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Creating Privacy Barriers with Shrubs

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                     September 19, 2006

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Growing Plants Vertically
from The Big Book of Gardening Skills
by the Editors of Garden Way Publishing  

If your garden feels cramped and crowded, take advantage of 
vertical space. It is healthier for vining plants to climb 
upward into the air and sunlight than to sprawl on the damp 

Reasons to garden vertically:

* Fruit is cleaner and less susceptible to damage from rot-
ting, insects, and slugs. 
* More air and sunlight reach the plants. 
* Cultivating and harvesting are easier. 
* Requires less space. 
* Yields are generally higher. 
* Creates a shady garden spot. 
* Provides a framework for plant coverings. 
* Allows more efficient watering. 
* Makes monitoring and managing pests easier. 
* Earliest, cleanest, and longest-lasting harvests 

The simplest of all plant supports are stakes or poles. 
Drive them into the soil near the base of a plant and the 
vines instinctively latch onto them. Tie tall or heavy 
plants to the stakes to support them. Then prune the excess 
growth at the top. 

Use three to six or more poles to make a tepee. Sink them at 
least 1 foot into the ground and lash them together at the 
top. Not only does this create a sturdy and attractive 
structure for vining plants to climb up, but it also 
provides a cool and shady nook underneath in which children 
can nap, read, or hold tea parties. Leave one section 
between poles unplanted for easy access.

Garden centers offer a variety of wooden, bamboo, and 
manufactured stakes, or you can make your own from scrap 
lumber, pieces of metal or PVC pipe, or other rigid materials.

Tepee Trellises

Tepees make excellent supports for beans, peas, and tomatoes, 
and for heavily fruited crops such as melon and squash. To 
build one, you will need three to six poles -- thin ones for 
flowers or lightweight plants,stouter ones for heavily 
fruited crops. Cut the poles 10 to 12 feet long so you can 
sink them 1 to 2 feet into the ground. Use twine, raffia, or 
strips of rawhide or cloth to lash poles together near the 
top. Pull the poles into a tight bundle, wrap the twine 
around the bundle a few times, and tie it snugly. Prop the 
bundles over the planting area, positioning the bottom ends 
so each pole will support one or two vines. Thicker poles 
are heavy enough to be freestanding.

Fence Trellises
Drive a post at each end of a row and place other posts in 
between where needed. String with twine, wire, netting, or 
wire mesh and you have a fence-type trellis. Fences over 20 
feet long should have an extra post installed every 10 to 
12 feet. By attaching cross arms to the end posts and 
running wires between them, you can convert the simple fence 
trellis into a double fence or clothesline trellis that can 
support two or four lines instead of just one.

Another simple and efficient method of containing sprawlers 
is with a cage. Cages can be nailed together from scrap 1 x 
2 lumber or made with sturdy wire mesh. Bend the mesh into 
shape and arrange it over transplants such as tomatoes and 
cucumbers. Round or square cages, 2 to 3 feet in diameter 
and 3 to 4 feet high, will both contain and support a 
variety of vines.

Construct an A-frame trellis of lightweight lumber -- 1 x 2s 
or 2 x 4s. Wire mesh fencing, garden netting, or vertically 
or horizontally strung wire or twine will serve as the plant 
support. You can design an A-frame in any dimensions, but it 
must be of manageable size if it is to be portable. Both 
sides of this versatile trellis are used, and it can be made 
turdy enough to support heavy crops such as gourds and 


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Creating Privacy Barriers with Shrubs 
by Barbara Blossom Ashmun 

As a garden designer, I help homeowners improve their 
gardens, and often the most important need is for greater 
privacy. Many gardeners also express a desire to have a more 
intimate garden, a place to sway in a hammock and enjoy 
solitude, or share an iced tea and conversation with a 
friend. The most cost-effective way to give the garden 
greater shelter, and divide large spaces into cozier nooks, 
is by growing green walls. 

Walls of stone, brick or stucco could accomplish the same 
ends, but at far greater expense. Living walls have added 
advantages beyond economy: the beauty of their foliage color 
and texture; their seasonal displays of colorful flowers and 
berries; their usefulness as bird and butterfly habitat; 
their benefit as a source of cut greens for bouquets, 
wreaths and mantle displays. 

With so many plants to choose from, the first quality to 
consider is the shrub's ultimate size in maturity; its 
height and spread eight-to-ten years down the line. On small 
properties where only a few feet of space are available for 
a hedge, columnar shrubs with small leaves or needles that 
can easily be trimmed are more compatible than large, arch-
ing bushes that will quickly outgrow the area. Where there's 
plenty of room, larger, fast-growing shrubs will give you 
immediate gratification and you can let them spread to their 
mature size without clipping. 

Consider also whether it's really necessary for your screen 
to be evergreen. In places where the privacy barrier is 
important in all four seasons, stick to evergreens, but in 
locations where you'll be spending time mainly in summer and 
fall, broaden the choices and select deciduous, flowering 
shrubs for added color and fragrance. A hedge of 'Hansa' 
roses (hybrid rugosas) with sweetly scented magenta flowers
and red autumn hips is unsurpassable. 

