In Berkeley, where I live, most of the lots are small and the houses are pretty close together. So unless you have a particular interest in watching your neighbor prepare her morning toast, chances are you’ll be needing a few good screen plants to provide some privacy along the property line. Many of my clients are interested in screen plants for tight spaces – so here are 2 of my favorites.
Fern Pine (Podocarpus gracilior): This evergreen tree grows 12 to 25 ft. in height, but can easily be pruned as a 6 to 10 ft. hedge. It has delicate, almost lacy (fern-like) soft gray or blue-green foliage on graceful, arching branches. The best thing about this screen plant is that you can prune it very flat against a fence or along the property line, so it only needs a foot or 2 of depth to make a wonderful screen. Plant them close together for a denser screen, or farther apart if you want to let more light in. Podocarpus can grow well in sun or shade, and even tolerates deep shade. It grows best with regular water until established. It is virtually pest-free.
Podocarpus is a genus of conifers, comprising 105 species of evergreen shrubs or trees. Gracilior is native to east Africa, but grows very well in California and is used extensively in landscaping throughout the state.
Pittosporum ‘Silver Sheen’ (Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘silver sheen’): This evergreen tree or shrub is native to New Zealand. In our area, it grows rapidly to 15-20 ft., but is easily pruned as a lower hedge. Looser and taller than species, ‘Silver Sheen’ has beautiful black stems and contrasting gray-green, almost silver foliage that appears to shimmer in the breeze. Clusters of purple flowers bloom in late spring. This screen plant grows best in full sun, with regular water until established. This is an easy plant to grow; it tolerates wind and some drought, and can also grow in shade conditions. The branches are wonderful in flower arrangements.