August 26, 2010

Make Your Neighbors Disappear!

8/26/10 |
Bob Albanese, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

In this day and age of small lots and big houses at some point in time we all pretty much have the same desire “I wish I had more privacy in my yard”. Whether you like them or not, you really don’t want to see your neighbors waving a pleasant howdy-do to you as you and your sweetie are relaxing in your hot tub with a refreshing drink. Or perhaps you are entertaining friends lounging around the pool, or eating a meal with the family, in any case privacy is a nice thing to have. With some careful planning and a bit of research you can easily make the view of your prying neighbor turn into a pleasant scene of foliage. The first thing you’ll need to ascertain is how tall a screen you will need; for most folks with one story houses a planting that grows 4 to 6 feet tall is frequently adequate. Then factor in the amount of sun/shade and available watering- all of these factors will combine to limit your choices to a plant palette that should serve you well.

Bamboo – there are many suitable choices in the world of Bamboo and other closely related genera. The secret to being successful with these plants is to be sure you choose the right species to do the job you need it to do. When choosing a bamboo be sure to select a clumping bamboo (NEVER A RUNNING BAMBOO), there are hundreds, perhaps thousands to choose from. Mature growing heights vary greatly; I suggest picking a variety that stays under 15 feet tall.

Podocarpus – (Podocarpus macrophylla) If a sheared hedge is needed I strongly recommend this plant. Full to half a day of sun is best and a well drained soil is a must. Recommended spacing for a dense hedge is 3 feet on center (“OC”), once established they are also quite drought tolerant. The needle like foliage combined with its soft bluish green color is very attractive and pruning can be done as few as 3 times a year.

Marlberry (Ardissia escallonioides) – a native shrub that grows in a naturally columnar form makes it ideal for a hedge or screening plant. Full shade to partial shade is ideal for this drought resistant plant. The leaves are a shade of grey-green and the leaf has an unusual satin gloss appearance. Small black fruits are produced in profusion which adds to its curb appeal. It also attracts birds and has a wonderfully fragrant flower.
Sabal Minor

(Sabal minor) is a great native shrub like palm that is one of the most trouble free plants you can plant in central Florida. It will grow in just about any soil, in full sun to full shade and forms a dense hedge. Add its’ incredible drought resistance (when established properly), and the fact that it rarely if ever needs to be fertilized or pruned. They grow to be about 4 to 5 feet tall, thick and full to the ground and they have no serious insect or disease pests.
Dwarf Sugar Date
Dwarf sugar date palm (Arenga engleri) the mature growing height of this clumping palm is described as “9 to 12 feet tall” making it an excellent screening plant. When it is in bloom the fragrance is so sweet it is hard to believe it comes from a palm tree. The foliage is a dark green above and silver below which adds interest to the striking tropical appearance.
Lady Palm

Corn Plant (Dracena fragrans) the common corn plant is an excellent tall narrow screening plant for those of you who live in the warmer areas of the county. They are very shade tolerant and pretty drought tolerant as well. The growing height depends on where you happen to cut it back to and the durable foliage is attractive year round. Blooms on established plants appear at years end and are quite fragrant from sunset till dawn.

Lady palm (Raphis excelsa) makes a very appealing tropical looking privacy hedge that is best in half a day shade to full shade. Being a palm there is little seasonal change. The glossy green leaves dance gracefully in the slightest breeze and are appealing all year long. Drought and cold hardiness are extra bonuses for this superb and under used plant.

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