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Let’s face it; the outdoors is where we want to be, especially in the summer. I mean, we don’t toil away in our garden just to look at it through the window. We want to be out among the birds, flowers, and sky. But sometimes, our landscapes—though beautiful—are still uncomfortable, especially under the blazing sun or the unnerving gaze of a kind-but-nosey neighbor. In these situations, shrubs and trees come to our rescue once again. Here are the best plants to use for hedges, shade, and privacy!   

At the end of the day, privacy screens provide much more than privacy. They are another living element in your landscape,

 

platt hill garden shrubs for privacy row of arborvitae

 

Arborvitae 

 

Arborvitae are tall evergreen shrubs highly-prized as privacy screens. The foliage remains dense all year, giving relief from wind, noise, sun, and cold weather while giving a beautiful visual buffer. The thick coverage and small cones also provide a four-season habitat for nesting birds—making your yard more comfortable for you and the wildlife. 

Here are some popular varieties of arborvitae for our region:    

  • Green Giant: This variety grows at a fast rate, roughly 3’ per year, and reaches maturity at 30’-50’ in height—doubling as a shade tree as well as a screening shrub. It has a natural pyramidal shape and responds well to shearing.         
  • Mission: This arborvitae stands at a slightly smaller height of 15’-20’ at maturity. It boasts a slightly rounder but still pyramidal shape, with darker leaves than Green Giant. 
  • Emerald Green: 10’-20’ when fully grown, Emerald Green forms a perfect screen when grown together in a row. It also makes a beautiful stand-alone tree in your landscape. Check out our FAQs.
  • Holmstrup: A slower-growing shrub that stands 0-15’ at full size. It has a more columnar (or cylindrical) form, rather than conical, although it can be pruned or sheared into different shapes like other arborvitae. 

 

platt hill garden shrubs for privacy straight talk privet white blooms

 

Privet

 

Privets are ideal shrubs for a privacy hedge. Even the name itself, although unclear in its origins, likely comes from its long history as a privacy plant in Europe. The leafy bushes easily shelter a yard and can be shaped into smooth, manicured hedges, if desired. They also make great, stand-alone shrubs and can be grown alongside other privacy or shade trees. Some popular privet varieties include:

  • Straight Talk: If grown together in a row, the upright branches of this privet form a leafy fence. When pruned, they weave into a dense hedge. If unpruned, they’ll reach 10-12 feet in height.  
  • Golden Ticket: This privet features golden-green leaves compared to the emerald green of the Straight Talk, with all the same features described above. They grow 4’-6’ high at maturity with a similar spread. 

 

platt hill garden shrubs for privacy cheyenne common hedge

 

  • Cheyenne Common: Another stalwart of shade and privacy, this hardy shrub grows 15’ tall at maturity but can be pruned to your desired height, like other privets. It grows a solid wall of greenery during the growing season and remains a dense fence of branches during the winter.   

All of these shrubs bloom with panicles of white flowers in springtime and have dark berries in the fall if they’re left to grow without aggressive pruning. 

At the end of the day, privacy screens provide much more than privacy. They are another living element in your landscape, providing habitat for birds, offering fragrant flowers, and beautifying our backyard retreats. In making the landscape more hospitable for ourselves, we inevitably create more opportunities for other creatures to live around us, while adding beauty and value to our properties.

Drop by our garden centers in Chicagoland to see all of the evergreens and deciduous shrubs that can bring shade and privacy to your yard!

Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.

Additional Reading:
Emerald Green Arborvitae FAQs