Guide to Choosing Trees and Shrubs for Hedges and Privacy Fences

Tree Are you thinking about landscaping that flat stretch of lawn, adding some curves to the garden to balance the traditional rectangular beds and borders, or creating private areas sheltered from wind, grazing deer, and the neighbors' eyes? You could go spend a fortune on a fence or wall of some kind, but that just eats up garden space. Why not use the garden itself to add "architectural interest" to the landscape? Trees and shrubs are far prettier than even the most expensive stone, not to mention the fragrance and seasonal changes they add to the landscape.

In this newsletter I describe some of the best plants and trees you can use to create privacy screens and hedges, as well as fine ornamental grasses and perennials to edge walkways, cut a colorful line through the garden, and otherwise outline distinctive spaces. These varieties will delight you for years to come, adding texture, definition, and beauty to your garden!


For a quick-growing, deer-resistant, very stress-tolerant privacy screen, Thuja Green Giant is the top choice of Wayside gardeners across the country. Our bestselling product of all time, Green Giant is a hybrid of the Western Red Cedar and Thuja standishii, and it has proven most effective in clothing itself down to the ground with dense, fragrant, beautiful foliage that withstands heavy ice loads, heat, humidity, and even drought. Plant your Green Giants several rows deep and you have a virtually impermeable barrier to deer and other large animals! A single layer offers thick, constant coverage, obliterating unsightly views and defining your garden's boundaries beautifully. Hardy in zones 5-8, Green Giant grows an amazing 3 to 5 feet a year if given good soil and plenty of food and water!

More cold-hardy and compact than Green Giant, its cousin Thuja Emerald (an American Arborvitae) reaches just 12 to 15 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide, ideal for smaller spaces. It's hardy right through chilly zone 3 in the north, and provides the same down-to-the-ground coverage of lush, dense, fragrant foliage. Like Green Giant, it naturally forms a pyramid shape that never needs trimming, but it may be sheared to just the size you need. Deer-resistant and quick-growing, it's a jewel for any setting.

GrassOrnamental Grasses

Although not evergreen, the grasses in this group offer interesting winter texture and, in some cases, their brightest color of the year! All are superb for creating a landscape that changes beautifully with the seasons.

Several ornamental grasses offer superb winter interest in the temperate to warm areas of their hardiness grass. Eulalia Grass Gracillimus (zones 4-9) adds elegant texture to any setting, with its delicately arched, amber-gold plumes remaining upright and beautiful even after snowfall. And Dwarf Pampas Grass, 5 to 6 feet high, keeps its fountainous beauty all winter (unless you choose to cut it back), making a fine hedge or accent planting for zones 6-10.

Evergreen Shrubs and Perennials

The fine shrubs and perennials in this group offer bold, reliable color on a lower scale, ideal for edging walkways, cutting a ribbon of color through the garden, or outlining garden displays.

Boxwood is the star of many a front-walk and patio planting, with its dense, trim little habit that can be sheared into just the shape you like. Evergreen and very low-maintenance, this shrub is a hybrid of the hardy, compact Korean Boxwood and the luxuriant English Boxwood. It's ideal for topiary, and makes a hardworking little hedge that you'll appreciate for many years to come in the sunny or partly shaded garden.

Evergreen and much hardier than its delicate appearance suggests, Lavender is unsurpassed as a hedge or edging near heavily-trafficked areas. Not only are its blooms indescribably fragrant, but the foliage is wonderfully aromatic too, and the plant attracts butterflies by the dozen. Use heaven-scented Munstead for small spaces, as it reaches just 12 to 18 inches high and not quite as wide. Hidcote is a bit broader and more heat-tolerant, and both varieties have an exceptionally long, beautiful season of summer bloom.

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