How to Grow Your Own Privacy Screen

by Fern on September 20, 2010

in How To,Popular,Privacy

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I’ve written a lot about privacy, in part because when you literally share walls, ceilings, and floors with other people, you become obsessed. At least I am. In the past I’ve written about reducing noise pollution, using physical objects to create privacy, and a DIY screen of small wooden planter boxes. Today though, I though I would talk about how to make the simplest privacy screen of them all: large planter boxes with bushy plants.

When planning on making a privacy screen on your balcony, you have four things to consider: The amount of light your balcony gets, the amount of headroom your balcony has, planter boxes, and the evergreen plants that will work in the first two situations.

Assessing The Amount of Sun on Your Balcony

As with any new plant you consider bringing on your balcony, you have to consider the amount of light your balcony actually gets. A lot of times people are interestes in creating a privacy screen on their balcony because the building that faces your balcony is thisclose. Well, those situations are often part-shade or full-shade, so make sure you pick a plant that likes the kind of sun you’ve got.

Considering Your Balcony’s Height

Another thing to consider is the height of your balcony. Many times, you’re upstairs neighbor’s balcony is directly overhead. It might feel claustrophobic if you pick a plant that will grow to touch the ceiling of your balcony. Remember that you’ll be planting your privacy screen in a container that is probably about 18 inches off the ground to begin with, so don’t forget to add that number on to the mature height of your plant to determine how tall it will actually be.

Planter Boxes

When it comes to creating a privacy screen, I think you’ll be happier with planter boxes. They will help create a uniform look, and can provide more growing room for your shrubs without adding ridiculous amounts of extra weight to your balcony. Plus, they’re frost hardy. I recommend either buying planter boxes with wheels, or adding them, so that you can periodically rotate your boxes and help your plants get even amounts of light.

Great Privacy Screen Plants:

  • Podocarpus – I really love Podocarpus, so long as it isn’t sheared into some sort of horrible shape. Leave them alone! They form such nice, airy, well-behaved shrubs. A particularly beautiful variety is Icee Blue Yellow-Wood (Podocarpus elongatus ‘Monmal’), that has blue-silver leaves.
  • Holly – If year-round interest is important to you, or attracting wildlife, then Hollies are a great bet. There are many attractive varieties with variegated leaves, and they have red berries in the winter for your feathered balcony guests.
  • Bamboo – Some bamboos have gotten a bad name because they can take over through spreading rhizomes. But that’s not really a worry for us container gardeners. Pleioblastus chino vaginatus variegatus is a beautiful option with variegated leaves that will grow to about 6 feet. Sasa palmata is a great option for cooler climates or balconies without much sun; it grows to about 6 feet.
  • Gardenia – In a small space, I demand that plants serve more than one purpose, and Gardenias are definitely up to the task. They have dark green, glossy leaves, and are easily maintained as privacy hedges. But they also have glorious flowers that smell divine. I saw Monrovia’s Everblooming Gardenia at the Garden Writers Symposium. It wasn’t in bloom at the time, but supposedly it has huge flowers and will bloom from Spring to Summer.

Have you ever created a living privacy screen? Share your tips and nosy-neighbor horror stories in the comments!

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