A garden should be a private, secure and peaceful place.
In this article, we will examine how you can use fast growing shrubs and bushes for creating privacy.
Successful garden design takes into account how an outside space operates as an ecosystem but also how well it works for human inhabitants.
Creating privacy can be an important consideration, especially in more built-up urban environments. High walls and high fences, however, are not the only option. Choosing the right planting plan is also important.
Sensible, sustainable garden design takes the future into account as well as the present. But there are times when you want to create a mature look and feel as quickly as possible.
Fast growing shrubs and bushes are ideal for this purpose. These plants can create this feel of privacy and maturity far more speedily than slower-growing varieties.
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Sourcing Fast Growing Shrubs and Bushes for Privacy
Before we take a closer look at which shrubs and bushes to choose, it will be helpful to consider how and where we can source the new plants.
Grow From Seed or Buy Mature Plants?
One of the first decisions that you will have to take is whether you will grow your plants from seed.
You may also choose to invest in bare root or pot grown plants. These are more common options for growing shrubs and bushes. If time is a consideration, then of course you are likely to choose pot grown, as this is the faster option.
Shrubs and bushes will often mature and increase in size very quickly. However, choosing to purchase bare root plants or pot grown specimens is usually a more expensive option than growing from seed. Larger pot grown plants are, generally speaking, the most costly of all.
Remember that younger, smaller specimens will be cheaper than fully-mature shrubs and bushes. Sometimes, it may be sensible to settle for partial privacy in the short term in order to achieve the best result longer term.
How To Source Fast Growing Shrubs and Bushes for Free
If you want to quickly establish a mature garden for privacy, budget is often likely to be a concern. It is worthwhile remembering that it is often possible to source plants for free – especially if you think outside the box.
Sometimes, friends or neighbours with mature gardens will be willing to gift you plants from an overcrowded bed or border.
Cuttings can also often provide a free way to propagate plants without losing the parent.
It is also worth looking out for plants and cuttings online. In the gift economy, you can often find plenty of options to fill out the fringes of your garden.
While you want for cuttings to establish, or for plants to grow and fill in the gaps, you can take interim steps to ensure your privacy.
For example, you can create fences or walls, create garden structures such as arbors for secluded seating areas, or plant single, mature trees to block a seating area from the sight of a neighbour’s windows.
Remember, though, that while speed may seem to be of the essence, thinking long-term is always the best policy.
Layering Different Plants to Create Privacy in the Garden
Privacy might be the primary concern, but it is a good idea to think holistically about your garden.
This involves thinking about how all the elements in the space work together. While you may be tempted to pop in a quick hedge of one variety of plant for privacy, choosing a variety of different fast growing shrubs and bushes is the best option for the long-term health of your garden.
The more biodiversity there is in the space, the more productive, healthy and resilient your backyard can be.
The more plant species you are able to include, the more beneficial wildlife you can attract. What is more, greater biodiversity can also make it easier to make the most of the space – to grow your own food and provide for other needs.
Biodiversity is also attractive – it can help make sure that your backyard looks wonderful all year round.
Layering different plants (stacking plants, with lower-growing varieties below taller ones) on a garden border will ensure a good coverage of foliage to protect you from prying eyes.
It can also help to make sure that you are truly making he most of the space you have available – thinking vertically as well as horizontally.
Tips for Choosing Plants for Privacy
When choosing any plants, it is important to consider:
- The patterns and strength of sunlight on your site throughout each day and throughout the year.
- Levels and patterns of rainfall and moisture retention in your backyard.
- The type, condition and fertility of the soil where you live.
- Whether the site is sheltered or exposed.
- General temperatures and the conditions of climate and microclimate.
Bearing these things in mind will help you in choosing the right plants for the right places.
When choosing fast-growing shrubs and bushes for privacy, other considerations will also come into play. These will include:
- How tall you need your privacy barrier to be. (And how tall the plants you choose will ultimately grow.)
- Your personal preferences with regard to shape, style and colour.
- What other problems the planting scheme should solve.
Remember, in good design, each element in your garden should fulfil as many functions as possible. Privacy might be the foremost thing on your mind, but a privacy hedge, barrier or border might also:
- Serve as a wind break to provide shelter for other parts of the garden.
- Stabilise the soil on a sloping or waterlogged site.
- Create areas of shade for other plants, or to increase the comfort of a seating area.
