Needed: Potted plants to screen bad view

prubo(z6NJ)June 30, 2005

I am suddenly faced with the need to screen an ugly view (rusty cars, plastic toys) from my deck, as my neighbor has just removed some old, tall, shrubs and put in a 4' chain link fence along our shared side property line. I'm not accustomed to container gardening on a large scale since I have plenty of yard to garden in. The width of the deck along the offending side is about 7 feet, and the plants (including containers) should be about 5-6 ft tall. I'm thinking of something like lilac, viburnum. Whatever it is, I'd like it to winter over, but don't need it to be evergreen. Tropical wouldn't be a good look with the New England style house. Help - I want it NOW!

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marie_in_wa(8 (coastal))

Would it be easier to plant shrubs along the fence on your side to screen the view?

The problem with lilac is that unless you can find an already established plant, it will probably take a couple of years to have the effect that you want. The other plant you mentioned, I'm not sure what it is.

If you absolutely feel that you must have something in containers just to block the view from your porch, I would lean in the direction of a trellis and vining plant rather than a shrub. If you get a lot of sun in that location, a climbing rose might work out nicely.

Personally, I would plant some shrubs on your side of the property line, Preferably something that is evergreen, so that you don't wind up being able to see everything during the winter...and for this summer, put up something like pretty sheets to block the view. Then next year, if they haven't grown enough, grow some containerized annuals that will grow big enough to block the view. I would lean in the direction of tomatos :)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 1:49PM
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Oh, for sure I am already planting my own shrubs. This will help block the bad view from the ground level. But because the deck is raised about 4 feet off the ground, the shrubs won't begin to screen the bad view from the deck (and the house) until they are at least 10 feet tall. A better solution from a spatial perspective would actually be a small 15-20 foot tree, somewhere between the deck and the fence - and I may also do that, but the trouble is there are utility wires at about the 20 foot mark, just inside the property line on my side. That's why the old shrubs were taken down; they were entangled in the wires and dragging them down. So I really just want a fast solution for NOW. One thing that just dawned on me (duh!): because there is a wooden railing, I could actually use smaller containers on pedestals or some kind of table or bench; this give me a lot more options! Tomatoes could work - thanks! I like the trellis idea too and had been considering that; I guess I could rig up something that was bolted to the outside of the deck. The roots of any vine started at ground level would be in deep shade, unfortunately, though if I were to start the roses (or whatever) ON the deck (in pots?) then there would be morning sun.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 3:11PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

You could grow clematis on the trellis. Seems they would like those conditions. Aside from dwarf trees, it's sortof late in the season to get something going for the height you require unless you're willing to pay quite a bit for a more mature specimen. However you might consider some of the ornamental grasses for "instant" as they'll give you the height, the spread for privacy if you have a bunch grouped together, and most have nice plumes as blooms.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 5:36PM
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marie_in_wa(8 (coastal))

I agree with Jenny about it being too late in the season to really get anything going - that's why I suggested colorful sheets :)Of course, if you were to put up a trellis, that would block quite a bit of the view on it's own.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 7:19PM
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Head for the nursery and see if they have any of that great purple millet, can't think of the name of it. It was all the rage last year. How about tall switch grass or something on that order? You'd have to go to the garden center though. The ones around here still have plenty of stuff. BTW, Thuja arborvitae grows fast and would be great for your side of the fence.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 12:56AM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Rectangular planters of ornamental grasses. Home Depot and Lowes have mature, large containers of miscanthus grass and others that make a good screen.

Also, the clematis and trellis is a great idea.
Along the same lines, perennial hops (Humulus lupulus), scarlet runner bean and morning glory are wonderful climbers that grow fast, but it might be too late to start them. Cucumber is another, and you get cukes too.

Tall, narrow shrubs like Skyrocket and Skypencil holly and juniper can be bunched strategically, or a line of container shrubs - dwarf Alberta spruce is excellent - to make a screen-"grove." You get immediate results if the trees you buy are already a decent size.

