Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE / GARDEN - Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­ree@ede­nat­by­ GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN

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.

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