Looking for a bit of privacy from the neighbours? An expert reveals 5 of the best fast-growing screening plants.
ADAM Woodhams, horticulturist and Victa ambassador, reveals how to choose, and care for, fast-growing privacy plants.
There’s a saying that goes ‘good fences make good neighbours’. Adam believes we should change the expression to ‘good hedges grow great neighbours’.
What’s the difference between a screen plant and a hedge?
With many plant varieties, the difference between a screen (which obscures but doesn’t completely block a view) and a hedge (a densely growing planting that cuts out all views) is often just in the pruning.
Regular pruning and shaping creates a dense hedge that will provide total privacy.
Occasional trimming and shaping will create a screening effect with a diffused view.
The only exception is clumping bamboos. With these, it’s about selecting the appropriate species to suit your needs.
What’s special about hedges?
While built screens such as fences give you instant privacy, who wants to spend years looking at timber slats or lattice when you could be looking at a lush green or flowering backdrop instead? Screening hedges don’t just create a living, breathing divider between your property and your neighbour’s, they’ll beautify your outdoor space too.
If privacy is a priority, look for plant species that:
Are fast growing,
Have small, densely packed foliage as this will give a denser screen,
Take to trimming well, and
Have the right mix of upright and horizontal growth.
Tip: Choose a variety that is taller than you actually need. For example, if you need a two-metre-high hedge, select a variety that grows to three or five metres. Why? A plant can take up to a decade to reach its maximum height, and even then may only do so under ideal conditions. But it may only take 18 months to get to a third or so of its potential maximum. When it reaches the height you want, simply prune off the top.
What’s good to know?
It’s also important to choose a plant that will thrive in your garden’s conditions. Consider your gardens:
Level of wind exposure,
Level of sunlight (is it full-sun, part-sun or do light levels vary in different sections of the garden?),
Soil (is it shallow or deep, sandy or clay?), and
What level of maintenance is required to get the desired result?
Here are 5 of my favourite fast-growing privacy plants:
1. Orange jessamine (Murraya paniculata): This stunning hedge grows to around three metres high, although it can grow as high as five metres. It flowers two or more times a year, producing masses of richly fragrant white flowers. Grows: Up to 1.8 metres (standard fence height) in under three years in a warm, temperate climate.
2. Sasanqua camellia: These beauties come in a range of sizes, and can grow up to five metres tall. They boast glossy green leaves and bear masses of gorgeous flowers from late summer into autumn. Grows: Up to 1.8 metres in under three years in a warm, temperate climate.
3. Japanese photinia (Photinia glabra): Take your pick from one of the many fast-growing varieties of this traditional favourite. It boasts large, hardy foliage (great for bigger hedges) and delightful red highlights on new growth. Grows: Up to 1.8 metres in two to three years in a warm, temperate climate.
4.Dwarf lilly pilly(Acmena smithii minor): With its small green leaves and fluffy white flowers in spring, this beautiful, hardy native, also known as ‘neighbour eraser’, will give your garden something of a tropical look. It’s also one of the fastest-growing lilly pilly species, with small leaves densely held to give you privacy from the neighbours in next to no time. Grows: Up to 1.8 metres in 12 to 18 months in a warm temperate climate.
5. Clumping bamboo: These are the only bamboos to plant, in my view. My favourite is the variegated dwarf Malay (Bambusa heterostachya variegated). It is a true hedging bamboo easily achieving two metres in less than 18 months – and with a good density, not just height. It also holds very dense foliage from ground level to its top, and knits together very well to create a true hedge, fast. It will grow to around four metres, but you can just trim its top off once it reaches ideal height.Maintenance of clumping bamboo couldn’t be easier; simply feed, water and then step back. To really kick them along, feed every three months with a quality lawn fertiliser (they are a giant grass, after all).Grows: As an example of how quickly clumping bamboo grows, I screened a three-storey house from view in just over 18 months.
1. Don’t plant too close together. Sure, your hedge may form up faster, but the plants will end up competing with each other for food and water.
2. For a short hedge, dig individual holes. For a larger hedge, trench planting might be faster and easier.
3. Consider your neighbours. Don’t plant anything that will block their views, cause them a maintenance headache, overshadow their property or block their sunlight.
4. Do your research; take the time to find the right plants for your situation.
5. Buy plants as advanced as you can afford in order to grow your hedge faster.
1. Install a drip-irrigation system on a timer when you plant. Correct watering is critical for quality growth.
2. Improve the planting soil by blending through some quality compost or composted manure.
3. Feed at planting time and then at regular intervals. Adam likes Scotts Osmocote Plus Organics as it has a controlled-release component that feeds for six months, and an organic component that looks after soil microorganisms.
4. Prune early and often to get your hedge looking dense and bushy. The easiest way is with battery-powered hedging shears such as Victa’s 82V Hedge Crafter.
5. Mulch well at planting time and top up at least once a year.