Creating Privacy With Plants
professionals tell us that the single most common request they get from
their customers is for screening applications. With lot sizes shrinking
and real estate prices soaring, homeowners are trying to carve private
outdoor space from smaller and smaller areas.
Since building codes generally restrict construction of anything taller than 6', planting screens and hedges is often the only solution to noisy neighbors, looming multi-story buildings or unsightly views.
For formal hedges along narrow lot lines, use evergreen, upright growers with a tendency to hang on to their lower leaves as they age. Good choices include Prunus caroliniana 'Bright 'n Tight', Podocarpus gracilior, or Syzygium paniculatum. Moderate growers such as these work well in most suburban gardens; growing quickly enough to block undesirable elements within a few years but not so fast that they'll require constant pruning to keep them within bounds.
Commercial and large residential projects often have different requirements and can accomodate a wider plant palette. Form Follows Function Choosing the right material for your specific application begins with deciding exactly how you want that plant to work. Apart from its function as a screen, does it need to buffer sound from a busy street? Then choose plants that grow as wide as they do tall like the columnar forms of Myoporum or the white flowered Osmanthus fragrans.
Does the screen need to block a multi-story building? Then Bambusa oldhamii, a tall clumping bamboo, would fit the bill. Interesting, colorful foliage? Look at Photinia fraseri with its glossy, bright red new growth or the chartreuse spring flush of Podocarpus. The table to the right lists plants appropriate for various screen applications including average heights for both 15 gallon and 24" box sizes. By first identifying the function followed by choosing the form, you'll put the right plant in the right place each and every time.
Tips and Techniques
Your projects are living advertisements for your business. Ensure your jobs will continue to look good long after you've left the site by using proper planting and staking techniques to install your trees. Follow the steps outlined below and your trees will be healthier, live longer, look better and grow twice as fast as those planted incorrectly; and that's got to be good for business.
Dig a hole NO DEEPER THAN the root ball.
This provides a firm base that will keep the tree from settling and submerging the trunk flare. Planting a tree too deeply can lead to crown rot.
Make the hole at least 2 times WIDER than the root ball.
Slightly slope the sides of the hole. In heavy or compacted soil, the hole should be 3 to 4 times the diameter of the root ball. This looosens and aerates the soil in the area where the new roots are to grow.
Backfill using a 50-50 mix of native soil and planting mix.
Add the back-fill around the tree, periodically tamping the soil to collapse air pockets or adding water to settle the soil.
Create a small water retaining berm at the edge of the hole.
A water basin encourages water penetration by retaining moisture in the root zone. A tree with a dry root ball cannot absorb water. Be sure to water thoroughly after planting.
Mulch should cover the ENTIRE planting hole, but not be piled on the trunk of the tree.
Make sure stakes are placed well outside of the existing root mass, and that the ties are fastened loosely enough to let the trunk partially sway in the wind as it would naturally. This encourages good root strength development. Stakes should be tall enough to reach to the lowest permanent branch, at which place the ties should be fastened.
Remember - Staking is temporary.
Once the tree has become established, remove all ties, bands and supports. If these are not removed, they can girdle the tree creating serious and even fatal flaws in the trunk and branch structure.