How to plan and avoid pitfalls as you plant your way to privacy with a green screen

Robert Frost believed that ‘good fences make good neighbors.’ We’d add one caveat and say that beautiful green screen fences make even better neighbors…and even prettier views from our own backyard.

Whether you have a structural fence or not, a green screen or living wall—plants that create a barrier or visual break—can establish boundaries, act as a buffer for noise and wind, hide an unappealing view, soften the edges of wooden, cement or metal walls and fences and create a sense of intimacy and privacy. All while adding to the beauty and interest to your own outdoor space.

Some of Our Favorites

We love the look of arborvitae, many viburnum varieties, spruces and large hydrangeas. Take a look at some of your tree and shrub options.

Or come into the garden center to see living samples and talk with someone who can find the right plant for your space.

Getting Started

1. Space

This is a project that might require a little homework. Before you begin you’ll want to assess your outdoor living space, viewpoints and goals. Measure your space to see what you have to work with and make choices that accommodate for the mature size of your plants so they don’t outgrow the space. You’ll also want to make sure you allow for growth that won’t infringe on your neighbor’s space and/or talk with them first.

2. Exposure

Take note of the exposure throughout the day to determine how much full sun/shade your plants will be exposed to, then check the plant tag or talk to someone at the garden center to choose plants that thrive in those conditions.

3. Evergreen or Deciduous?

Evergreen plants will act as a buffer, barrier and privacy year round. Deciduous plants will lose their foliage in late fall through winter. If space permits, we often recommend layering your plantings to accommodate for both. Many deciduous plants have beautiful shapes and colors throughout the winter.

4. Consider Vines

If you already have a fence, wall or structure in place (e.g. an arbor, pergola or trellis), you may want to consider fast-growing annual or perennial vines. Vines are characterized by the way they cling, with either twining stems, tendrils, adhesive disks or aerial roots. Twining stems and tendrils will wind or wrap around a support as they grow. Twining examples include bittersweet, wisteria and trumpet creeper. Examples of plants with tendrils include grapes, pea and cucumber. Plants with disc-like suction cups include Boston Ivy and Virginia creeper. And vines with small, aerial roots that attach to rough surfaces like brick or trees include English Ivy, trumpet creeper and wintercreeper euonymus. Check the tag or talk to someone in the garden center to find an annual vine (lasts just one season) or perennial vine (lasts multiple seasons through the winter) that’s right for your space.

5. Create a Bed or Use Planters

If a planting bed doesn’t already exist, here’s how to get started. Remember, always call before you dig.

For edges of patios or as a way to mark off spaces or paths, consider planting your green screen in planters. You can use individual containers or a long planter, rustic trough or galvanized bin or tub. Check out some inspiration here and here.

6. Get Some Help

If all this is a bit confusing and you’re not sure what you’re looking for, snap some photos of your area from different vantage points and bring them in to talk with someone at the garden center. They can help you make choices that are right for you.

For even more one-on-one time to plan with a designer, schedule a DIY Snapshot or Do It For Me (DIFM) Session here at the garden center or virtually. You’ll have time to talk about your goals, review your photos, get custom recommendations for your space, a designer to show you plants that will fit your goals and preferences and a gift card to get you started.

7. Gear Up

Gather the tools you’ll need to get the job done, including a shovel, soil amendment, mulch and the plant material of your choice.

8. Plant It Up

For help on how to plant and care for your plants (including watering, fertilizing and pruning) check out our Landscape Care Guide.

Enjoy your outdoor space this season.