedges, Brisbane.
Native grows best
Native plants such as Lillypillies are some of the best performers in Aussie gardens. The bush cherry (Syzygium australe), sometimes marketed as an Aussie Boomer make fantastic screening plants because they are super fast growing and have a full coverage of leaves to the ground. Even as an informal hedge they only get to around 2 meters tall by 2 meters wide and create a good front fence screen to minimise road noise and add bulk to your front perimeter. Bronzed leaves are a feature of new growth with most Lilly Pilly varieties which adds a beautiful hue of colour to your garden in the growing season.