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Past Articles Library | Creating Privacy with a Living Fence

Privacy is an important part of any landscape design.  Traditionally, it has been handled by creating a boundary around ones property with a fence.  Today, there are other choices in fence material that are living.  Utilizing this approach adds texture, distinctiveness, and seasonal change to the private part of ones landscape.

Below are a few ideas for living fences but before you begin to dig the first hole, check with your local community for zoning ordinances.

Ornamental Grass

A “living” fence of ornamental grass is one technique that one can use to create privacy.  This technique works well when you want to shield one side of your property from a bad view, noise, or any other distraction. 

Pros to using this approach include adding texture to the landscape, providing food and shelter for wildlife, and providing a privacy technique for those areas that have challenging terrain.

Negatives to using this approach can include the growth habit, maintance, and growing speed.  Ornamental grasses, while on the surface seems to be self-caring, do require work.  Mowing around and under the plant material can be a challenge.  Pruning and controlling growth is another factor that needs to be considered.  Finally, while many species of ornamental grass are quick growers, it does take time for the grass to fill in and create a “living” fence.

To aid in creating this “living” fence, one will need to stagger the plantings in at least two rows.

Evergreen Trees

Evergreen trees are another approach that one can use.  Their year-round vegetation is perfect for a “living” fence.  Dwarf varieties along with standard sizes work equally well but each situation needs to be considered.

Narrow spaces warrant dwarf varieties while wide and long environments welcome standard size evergreen trees.

Pros of using this approach, is that the “living” fence will be continuously green with wonderful texture.  These trees also provide pinecones, which can attract wildlife and add a seasonal texture change.

Cons of using this approach, is that both dwarf and standard varieties are slow growers and in turn will take time to fill out.  They will also need to be planted in a staggered format for the best effect.  


A fedge is a combination of a hedge and fence.  This is traditional created by using willow whips or starts that are harvested in the winter.  While this seems unusual, it is a less stressful time for the plant and rooting will occur in the spring.  These whips are placed in two rows.  In the first row, the whips are placed every 15 inches at an angle of 45 degrees.  In the second row, the whips are staggered and placed facing the opposite direction.  The branches are then tied together forming a diamond shape.

Pros of this approach are the fact that willow is not an evergreen species.  It can provide seasonal change along with texture.  Another positive reason to use this approach is the fact that willows like wet soils.  In doing so, this approach can be used in areas where other techniques will not work due to soil moisture.

Cons of this approach are the fact that willows require wet soils and they do need to be pruned.  This pruning is not only to create the shape but also to keep the plants healthy.

Privacy is an important need for those who live in urban environments.  While many subdivisions are filled with wooden privacy fencing, there is a choice that can be as individual as you are and can provide any degree of privacy that you desire.


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Purple Knight Alternanthera

This ground cover likes partial sun to full sun.

It grows 16 to 20 inches (40-50 cm) tall, and 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) wide. It is very heat tolerant.

Its beautiful purple leaves make an excellent accent plant in the garden.

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