Fencing is a common way homeowners delineate their property lines and create privacy, but they can be an expensive proposition if you own acreage. Fencing also can create a barrier to views. While this may be desirable in some cases, such as when a view is objectionable, sometimes fences ruin the feeling of open space and restrict the views you want to keep.
An alternative to fencing is planting a living fence. Choosing a plant palette of a variety of trees and shrubs is a far more pleasing way to provide privacy and property line location. Depending on mature size, plants can also act as a windbreak.
Think beyond a straight line. Sure, you can plant tall shrubs in a row all the way around your property, but there are more pleasing ways to plant a living fence.
Juxtaposing plants to suggest where one person's property ends and another begins is a pleasing design. Staggering plants with different mature heights also adds interest.
Take into account good and bad views -- and those in-between. Leave openings in your living screen where there are views you want to keep; plant dense evergreens or conifers where there are views you want to hide.
Sometimes filtering a view is better than blocking it or leaving it completely open. Viewing mountains through the branches of a tree enhances the view more than it detracts.
Select the right plants. Choose plants hardy in your climate, and preferably native to your area. Native plants are, by nature, adapted to your temperatures, soils, and rainfall. This translates to lower maintenance. Native plants have fewer pest and disease problems, require no fertilizer, and depending on where you live, less irrigation.
Choose a plant palette. When selecting a plant palette, do not go overboard and choose too many varieties. Unless your goal is a botanical garden, three to five different species is plenty. Your Cooperative Extension Service can help you; or hire a landscape architect to guide you in making the right choices.
When selecting plants, make sure you consider mature sizes. That way you will not be cutting down the tree that grew too tall.
Also try and select plants with different textures, foliage colors, or form. This creates interest. Plants like grass and pines have fine texture; plants with large leaves are usually bolder.
Do not forget to add some deciduous plants. Placing plants with attractive, light-colored bare branches are quite attractive against the dark greens of conifers. They also give you the opportunity for fall leaf colors.
Linda is a landscape architect and certified arborist in southern Arizona. With over 20 years experience in landscape design, she also has a passion for all plants and gardening. As a freelance writer for a number of websites, she has produced hundreds of articles on plants, plant care, and design.