- Provide biomass, or a source of fuel or timber for a range of projects.
- Enhance the visual appearance of your backyard, year round.
- Generate extra food for you and your family.
The most important functions of your privacy planting will, of course, determine the best plants to grow.
Fast Growing Evergreen Shrubs & Bushes For Year-Round Privacy
When considering plants for privacy, it is important to think about the whole year.
Since evergreens keep their foliage all year round, they can keep a garden free from peeping Toms at all times.
For this reason, evergreens are likely to be the bones of your privacy barrier. Fast growing evergreens that can be useful for privacy include:
The Leyland cypress,sometimes referred to as Leylandii, is one of the fastest growing and best known conifers.
It is a sterile cross between the Monterrey cypress and the Nootka cypress and is commonly used for privacy.
Be warned, however, it can quickly get out of control!
It may not be the best long-term choice in smaller residential gardens. It can grow up to 40m tall. Natural, native cypresses may be better choices in the right settings.
Abrorvitae ‘Green Giant’ is another popular hedging or border plant for privacy.
This is another hybrid and can grow up to 3 feet per year in the right conditions.
Again, while this plant can be a good choice for privacy in certain situations, it should be used with caution and could easily get out of control in smaller spaces.
Some pines are fast growing while others are considerably slower to grow to maturity. Pines are often a great option for a mixed privacy border or windbreak.
Fast growing pines include the Aleppo pine, the white pine and the loblolly pine.
However, as with the evergreens mentioned above, these fast-growing pines should only be planted in appropriate situations, as they can grow to very large size.
Privet was, in years gone by, a very popular hedging choice. It has somewhat decreased in popularity in recent years, but could still be a good option for privacy.
It is relatively easy to keep in check, and can be a good choice for situations where a neat and orderly hedge is required for privacy.
The cherry laurel is another popular hedging choice, and is another fast growing option. It can create a hedge 1.5 -5m high.
There are also a number of other laurels that you could consider for hedging. Other fast growing options include Laurel Etna and Laurel Caucasica.
6. Elaeagnus x ebbingei
Elaeagnus x ebbingei, also known as oleaster, or silverberry, is a tough evergreen that can make a great choice for adding privacy to your garden.
It can be left wild for a more natural border, or clipped into a more formal hedging.
In some environments, it can also provide edible fruits, and also has the added benefit that it works with bacteria in its roots to fix nitrogen from the air. Once established, these plants can add up to 75cm of growth each year.
Cotoneaster also provides excellent options for informal privacy borders or formal hedging.
Dense and good looking, these grow quickly to provide a screen and provide interest with blossom and red berries.
Some varieties work well as hedging or in a mixed planting scheme as stand-alone plants, while others spread over walls or fences to provide additional privacy cover.
There are also a wide range of hollies which work well to provide a greater level of privacy in a backyard.
Some traditional hollies provide spiky leaves which can also enhance garden security, and red berries in winter. However, not all hollies are spiky and some create neater hedging or planting.
It could be worthwhile looking at the range of different holly plants. For example, Nellie Stevens Holly is one popular option for privacy hedging or screens.
Japanese mahonia, also sometimes referred to as Oregon grape, is another evergreen option that could be ideal either in mixed hedging or a garden border designed to deliver a good level of privacy cover.
Attractive yellow flowers are followed by clusters of purple berries.
This is fast growing ornamental, flowering evergreen shrub that can be another great choice for privacy in a range of gardens.
Red Robin is one popular variety for evergreen hedges and privacy screens and when trimmed regularly, can create a dense level of cover.
Pyracantha is another evergreen option to consider.
Like many of the options on this list, it can work well as a stand alone specimen or in hedging or an informal border.
Also known as firethorn, pyracantha is great for wildlife too. Birds will love the red or orange berries that appear in the fall.
A range of berberis (barberry) varieties are also ideal for a mixed planting scheme to add year-round privacy to your garden.
These plants can vary in size, from 1m-5m tall, and many have attractive spring blooms followed by berries that are also popular with garden wildlife.
If you want to create a privacy screen but do not have the space for a wider shrub border, you could consider a bamboo.
Bamboos can be incredibly versatile and fast growing plants.
Be wary, however, as while bamboos can be useful additions to many gardens, some can have a tendency to take over.
