Screening

Gardening: Screening plants allow you to enjoy more privacy

Little Gem southern magnolia being used as a privacy screen.

Little Gem southern magnolia being used as a privacy screen.

Special to the Star-Telegram

Privacy is a prized commodity in today’s squeezed urban living.

Our little outdoor retreats are conjoined at the gas grills, and we’re trying to figure ways to isolate ourselves from those all around us.

Often that task falls to our landscapes, and fences come first. Certainly, wood fencing and brick or stone walls give great visual blockage, but they’re also, shall we say, rather like prisons. Plants can step in to soften them.

Vines are your best bets for relaxing the harshness of walls. But you’ll need to know how each type of vine climbs and which will be the best match for your particular structure.

Some types of vines twine around their supports, winding around wood or metal as they grow upward.

Carolina jessamine and the various honeysuckles are classic examples. They’re great on wrought iron or spiraling up wooden trellises, but they have no way to cling onto a rock or brick wall.

By comparison, other types of vines have suction cups or root-like appendages that hold them fast against almost any type of surface. English ivy, Boston ivy and climbing fig (“fig ivy”) are all in that boat. They can climb up a solid brick wall like adhesive tape sticks to flesh. That’s fine when it comes to brick or stone, but it’s not so good when it comes to window screens or siding.

Shrubs become the next big list of privacy plants, and that’s actually where most people spend most of their time thinking. “What types of shrubs would make the best privacy hedges?” they ask.

Let’s establish a few ground rules before we start taking names.

First, a plant needs to be evergreen. It’s nice to have some kind