Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
June, 2009
Regional Report

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Jojoba's dense foliage creates an effective screen.

Create Privacy with Plants

A living "wall" of plants offers privacy, reduces traffic or neighborhood noise, and also helps reduce the urban heat island effect. (Plants don't absorb and retain heat the way a block wall does, for example.) However, before adding plants along property lines, determine what their size and shape will be at maturity. Large shrubs and trees may stretch over the neighbor's yard, creating too much shade for their garden or dropping litter in their pool. This could make you an unpopular neighbor! If space between lots is limited, select plants with narrow shapes, as opposed to wide and sprawling canopies. If room permits, site plants far enough from the lot line that their ultimate size won't be an issue.

Planting a Hedge
A typical screening hedge includes one species planted in a row. Allow sufficient space for these plants to grow without crowding or the need for regular shearing to keep them in bounds. For a less formal appearance, stagger a variety of species in odd-numbered groupings, repeating the groups along the length of the screen. Choose trees or tall shrubs for the background and smaller shrubs in front. This creates a natural looking effect in a desert landscape, and it allows you to enjoy a variety of plants that offer blooms, fragrance, seedpods or other visual interest throughout the year.

Design Ideas to Create Private Space with Plants
-- Plant vines on a ramada or series of trellises.
-- Use plants to define a "garden room" within the landscape.
-- Don't prune low-hanging branches on native trees such as ironwood and palo verde. Notice how when unpruned in native habitat, their low branches sweep the ground, effectively creating a "thicket" of privacy.
-- Citrus trees provide dense evergreen foliage all year. Copy commercial citrus growers and leave lower branches on these trees. Fruit is easy to harvest on low branches and the foliage protects sensitive trunk tissue from sunburn and frost. As an added bonus, a citrus screen provides fragrant blossoms and tasty fruit!

Desert-adapted, low-water-use screening plants (*semievergreen):
Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica)
Desert hackberry (Celtis pallida)
Foothills palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)*
Guajillo (Acacia berlandieri)
Guayacan (Guaiacum coulteri)*
Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa and D. viscosa 'Purpurea')
Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)
Lady Banks% rose (Rosa banksiae)
Leather-leaf acacia (Acacia craspedocarpa)
Lilac vine (Hardenbergia violacea)
Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus)
Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis)
Myrtle (Myrtus communis)
Oleander (Nerium oleander)

For screening the far reaches of a property, these plants need almost no supplemental water once established:
Prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica, O. robusta)
Sugar bush (Rhus ovata)
Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)
Texas olive (Cordia boissieri)
Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens)

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