An easy way to determine the desired height of your privacy 
barrier is to have a friend hold a yardstick and pretend to 
be your hedge. Ask her to raise the yardstick until her 
height plus the yardstick's length hide the scene that you 
want to screen. If a six-foot-tall shrub is enough to hide 
the neighbor's compost pile, you can begin your plant search 
with that size in mind. If you're trying to blot out a 
bright yellow play structure, you will probably have to 
choose taller shrubs or trees, and the yardstick trick will 
help you figure out just how high is enough.



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Many of the needle evergreens including yew, arborvitae, 
hemlock, and incense cedar make fine hedges. Garden designer 
Elizabeth Marantz, whose large Portland garden is divided 
into several spaces, favors Hick's yew (Taxus media 'Hicksii') 
for its handsome, fine-textured, evergreen foliage. The red 
yew berries are also decorative until the robins eat them 
(seeds are poisonous to humans). 

Low maintenance is another advantage because Hick's yew is 
relatively slow-growing you only have to prune it once in 
late summer. Marantz prefers long-handled Japanese hedge 
shears which let you stand back from your work and clip 
away. In spring the new growth is chartreuse, and to 
emphasize that she grows chartreuse-flowering cushion spurge 
(Euphorbia epithymoides) , swamp spurge (Euphorbia palustris), 
Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius) and bearsfoot 
hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) nearby. It took about four 
years for the 2-gallon starter plants to develop into a 
chest-high hedge. 

In the past visitors would wander down her hillside beckoned 
by a view of Mount Hood; now the hedge screens the alluring 
meadow and guides them to the front door. For a bigger hedge 
where you might need a ten-to-fifteen-foot tall screen, 
Marantz likes Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica), a 
broadleaved evergreen with serrated leaves in a rich shade 
of dark green. Left alone it will form a multitrunked 
spreading tree; clipped it shapes up nicely into a hedge. 
It grows more slowly than English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) 
and has darker leaves that recede modestly into the distance 
compared to English laurel's shiny yellow-green foliage that 
jumps out visually. 

Seattle-based landscape architect Terry Welch transformed 
columnar junipers (Juniperus communis 'Stricta') into a 
slender, four-foot-tall, blue-green wall that guides you 
down the path to his Japanese-style entry garden. Even 
though it's a lot of work, Welch willingly clips the 
junipers several times a year because the shapely "blue 
cigars" are a whimsical touch that everyone loves. Within 
his entry garden he established a four-foot-tall wall of 
clipped boxwood to separate the benches where he grows 
bonsai from a sitting space with a table and chairs. 

The boxwood is tall enough to provide a feeling of shelter 
while you're sitting down, yet low enough so that you can 
enjoy glimpses of the beautiful bonsai beyond the hedge. 
Boxwood can also be allowed to develop into a taller wall 
with judicious clipping to control its width, or to billow 
into a large evergreen shrub for a more informal look. 
Similar in leaf size, but darker green in color, convex 
leaf Japanese holly (Ilex crenata 'Convexa') can also be 
clipped into a strict wall or allowed to expand into a 
spreading screen, about five feet around.
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The same is true for many flowering broadleaf evergreens. 
Let them grow into their fullness where space allows‹I like 
them best this way‹or clip them into walls if you must 
restrict their size. Where there is enough room, andromeda 
(Pieris japonica) forms a tall natural screen in sun or 
shade, eventually growing twelve-fifteen-feet tall and 
eight-foot across. 

Fragrant white flowers that look like lily-of-the-valley 
make a showy spring display. Sun-loving Cotoneaster franch-
etii, with tapered blue-green leaves, arches gracefully to 
display lacy flowers in spring and clusters of red berries 
in autumn. Unclipped it will occupy at least eight feet 
around, but it can easily be clipped into a narrower shape. 

Early pink buds that open to creamy white flowers followed 
by blue berries make evergreen Laurestinus (Viburnum tinus) 
a popular choice for dense screening. Left alone, shrubs 
will grow eight feet tall and wide; 'Spring Bouquet' is said 
to be more compact, closer to six feet. Mexican orange 
(Choisya ternata) is another good hedging plant, with glossy 
trifoliate evergreen leaves that release the fragrance of 
orange peel when pruned. 

Without clipping the shrub will grow ten feet tall and eight 
feet wide, but the flexible branches can be reduced to any 
size. I prune mine with hand-held Felco secateurs in late 
spring after the white, lightly scented flowers have 
embellished the handsome foliage. This plant does well in 
sun or shade, and although commonly available, is uncommon-
ly attractive. 

For complete shade my first pick is the taller form of sweet 
box (Sarcococca confusa) with small tapered leaves of a 
glossy dark green. In February the small white tasseled 
flowers will send such a piercingly sweet scent into the 
garden that you will think spring has arrived. 

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