Trees, Shrubs and Hedging for Screening

It seems that in nearly every garden we work in, the client needs some sort of screening somewhere in the garden. Whether it’s an urban garden needing privacy from neighbours, a country garden that needs to hide an oil tank, or even if a secluded area in the garden is required to house the hot-tub, there is something for every situation.

Firstly, what is it that you are screening? This will determine what shape, size and type of screen you will need. If you are trying to hide an unsightly wall, fence or tank of some description, your screening will need to start at ground level, and therefore a hedge will most likely be required for this position. If you have a lovely old stone wall at the bottom of the garden, but windows looking directly over the top of it, you may want think about a stilted hedge, or some pleached trees. A stilted hedge (as you would expect from the name) is pretty much a hedge on stilts. They are young, clear stemmed trees (often varieties that you might use for hedging), that you line up close to each other so that eventually they grow together and you can keep the head trimmed neatly like a hedge. A pleached tree has a beautiful effect of creating a living screen on a stem. They can be trees of many different varieties that are grown on a frame and carefully trained and pruned to make a flat square. When arranged in a line, they make a beautiful elevated screen. Both of these options would screen above the wall without blocking the view of the wall.

Secondly, you need to decide whether you want deciduous or evergreen screening– this might depend on when you most need the screening. There are lots of lovely deciduous plants that are perfect for screening if you are only expecting to have late spring, summer and early autumn cover, for example, maybe the oil tank is something you can only see when you are actually sitting outside in the garden, which I imagine most people don’t do in the winter… unless of course you have a hot-tub! However, if you require cover all the year round, maybe because your nosy neighbour can see directly from their bedroom into your kitchen, then an evergreen plant would most certainly be the best choice.

So maybe you have decided you need cover above wall height. Pleached Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) or pleached Beech (Fagus sylvatica) would be excellent choices, and they are also available as stilted hedges. Both hold onto leaves longer than the average deciduous plant (particularly Beech), and both of them would give fairly dense cover that you wouldn’t need to wait ten years for. An interesting alternative to these two options would be pleached Malus Evereste. As I may have mentioned before, it is truly magnificent, producing blossom in spring and crab apples in autumn (and well into winter). If you need evergreen screening up above that wall, then Quercus ilex (Holm Oak) would be a perfect choice. This is also available as both pleached screening or as a stilted hedge, giving neat evergreen cover with both options. Another plant that looks splendid as a stilted hedge is good old-fashioned holly! Beautiful, dark green glossy leaves, it’s great for formal, native hedging (stilted or other) and great for security—not to mention the bright red winter berries!

If you are thinking you need to screen at ground level, then not only are all the above available in shrub and hedge forms, but here are a couple more ideas you might want to consider. Firstly, the old faithful Yew hedge (Taxus baccata). It has rather a stately-look if trimmed tightly, but it is the ultimate in dense evergreen cover, plus the added bonus of being able to prune it back to next to nothing, should the need arise… just be aware it has poisonous berries… Secondly the trusty Portugese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica), which is a favourite of mine. It is evergreen, but not too dense like Yew, and can be clipped into a defined hedge or left as a shrubby screen, if the more natural look is desired.

So overall, there is such a lot of choice, but the best thing to do is get out and have a look at the plants in the flesh. If you need any help deciding, our plant centre team are friendly, knowledgeable (I’m not being biased, I genuinely pop over and ask them for advice regularly) and waiting to give you a hand with your important garden decisions!

Happy screening!