Plants offer both barriers and environmental benefits

Published 11:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2022

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With houses being built more closely together, it’s often hard to find privacy. But homeowners can plant shrubs that will quickly grow into a barrier screen to block out neighbors or a busy road.

Plant screens also provide curb appeal and environmental benefits like noise reduction, erosion control and habitat for wildlife and pollinators.

Evergreens, like the versatile American holly and the fast-growing green giant arborvitae, provide year-round screening while being low-maintenance, hardy and suitable for many landscapes. Hollies can be pruned into hedges or allowed to grow up to 40 feet tall, and green giant arborvitaes’ feathery branches add unique texture to a landscape.

Little Gem magnolias add drama with large glossy leaves and white flowers and grow well in full sun and well-draining soil. The Japanese Pittosporum shrub also is known for its fragrant flowers and dense branches that provide shelter for nesting birds. The bayberry is a native semi-evergreen shrub with waxy, silver-grey berries that add interest.

While evergreens are popular, homeowners also should consider cultivating a mixture of plants, advised Mark Viette, a Central Virginia horticulturalist.

Creating a mixed plant screen by incorporating deciduous trees like dogwoods, redbuds and oakleaf hydrangeas as well as other plants creates a more natural, layered canopy look.

As with any landscaping endeavors, Viette said homeowners should consider how much room is available, the plant’s growth needs — both vertically and horizontally, and mature size, and the site conditions, including moisture, drainage and light.

It’s also important to think about maintenance. Planting trees and shrubs can cut down on lawn care, but some require pruning and tidying if they drop leaves, cones, fruits or berries.