Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
May, 2001
Regional Report

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Loquat trees are producing a bumper crop this spring in the lower South. The fruits are tasty fresh and make a great jelly, too.

Growing a Good Hedge

They say good fences make good neighbors. From my experience there are certainly times when a screen is needed to provide some privacy or block an unsightly view. While wood or chain-link fencing has its place, I prefer the look of a living fence. A living fence uses plant materials to achieve the desired results. Here are a few tips I've learned about using plants to create a visual barrier.

How High Should You Go?

Before you plant, sit on the patio or backyard area and evaluate just how tall a screen needs to be. Often a 6- to 10-foot plant is enough to break the sight line and make an eyesore disappear.

Remember Winter

Many of our outstanding landscape shrubs are deciduous (drop their leaves in winter). While they provide a great screen in summer, by winter your privacy is gone. Although it may not matter if you're creating seasonal privacy such as for a swimming pool (we southerners seldom indulge in Nordic swimming!), but in many other situations it's a concern. Evergreen plants provide year-round screening and are usually the best choice.

Prune Them Right

When maintaining a privacy plant or hedge, keep in mind that foliage grows where there is light. As shrubs get taller, they often get wider on top, shading the lower branches. You may be left with a lack of foliage down low, where it's most critical. Prune hedges to keep the top narrower than the base and allow light to reach the lower areas and keep the plant green from top to bottom.

Mix It Up

You don't have to get all the benefits of a tall screen from one plant. You can mix your plantings, beginning with a taller shrub or columnar tree and placing a mid-sized shrub in front of it. Two or three levels of plants do more that just screen; such tiered plantings create a visually more interesting landscape.

Vines for Quick Results

When you need a quick fix, remember vining annuals and perennials. A number of evergreen vines, such as Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), provide fast coverage of a fence or other structure. Many offer blooms as an added bonus. I have a personal distaste for chain link and yet have been blessed with that durable fencing material in most of the places I have lived. Give me a chain-link fence, and I can turn it into a blooming beauty in a season or two with evergreen vines.

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