APLD CT DESIGNER FORUM -- July/August 2012

Plants for Privacy

Doublefile viburnum ( Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum )
Photo / Debbie Roberts

Doublefile Viburnum

When looking to screen an unsightly view, I usually start with a base structure of evergreen trees that will provide year-round privacy. After that base is established, I move to larger deciduous shrubs to give texture and color throughout the year. The first shrub I turn to is doublefile viburnum ( Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ).

This shrub has it all: a broad horizontal branching form, brilliant white lacecap flowers hovering above the branches, juicy red fruits that appear in June, and foliage that turns a wine-red color in fall.

Provided with moist, well-drained soil in full sun to almost full shade, doublefile viburnum will quickly reach 15 feet wide and more than 10 feet high, providing excellent screening. Just make sure there is enough room for the shrub to grow into.

Flowering even in full shade, the deep-green leaves provide a dense backdrop to white flowers that arrive in May and persist for weeks.

The strong horizontal structure of the doublefile provides a great contrast to vertical evergreens growing nearby. Many cultivars of doublefile are available with 'Mariesii' one of the most elegant. 'Summer Snowflake' blooms heavily in spring and then periodically through the fall. The deer resistance of doublefile viburnums seems to vary by cultivar but, according to Rutgers University, it is "seldom severely damaged" by deer.

Jay Petrow is the owner and principal designer of PetrowGardens Landscape Design in Westport, a landscape design and installation company specializing in custom landscape solutions.

A columnar European hornbeam ( Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata') from Ganim's in Fairfield planted to screen part of a deck.
Photo / Will Rowlands

European Hornbeam

Vertical elements are particularly useful in hiding or transforming views. You might want to screen an area from the street and passersby or conceal an unattractive area of your garden (say your compost heap). Choosing the right plant to do the job depends on whether you want a formal or informal screen.

A single-species tree screen will make a strong design statement, especially when using a tree with a conical or columnar shape. Carpinus betulus 'Frans Fontaine' fits the bill perfectly. A fastigiate form of European hornbeam, 'Frans Fontaine' keeps its columnar, upright shape even as it ages. [ Editor's Note: We recently planted a columnar form ( C. betulus 'Fastigiata') to screen a portion of our deck revealed after we removed an invasive ( Euonymus alatus ) left by the previous owner.]

Hornbeams have few disease and pest problems. They require full to partial sun, tolerate most soil conditions, transplant well and can grow even in the tightest of places. 'Frans Fontaine' has dark-green foliage that turns golden in the fall. It will grow to roughly 35 feet tall and 18 feet wide. Even in winter, its branch structure generates interest. Hornbeams are what some nurserymen call "bullet-proof trees." According to the Ohio Landscape Association, C. betulus 'Fastigiata' is classified as a plant deer eat less often.

Christine Darnell is the principal of Christine Darnell Design Studios in Stamford, a landscape and garden design firm whose work is characterized by dynamic and imaginative plantings, with an emphasis on how plants co-exist and interrelate in nature.

Redosier dogwood ( Cornus sericea )
Photo / Dede Delaney

Redosier Dogwood

Sometimes you want to screen part, but not all, of a view. Recently, a client had a gorgeous old stone wall rebuilt on her property to separate her outdoor entertaining area from her driveway. She wanted to be able to see the new wall but did not want to see the cars parked in the driveway. I chose to use a native redosier dogwood ( Cornus sericea ) because it provides a lacey, subtle screening all year. [ Editor's Note: There are a number of options as far as red-twigged dogwoods are concerned. C. alba is a non-native with similar qualities and C. sanguinea is a less formal variety.]

This mid- to large-sized shrub is colorful year round. In the winter, the striking bright red stems look gorgeous against the moss-covered old stone and in summer there is plenty of foliage to obscure the driveway. In the spring, it is covered with white flowers that are butterfly magnets and, in the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant red. As if that weren't enough, its white berries are an excellent food source for birds.

The species can handle sun or shade and is adaptable to many conditions. According to Rutgers University, C. sericea is "seldom severely damaged" by deer.

Contrasting or mixing red-twigged dogwoods with conifers can be spectacular. Imagine a large native screening such as eastern red cedar, winterberry holly, red-twigged dogwood and our native birch. A feast for the eyes and for the birds!

Dede Delaney is the owner and principle designer of Redtwig Garden Design in Windham County. She has been designing and maintaining native and low maintenance gardens for more than 10 years.