The Q&A Archives: Screening Plants

Question: What plant(s) do you recommend to screen a generator? Factors to consider include: the plants would receive good sun, are on the west side of the house where the south side faces water, there is only about a two foot space in front of the generator for the plants, though plenty of room for them to spread wide. I like yellow/gold tones on conifers, though I don't know if I can plant conifers that close to the generator. Suggestions?

Answer: I'd plant small evergreens to hide the generator. Here are a few suggestions:
American Yew (Taxus canadensis) Grows 2 to 3 feet high with a 6 to 8 foot spread. A low, straggling shrub often growing in clumps. Dark-green needles; red, berry-like fruit with poisonous seeds. Part-sun to shade. Cool, moist soil. Found in shady, cool, damp, rocky woods under other evergreens. Good as a ground cover. Does not tolerate heat or drought. Good for birds.

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) Grows to 1 foot and spreads 2 to 4 feet. A trailing shrub, good as a ground cover. Small, dark-green, shiny leaves; small, white to pink flowers in spring, followed by red berries in late summer. Red fall color. Slow growth but reliable once established. Sun to part-sun. Poor, sandy, acid, dry soil. Drought and salt tolerant.

Bog Rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla or polifolia) Grows 1 to 3 feet with similar spread. Forms large clumps. Each plant is sparsely branched with leathery, deep-blue-green leaves and small, white to pink flowers in spring. An interesting and beautiful plant, especially good for naturalizing. Sun to part-sun. Cool, moist, peaty soil. Found in bogs and along lake shores.

Creeping Juniper (Juniperus sp.) Many species and varieties available. Grows 6 inches to 4 feet with 2 to 10 foot spreads. Upright to prostrate forms; variable foliage, from coarse and prickly to fine and lacy, and from yellow-bronze to light-green to dark-green to blue-green, depending on variety. Several produce small, bluish to silver, aromatic fruits. Slow to rapid growth but all are sturdy and long-lived once established. Most require full sun. Wide range of soil tolerances; most do well in poor, dry soil but some tolerate wetter soils. A juniper can be found for just about every sunny situation. Many are drought, heat and salt tolerant. Most are good for birds and wildlife.

Dwarf Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) Similar to standard fir but much smaller. Grows 1 to 2 feet high with a 1 to 2 foot spread. Rounded shrub with dark-green needles. Sun to part-sun. Moist soil.

Dwarf Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) Several dwarf varieties are available. Grows 1 to 4 feet high with variable spreads, depending on variety. Dense shrubs with rounded or pyramidal forms. Rich, dark-green foliage. A golden-needled form is also available. Full sun. Moist soil. Used ornamentally and for low hedges.

Dwarf Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) Several varieties; some with pendulous, spreading branches. Grow from 1 to 3 feet high with 2 to 5 foot spreads. Attractive, lacy, green needles. Sun to shade. Cool, moist soil is best. Must be well-drained.

Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) Also called Crowberry or Mountain Cranberry. Grows to 7 inches and spreads. Small, glossy-green, leathery foliage and small pink or white flowers, followed by small, red fruit, sour but edible. Found in bogs and wet or dry, rocky, mossy slopes. Sun to shade. Dry to moist soil.

Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) Grows to 3 feet with slightly narrower spread. Slender, dense, low-growing shrub with upright stems; shiny, leathery, deep-green leaves with pale undersides; and showy clusters of deep-pink, saucer-shaped flowers in early summer. Poisonous to livestock, hence, the alternate name, Lambkill. Sun to part-sun. Poor, acid soil; wet to dry. Tolerates occasional flooding.

Siberian Carpet Cypress (Microbiota decussata) Grows to 12 inches high and can spread up to 10 feet. Densely branched with soft-green needles that turn bronze in winter. Rapid growth. Good as an evergreen ground cover. Sun to part-sun. Moist soil. Tolerates adverse conditions.

Spreading Yew (Taxus X media var Densiformis) Grows to 4 feet with an 8 foot spread. Compact shrub with dark-green needles. Slow growth. Sun to part-sun. Moist to dry soil. Good for hedges and mass plantings.

Best wishes with your new plants.

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