A mix of trees and bushes along a property line helps to provide privacy.

A mix of trees and bushes along a property line helps to provide privacy.

Photo provided by Ivy Schwartz

Plants can add privacy, beauty to yards

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published June 18, 2019

METRO DETROIT — Having wonderful, friendly neighbors is always nice, but it’s also good to have a little privacy on your yard.

Many communities have homes that are close together, and that can take away the feeling of serenity and tranquility in the property. Plants, such as trees, bushes and flowers, can be used to add not only beauty to a yard, but also some privacy in both the front and backyards.

A “living fence” is a fence that is made of flowers, plants, trees or bushes to add privacy to a yard.

George Papadelis, the owner of Telly’s Greenhouse and Garden Center in Troy and Shelby Township, shared some insights on using plants for privacy.

“Plants provide a more natural, earthy look,” Papadelis said via email.

There are a wide variety of plants and trees that can be used to provide just enough or total privacy to a front or backyard. They can also add color to a yard that a fence may not be able to provide.

“Ornamental grasses are slow-spreading, graceful plants that can provide about 10 months of privacy. The dead stems are cut down in spring. ... The new foliage emerges a few weeks later. They are relatively inexpensive and offer many options,” Papadelis said.

Trees can be lined up straight across or even diagonally to make a “fence.”

“Arborvitae are the more common solution. They provide 12 months of privacy and can grow up to a foot a year. There are several varieties that vary in both height and width. These can be much more expensive,” said Papadelis.

He said that the most popular plants used for privacy in yards are grasses, bamboo, privet, several types of evergreens, and even vines on supports.

When planning to use plants for privacy, consider where you want them and how much sun the area gets.

“Although most thrive in sun, a few can tolerate shade (hemlocks),” he said.

If you do have a fence, such as chain-link or wooden, plants can also grow along the fence to add even more privacy.

During the cold season, certain plants can be chosen that can withstand the cold and not lose their purpose.

Make sure to be careful of how closely you plant them to each other. Planting them too closely can cause crowding and lead to the plants suffering.

Papadelis also said that the plants can have positive benefits to the environment.

“Some of these provide flowers (vines) for pollinators, and all provide oxygen and clean the air,” he said.

When preparing and deciding where a plant used for privacy should go, make sure to investigate the soil in the area. Soil can play a big factor in whether a plant will survive after planting.

“Soil preparation can be the difference between success and failure. Determine what type of soil you have by digging a substantial hole and seeing what you find. ... Is it clay, sandy, etc.? Your local garden center can help you with soil preparation,” said Papadelis.

Ivy Schwartz, a member of the Shelby Township Gardeners Club, said she uses plants for privacy in her yard and has used vines that grow along trellises.

“We have installed trellises in our yard to provide privacy. If you want more privacy, you have more tightly knitted vines that grow up them. You can put plastic bamboo to soften wooden trellises. Our neighbors have ivy vines trained to grow up their trellises,” she said.

Schwartz also has zebra grass that she has used to conceal her driveway, adding privacy to the front yard.

“Grasses are great; for example, we have zebra grass that conceals the vehicle in our driveway even in winter. … Standard arborvitaes are what our neighbors use for privacy,” said Schwartz.

She said she also planted tall hostas and ferns to add privacy.

Each community has its own set of ordinances as to which plants can be used in a yard and how tall they can be, so make sure to check with your community clerk.