The Q&A Archives: Hiding Utility Boxes

Question: My neighbor and I have a cluster of utility boxes (cable, phone, and electric) bordering our property line. We would like to hide them. What would you suggest that could be safely planted without damaging the underground wires and still leave access to the boxes. Are there any fiberglass boulders out there to purchase? This area has full sun most of the day. Our soil is rocky and full of clay. Also, it's in an open area, so it gets a lot of wind. Could you recommend shrubs, perennials, or bulbs that are easy to care for and would help to hide the boxes or small trees that do not have an extensive root system. Could you email me with an answer?


You should first check to see if there are limitations on what you can plant or how close to the boxes you may plant  -- in some places homeowners may only plant lawn there.  Also, be sure to call and verify the location of any underground utilities before you dig near them!

These boxes can be difficult to plant around, but especially so when the soil is poor and the location is hot, sunny and windy.  In addition, to be successful, most perennials, trees and shrubs really need a deeply prepared planting area.  

Instead, I would suggest a vine.  The vine can be allowed to grow over and a round the boxes but can be trimmed back as needed to allow full access.  Some vines to consider would be trumpet vine, English ivy, and red-flowered honeysuckle (available from Burpee 800-888-1447).

You might also consider planting a larger shrub at some distance from the box but located in such a way as to block the view of it.  Forsythia for example is a quick grower and rather large and spreading.

Finally, you might consider using a raised bed planting area; this would provide you with extra height immediately and also allow you to prepare the soil properly for growing flowers.  In this case you could experiment with flowers known to do well in hot sunny locations; among them would be thyme, creeping phlox, Black eyed Susan, purple coneflower, daylilies, Russian sage, salvia, and sedums of all kinds. Shorter spring bulbs such as crocus should do well there, too.

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