There is also hardy bamboo, such as Phyllostachys aureosulcata and P. bissetii, which make quick screens and can be kept in large containers. Plant a row of them in a long, rectangular planting box filled with a soil mix of 1 part coarse sand to 2 parts compost and 1 part topsoil, and you get instant screen that lets dappled like through and makes a nice rustling sound in the breeze.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 1:10PM
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LaurelLily(9a Houston, TX)

" I like the trellis idea too and had been considering that; I guess I could rig up something that was bolted to the outside of the deck."

Don't you just love those ugly views the neighbors give you. I'm a huge fan of blocking unsightly or boring views (read: my neighbor's fence, which half the windows of my home face) with vines. You can get always get a large container, put the trellis base into it, THEN fill it up with potting soil and add your vine. Very quick to do, can be moved around to just the right spot (cause the trellis is in the pot, so the whole thing is portable), and vines grow very fast once they realize there's something there to climb (plus you can always use flowering vines that smell good in addition to giving you a prettier view). That's a method I'm using now to block one of my views of the neighbor's fence, except I'm just taking the container trellis and putting it directly in front of my window, so that's all I see when I look out.

In my apartment, I'd had a lovely view of the parking lot, complete with potholes and construction. My solution was just to have very tall, bushy plants growing in my containers, and block the view as much as I could with those. I wish I'd been into vines then, it would have made things much easier.

Good luck! : )

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 1:45PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Just as an aside - I have an annoying neighbor next store and when I'm out on the balcony putzing around with the plants, if he's out there, he'll wrap his face around the glass partition. Sigh... He's definitely a "bad view" that needs to be screened! I've put a number of plants over there along the partition including a honeysuckle, my prickly pear cactus (which would hopefully give a, my oleander, and my tropical hibiscus.

But what really seemed to do the trick is my brand new Methley plum tree. My goodness that thing went from bareroot with headed back branches when I got it and planted it in February of this year:

To this as of today:


    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 6:34PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Maybe he is curious about the plants on your balcony, and can't help looking. That's what you get for having a great garden. lol

    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 4:19PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

He has no interest in the plants if you get my drift. He perpetually locks himself out of his apartment and his wife refuses to let him in when this happens.... He's the neighbor from hell. :-\

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 6:06AM
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rebelslant(SUNSET z5)

Seems to me that one consideration is that whatever you use should provide year round, rather than seasonal coverage.

Clematis is a good trellis cover solution, but am not sure it keeps leafed year round. Sure that lilac doesn't, and it isn't as compact a plant as you will need for that size balcony.
I have the same problem for my balcony and after much thought, ended up with container trees as a solution. I am in zone 5 FYI

California cyprus grows fast, tall, compact and is a bright cheery lime green. A line of those swaying the wind is very relaxing.

I also picked up a quaking aspen recently, that, though sparse branching, catches the eye in the wind drawing it away from the ugly background.

If you go the clematis route, you might vary the varieties. I think there's a Christmas clematis that blooms during winter.

You might also consider Japanese honeysuckle as well, which will give leafe during the summer months, but are also mildly fragrant and a hummingbird magnet (if you are in a zone that has them)

But another solution might not be so obvious. What you need is a rampant grower to fill out a trellis fast. People often overlook the fact that ground creepers can remain in pots and be trellised. Some keep their leaves year round.

I have a container Virginia Creeper that, though naturally a creeping ground hugger, I've trellised up. Have had it for going on three years now and it's about 18 feet long. Green in early spring turning bright red at the first cold snap. It loses its leaves, after the growing season, but if you look around at your local nursery you might find a fast growing variety in your area that doesn't.

So don't over look rampant growing creepers as trellisable container plants. They can remain potted indefinitely and may be a faster solution than things like clematis.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 6:08PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

It sounds like you need some of this!

Here is a link that might be useful: reed fencing for privacy

    Bookmark   August 3, 2005 at 9:45AM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Cady - I've seen that but what he does is heave his body up on the rail on his side of the opaque glass partition and wraps his face around the partition to look over onto my side. Anyone coming up to our floor (18th) for the first time would surely be ill just attempting that (it took me about 3 months to get used to going out there without getting a bit woozy). So I have piled plants up in the corner so that he'd get a faceful of leaves if he tries it. heh

    Bookmark   August 5, 2005 at 3:15PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Okay, so what you really need is THIS (see link). :)

Seriously, maybe you could take a tall rectangular trellis and lash it sideways, so it juts out beyond the deck. Then train vines all over it. Your neighbor is, to put it bluntly, a nutjob.