Evergreens, however, are not the only options for a privacy hedge or barrier. In addition to picking evergreen options for year round privacy, you should also consider creating a mixed planting scheme which also incorporates a range of deciduous shrubs and bushes.
Let’s take a look at some fast growing deciduous options which can enhance the level of privacy in your garden while also providing interest throughout the year.
Fast Growing Shrubs and Bushes For Spring Interest
First off, here are five options that can add spring interest to your garden:
Lilac bushes provide one of the most delightful scents in a spring garden.
These fast-growing shrubs are a wonderful choice for a mixed privacy border and since they send out suckers, can easily be propagated to fill out any gaps.
Beautiful purple or white blooms burst forth in the spring, filling your backyard with heavenly scent.
15. Ribes Sanguineum
The flowering currant is grown primarily for its beautiful pink spring flowers, which are an important nectar source for pollinators early in the year.
While it will lose its leaves in winter like the other deciduous species on this list, it can still help to create a feeling of privacy in a mixed border.
The woody branches of forsythia can also help to add structure and cover for a privacy border, but it is the sunshine yellow flowers of the spring that truly make this a delightful choice.
These are one of the plants that herald the arrival of the season, and provide another source of nectar for pollinators early in the year.
There are a number of viburnum varieties which work well to increase the privacy levels in a garden.
There is viburnum tinus, a well known evergreen variety for hedging. But there are also deciduous options, many of which offer outstanding displays of white or pinkish flowers in the spring.
18. Spirea japonica
This unfussy, deciduous shrub can work well to add structure to a privacy border. It has delicate pink flowers which appear in late spring or early summer.
One variety excellent for spring interest is ‘Firelight’, which has red and bronze tinged leaves in spring, which then turn green in summer and a deep reddish-purple in the fall.
Fast Growing Shrubs and Bushes For Summer Interest
Summer is the time of peak interest for a wide range of fast growing shrubs and bushes.
Here are five options that could be great for adding privacy in your backyard:
19. Rambling Roses
If you have an open fence, growing rambling roses over the structure is one great way to increase privacy levels.
There are a wide range of rambling roses that grow quickly and create a privacy barrier in your backyard.
Of course, in addition to providing privacy, roses also have magnificent summer blooms, which can look lovely and can also often be highly scented.
Plus you can harvest the petals to use in many brilliant ways.
Elder is a resilient and fast-growing tree that can be pruned into a shrub structure or form part of a mixed,wildlife-friendly hedge.
While it could have been included in the section on edible yield below, elder is also valuable for its attractive froth of white blooms in the summer months (as well as for its berries in the fall).
Buddleia, also known as butterfly bush, is another great choice for a mixed privacy border.
The plants can grow almost anywhere and grow very tall. In the summer, their long stalks bloom beautifully. As the name suggests, they attract a range of butterflies (as well as other wildlife) to your garden.
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) comes in a variety of different forms, leaf types, blooms and berry colours.
Many varieties are ideal for privacy landscaping. This low-maintenance shrub can look good throughout the year, but many varieties look most beautiful in summer, when they bloom abundantly.
23. Crape Myrtle
Crape myrtle can be another excellent choice for summer interest. These shrubs can quickly branch out to become a useful privacy barrier, working well in an informal hedge or as individual specimens in a mixed border.
White, pink or red blooms will appear all over the plants and fill your garden with colour during the summer months.
Fast Growing Shrubs and Bushes For Fall Interest
As the summer sun begins to weaken,and the nights begin to grow longer, these border shrubs and bushes will still have a lot to offer:
Hydrangeas can be evergreen or deciduous, stand alone plants for a privacy border or self-clinging climbers for a wall or fence.
Their showy flowers will bring fall interest to your backyard even as summer begins to fade.
In addition to the showy blooms, some hydrangea, such as ‘Enziandom’ will also have attractive red-brown foliage in the fall.
25. Sea Buckthorn
Some plants can not only provide privacy and seasonal interest but also fulfil additional functions.
Sea buckthorn is a nitrogen fixing plant,and great for wildlife. The beautiful orange-red berries in fall are not only ornamental but also edible too.
26. Autumn Olive
Elaeagnus umbellata, the autumn olive, is another good nitrogen fixing plant for a mixed privacy border.
It is related to the other Elaeagnus mentioned above. The attractive red berries add interest to a fall garden and are also edible for people as well as wildlife.
