When Jen and Neal Jackson moved into a house in Homewood, Alabama, the old fence surrounding their side yard didn't add much to the overall feel of their landscape. However, it did help create an ideal play area for their children, as well as all the neighbors' children. So the Jacksons contacted local garden designer Terry Slaughter to find an alternative to the old fence without losing the practicality of the secure play area.
Terry suggested replacing the fence with a living screen, and the Jacksons immediately loved the idea. "Instead of just having a fenced side yard," Terry explains, "we created a small, intimate space that gives a yard a lot more options than having one big open field does." With everyone in agreement, the next question was what type of plants to choose.
Points To Ponder
The most important considerations when deciding what shrub to use as a screen are the growing conditions. It doesn't matter how great a shrub looks when put in the ground. If the plant doesn't have appropriate growing conditions, it won't continue to look good, so there's no point in using it.
The Jacksons' house is nestled into a grove of tall pines and receives a limited amount of sunlight. The side yard is actually part of a utility right-of-way with heavy clay soil that gets a little more sun but has some drainage problems. With these primary considerations in mind, Terry began looking at the other concerns the Jacksons had. They definitely wanted a hedge tall enough to keep the children and their toys inside. They also wanted something that would create a solid screen so they wouldn't have to constantly worry about cleaning up toys. Finally, the Jacksons didn't want anything that would need special maintenance.
Good Plants for a Living Screen
- American boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) MS, LS, CS
- Burford holly (Ilex cornuta) US, MS, LS
- common guava (Psidium guajava) TS
- English yew (Taxus baccata) US, MS
- Japanese cleyera (Ternstroemia gymnanthera) MS, LS, CS, TS
- Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) MS, LS, CS, TS
- 'Nellie R. Stevens' holly (I. 'Nellie R. Stevens') MS, LS, CS, TS
- tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) LS, CS, TS
- wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) MS, LS, CS, TS