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By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

The Foothills are a wonderful place to live. That’s why Placer County is the fastest growing area in the State of California according to recent studies. With so many people moving here, privacy issues are becoming more and more prevalent. Bright lights at night and loud noises can ruin what was once your peaceful retreat. One of the most common requests heard in garden centers is for plants that screen out visual and noise pollution.

When planning for privacy determine exactly what it is you are trying to shield or block with plants. If the potential intrusion is not yet there we can use slower growing plants. If you have a current problem, then faster growing plants may need to be utilized. We may still me able to use slower growing plants, but we might want to buy them in larger size containers for quicker effect. Some faster growing plants, such as Leyland Cypress (Cuppressus leylandi) are short lived in our area, and should not be used for long lasting screening. One solution is to interspace the faster growers with the slower growers, with the knowledge that the faster growers will be removed later, to make way for the slower growing plants, when they have reached a desirable size.

Determine the sunlight conditions of the planting area so the appropriate plants may be chosen. Planting oleander, a popular screening plant, in the shade is a mistake. Shade area plants tend to be slower growing. This is where the extra expense of buying larger sized plants pays off. Yew Pine (Podocarpus), Mexican Orange (Choisia ternata), Rhododendron, Camellia, etc. are examples of shade lovers that should be purchased in 5 gallon or larger sizes for quicker results. You gain at least a year in growth when purchasing a five-gallon over a one gallon. Time is important when it comes to screening unsightly views!

Deer resistance should be taken into account. Here in the Foothills deer can be a nuisance. If you have purchased a new home and have not seen deer in your yard, take a trip around the neighborhood and talk to neighbors. If deer are in the general area, but not in your yard, they will invite themselves to breakfast as soon as you put in a tasty screen of Photinia (Photinia fraseri). Photinia is a very popular screen with its bright red new growth. It is not recommended, however, in deer country. Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowana), Holly (Ilex species), ‘Emerald green’ Thuja, or Carolina Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana) might be better choices, with much higher deer resistance.

Noise can be hard to mask with plants alone. Berms of earth are often created to deflect noise up and away from living areas. Berms can then be planted with shrubs or trees that also deflect and absorb noise. This solution is easier when the noise comes from straight across, or from below, as the size of the berm can be smaller. Fences, planted with shrubs or vines can also help mask noise.

One of my favorite solutions is to use fountains or waterfalls. Splashing water doesn’t drown out other noises, but diverts your attention from the other less desirable noises.

You can create a wonderful oasis of calm right in town with well-placed screening plants, and a soothing waterfall or fountain.

Since you may be planting right on the property line, it is best to talk with you neighbor about any fences, berms or plants you plan to use. Especially with the larger shrubs or trees that may one day hang over into the neighbors yard, see if you both can agree on what to do. You might find they also prefer some privacy and would work with you on a common solution. If this is not possible lets chose plants that will grow narrower, or place them further from the property line to avoid problems later.

Privacy issues are in the news all the time. Many have solutions yet to be thought of. With landscaping, however, we can develop elegant and simple solutions that keep the peace, and increase the value of all the properties involved.

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