This sturdy, hardy deciduous shrub may lack in interest for the rest of the year, but in the late autumn and early winter this plant really comes into its own, putting on a display of astonishing purple (or sometimes ivory) berries.
This is another option that can look great and perform well in a mixed privacy border.
These small trees or large shrubs can be great for adding height and structure to a mixed privacy border.
Unobtrusive for much of the year, the serviceberry adds interest in the fall, when they look wonderful with their red, wildlife-friendly berries and orange-red fall foliage.
Fast Growing Shrubs and Bushes For Winter Interest
Evergreens will, of course, provide privacy even during the winter months. But a privacy hedge or barrier could also be enhanced by the addition of these deciduous shrubs and bushes:
A wide range of willows and willow hybrids are wonderful for a privacy screen or border. Almost all are very fast growing.
Most species are deciduous, with a few, rare semi-evergreen varieties.
However, even though they lose their leaves, their attractive stems can still add interest to a privacy border in your winter garden.
Dogwood, cornus alba, is known for its red,orange and yellow stems which are wonderful for adding interest to a winter border.
It also looks pleasant and adds structure to a mixed privacy border throughout the year – though it is during the coldest months that it really comes into its own.
The aptly named wintersweet is another great shrub for adding interest to a winter garden.
It has strange but attractive flowers which bloom during the winter months,with a pleasing scent. Its bushy, branching habit means that it could also be a great choice for adding structure and creating a dense cover from prying eyes on an edge of your garden.
The fragrant, yellow flowers of paperbush also bloom in the late winter or early spring. Year round interest is also provided by the beautiful bark.
This is another branching shrub than add structure as well as winter interest to a mixed privacy border.
33. Witch Hazel
In a mixed privacy border, witch hazel can add structure and height with its vase-shaped, branching form, without the need for pruning.
After the leaves have dropped, the bright yellow blossoms of these shrubs or trees add interest to the winter garden.
Witch hazel is also interesting as it has a range of medicinal and cosmetic uses.
Fast Growing Shrubs and Bushes For Edible Yield
By now, you should have a much clearer picture of how you can build up a mixed hedge or border to provide privacy for your backyard while also having an attractive garden all year round.
Yet before we call it a day, let’s take a look at some other options for your privacy border.
These options show how border bushes can also be used to provide food for you and your family:
Hazel is a fast growing tree which can grow 45 cm a year, but which can be kept pruned to create mixed hedging or in shrub form.
Hazels produce nuts, and in certain environments, these can be amongst the easiest nuts to grow.
Beech is another tree often used in hedging. What you may not know is that the beech tree also provides a useful food source. The young leaves,in spring, are delicious in a salad.
Other parts of the beech also have a range of uses. This is true of both American and European beeches, though only the youngest leaves are palatable.
Hawthorn is another useful option for a mixed privacy hedge. Young leaves and flower buds can be eaten and are also tender enough to use in salads.
The haws (sometimes called mayhaws in the US) are also edible and can be made into a jelly or home-made wine.
Related to the other Elaeagnus species mentioned above, goumi or Elaeagnus multiflora provides, perhaps, the tastiest edible berries of all such varieties.
When fully ripe, the berries are delicious eaten raw or cooked. Goumi can also be a great choice for a mixed privacy border because, as a nitrogen fixer, it can help to feed your garden as well as feeding you.
Of course, you could also consider making a privacy border using more traditional soft fruits.
Raspberry canes, for example, can make an excellent privacy screen, and are relatively fast growing and tall.
You could also consider growing related or similar plants, such as Tayberries, boysenberries or wineberries.
A blackberry, or bramble thicket could also help to create a privacy barrier on the edge of your backyard.
If you want something a little tidier, you could tie-in and train brambles along a fence. To avoid scratches, there are also thornless varieties that you could choose.
Gooseberry bushes, like thorned brambles, could be used to provide a little added security for your premises, as well as privacy as the bushes grow.
Gooseberries can be left to create a thicket, or trained onto a fence or other barrier.
While not as fast growing as many other species on this list, buying mature plants could be a quick way to add extra food (and extra privacy) and fill in gaps in your garden border.
Of course, the list of fast growing shrubs and bushes for creating privacy given above is by no means comprehensive.
There are plenty more plants you could choose. However, the list above should be a good place to begin when thinking about a planting scheme to increase privacy levels in your backyard.