Small-Scale Screens: Hiding unsightly areas with petite plants

By Genevieve Schmidt

Do you have something to hide? Most gardeners do, whether it’s an air-conditioning unit, a boring-but-functional fence, or those industrial-looking city garbage cans. Yet traditional screening shrubs can be so big and bulky they overtake your space.

That’s where these three petite plants come in. They can be used in a variety of ways to keep less-attractive areas of the garden under wraps. Instead of living with a garden eyesore, improve your view with one of these colorful plant picks.

‘Angyo Star’ Fatshedera

The shaded fence line in a skinny side yard is one of the hardest places to successfully grow plants, because there are so few vines that will stay right-sized and also grow in full to partial shade. That’s why this new selection is such a dream. 

With five-pointed green leaves splashed with a vivid border of cream, ‘Angyo Star’ Fatshedera brightens up the shade and has a habit perfectly suited to espalier. Train it up a freestanding trellis to hide trash cans, or use eye hooks and garden ties for subtle support to obscure a wall or fence. Its stems can reach 6 feet tall and wide over time, and it grows happily in Sunset zones 4-10, 12-24, H1, and H2.

‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum

Put on your sunglasses, because this dazzling evergreen shrub has a brilliant golden yellow foliage color that lights up the entire garden. Reaching only 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, this fast-growing plant offers a terrific contrast against darker green trees and shrubs, and looks gorgeous combined with blue or violet flowers. 

Though you may have cursed privets in the past for sending up little seedlings around the garden, this variety is sterile and thus is perfectly well-behaved. Use ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum in staggered groupings to distract from air conditioning units or vents. Because it’s so amenable to being pruned, it also makes an ideal fast-growing hedge which will never get out of control. It prefers full sun, and is hardy to -10 degrees.

Chef’s Choice® Rosemary

This new variety of rosemary is a griller’s best friend. With a higher oil content and a delightful spicy flavor, it’s perfect for flavoring chicken, steak and lamb, and the stems can even be used as petite skewers for mini shish kebabs.

The size is also a plus; if you’ve ever tried to keep a pot of rosemary right on hand for easy access while cooking, you’ll know that most varieties quickly outgrow their space. Not so with Chef’s Choice® Rosemary, which stays right-sized at only 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Grow it in a tall pot to beautify the side of your outdoor grill, or in a low planting with other herbs to hide a cement foundation. It grows well in Sunset zones 4-24, as long as it has full sun and well-drained soil.

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Your zip code 20149 is in Zone: 7a with a temperature range of: 0 to 5 °F.

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