Green FenceMunicipal codes require that pools be enclosed by fencing for safety. There are times, however, when you don't really want the aesthetic of a fence around your pool, and that's when a hybrid of architecture and horticulture can be the right approach. A double hedge—one that is planted on either side of a fence—can hide an inexpensive fence like chain link and works especially well for any area where you will be viewing the barrier from both sides (C). Deciduous shrubs like viburnum, cornelian cherry, privet, or lilac will be less expensive than evergreen and offer seasonal change. Evergreens like yew, arborvitae, or holly will keep a more rigid shape and remain green throughout the year. If your fence has a structure to it that can allow vines to grow through, let the thorns on climbers like pyracanthas or roses act as additional security. Regular shearing based on what's appropriate for your climate zone ensures a neat-looking hedge that stays within its bounds and encourages new leafy growth.
Hedge on SticksWhen a fence alone isn't tall enough to screen a view, the height and green of evergreens present an appealing option. The downside is that they take up a significant amount of space, something precious in a small garden. As an alternative, I think about how to screen views with a series of garden layers. In these examples, I've combined a fence that supports creeping vines with a "hedge on sticks" or a row of columnar trees like sugar maples (D). The trees screen the higher views but also allow for a garden layer at ground level that can be used for cultivating plants that tolerate semishade and somewhat dry conditions: hostas, epimediums, hellebores, and hydrangeas, which can help transition into the rest of the garden.
Climb the WallsIn tight spaces that can become an overly hot microclimate when completely closed off with a solid wall or fence, an openwork lattice will allow air movement and provide beauty at the same time. Grow vines that bloom at different times of the year, and this traditional method of vertical greening transitions beautifully through the seasons. On this rooftop, window boxes hung beneath the lattice "walls" create a green screen as vines grow throughout the year. The boxes take up very little space on a roof deck; the space beneath is used as storage (E).
Photos: B: Bob Coscarelli; All others: Scott Shigley
Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, April/May 2014