If I had an idjit like that next door, I'd report him to the building manager, or the police. He is committing a form of harrassment and stalking. Hm. Do I smell a restraining order? Snap a few photos of him every time he does his highwire act. That will be all the proof you need.

Here is a link that might be useful: Good fences make good neighbors

    Bookmark   August 5, 2005 at 7:51PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

LOL Cady!!! I like that solution. :-D And yeah, I had attempted to make something that jutted out to train my honeysuckle on but then the winds over there did the branches in during winter. Fortunately between the honeysuckle that is on a trellis against the partition and does now have some vines that stick out on their own, the plum tree, the oleander, and my tropical hibiscus, this is the first time that it has been densely covered over there and he really can't see around and through it

Every once in a while, his wife gives it to him good (quite loudly unfortunately) and that tends to keep him under control for a good while. I think he works at night now, so that has helped as I don't see him during the day much any more.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2005 at 3:35PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Jenny, perhaps some strategically placed barberries and bougainvilla? What a jerk for a neighbor!!!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2005 at 10:18PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

watergal - missed your message from last weekend! I have a bougie but it is still small. It was one of those hanging basket ones and this year, I've transplanted it into a regular 8" pot to start growing it more upright. Eventually it could go over there I think. LOL

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 6:31PM
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yeonasky(z8b VancouverBC)

Prubo what have you decided? I like the idea of some kind of a trellis or screen, while you wait for things to grow. I suggest Clematis Montana. It grows well and tall in a 3 by 3 size container, and grows quickly to size in its second year. It's hardy to zone 5a but I'd insulate your container to be safe.

Jenny I like the idea of a motion sensored sprayer. Maybe then he'd take a hint and take a hike. I HATE guys like this. They surely couldn't be human!


    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 3:20PM
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Thanks for so many great ideas! I ended up finding a great piece of "furniture" at a garden center's half price sale; a large wooden planter box with an attached lattice backboard that's about 6 feet high. I placed it in the center of the space (side of deck). I have a pink fairy clematis growing in there (so far). Then, on each side of the planter, I have huge flowerpots full of geraniums on wire pedestal-type plant stands, effectively making a 5-6' high living wall all along that side of the deck. On my side of the fence I've planted forsythia, leatherleaf viburnum, redbud, a Korean Stewartia, butterfly bushes. It's not perfect yet, but it's way better than before. I actually ENJOY looking in that direction now!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 9:13PM
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Westview(Zone 8, N. TX)

Cannas would be a quick solution while you are waiting for something else. Where I live, they survive the winter in pots by being put in my open potting shed and having bags of mulch put around them for insulation. they grow quickly and lushly in pots--come in all kinds of sizes and colors, and are fine in pots. Try the canna forum for some suggestions.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 10:27PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Wow prubo! Glad to see you found what sounds like a beautiful solution! I have seen those units and what you have planted will be gorgeous.

THANKFULLY my neighbor from hell MOVED. He's gone! Now a woman around my age is there and she has been pleasant and has pretty kept to herself, so I am truly relieved.

Betsy - regarding the cannas... What sadly happens up here is that since we (myself and prubo) are somewhat near the ocean, that cold water and the marine layer air that blows our way, tends to extend out the chill in spring and limits when cannas really get to growing. They usually don't size up enough to be screen-like until mid-late summer (unless overwintered intact inside). And if we wanted a longer period screen, there would need to be something else there until they come up to size. However they will be good through to October/November as a screen due to warm falls (again due to the then warm ocean).

I have some cannas right now that I finally put outside a couple weeks ago (kept them inside during winter but left the live foliage in place). But until we get a few days of blowtorch heat (coming soon), they'll sortof languish there and take their time growing.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 8:14AM
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