NEED TO BLOCK OUT THE NEIGHBOURS OR HIDE A HIDEOUS FENCE? THESE PLANTS ARE UP TO THE TASK
Most gardens need some screening plants. It may be to provide some privacy from neighbours or the road, or to hide an unsightly structure such as a fence or a shed. The ideal screening plant will grow quite quickly and have a dense growth habit. If you have a coastal garden, you will also need it to be salt tolerant. The first screening plant many people think of is lilly pilly and with good reason. They are hardy, easy to grow, native and attractive. They make a wonderful hedge and tend to hold their foliage right down to the ground. There are many varieties, so if you want a screen, there is bound to be a lilly pilly that will serve the purpose. Resilience is one of the most popular, growing 3–4m and easy to trim. Camellias, callistemon, hibiscus, golden cane palms and murrayas are also popular screening plants but there are some new arrivals that are worth considering. Radermachera Summerscent, also known as Radermachera Kunmig, is a plant that has become available in the past couple of years. This beautiful shrub is similar to a murraya but with much larger leaves and flowers. It forms a neat screen to 3–4m with little pruning and the large cream flowers are beautifully perfumed. There are plenty of screening plants that are tolerant of coastal exposure. Metrosideros are a good option, although some varieties may be susceptible to myrtle rust if it is prevalent in your area. Rhaphiolepis intermedia is another excellent screen, with dark green, leathery leaves and masses of white flowers from spring into summer. It can reach a height of 3m but is easily kept smaller if you choose. (It sometimes gets a bad rap because it is confused with rhaphiolepis indica, which is an environmental weed in Queensland and NSW.) There are plenty of cultivars too, including some with lovely pink flowers and some that grow only 1.5–2m tall. Fraser Island apple (acronichia imperforata) is a fantastic option for a large screen, reaching 5–8m. This lovely native shrub/tree is tolerant of coastal exposure. Whatever screening plant you choose, you will get the best result if you prepare the soil before planting and ensure that watering, fertilising and mulching are adequate. Most screening plants respond well to a light prune, even in their early stages. This encourages bushier growth and this is what you need if a screen is to do its job well.