Ideas for Landscaping Property Lines

How to Select the Right Boundary

What is it that you're hoping to accomplish in landscaping your property line? Once you answer that over-arching question, many of the details will fall into place. As you'll see from reading the information below, deciding on how to landscape a boundary largely comes down to sifting through your various options. You'll be eliminating some as unsuitable for your circumstances while ranking the remaining choices according to how well they meet your needs.

Perhaps the most common goal...MORE people have in landscaping property lines is creating privacy. But based on your other aspirations, you'll have to decide whether a privacy fence is right for you, as opposed to a border planting (some opt for both). Either way, we also have to figure maintenance into the equation (neither all plants nor all fences are created equal in this regard). Another consideration you may wish to factor in is security. While plants hold the promise of a beauty that hardscape cannot hope to offer, nothing beats the proper kind of fencing for security and privacy.

Before landscaping property lines, always make sure you know precisely where the boundary lies (if unsure, hire a surveyor). While you're at it, research the possible existence of any easements. And if you decide on a fence, check to see if you need a fence permit.

  • 01 of 10
    Privacy shrub flowers
    Mark Turner/Getty Images

    Most people who are landscaping to achieve privacy are in a hurry for that screening. Who wants to wait forever to screen out prying eyes, right? That's why many of you will wish to pore over the examples of fast-growing shrubs that I present in this article.

    The article supplies information on both evergreen shrubs and flowering shrubs, such as mock orange, that grow quickly. When color takes precedence over privacy along a boundary, you can't beat flowering shrubs. Not that the two...MORE categories are mutually exclusive: some broad-leaved evergreens also flower colorfully and profusely.

  • 02 of 10
    Golden shrubs
    Brian Carter/Getty Imags

    It's not difficult to see why evergreen shrubs would play a critical role in landscaping property lines. By definition, evergreens provide foliage to admire all four seasons of the year. And that same trait enables them to offer something else: year-round privacy.

    Just because they go by the moniker, "evergreen," however, don't think that you're restricted to the color, green with these landscape workhorses.

    Depending on your tastes and goals, evergreen shrubs (or deciduous ones...MORE, for that matter) can be planted in hedges that will be trimmed, planted in rows and left untrimmed, or grown in mixed borders (see below).

  • 03 of 10
    Picture of a mixed border of shrubs, perennials, annuals and tropical plants.
    Mixed border of shrubs, perennials, annuals and tropicals. David Beaulieu

    My remarks so far may leave you with the question, "What about mixing evergreen and flowering shrubs?" And indeed, a mix of some sort is probably optimal. If done right, you can achieve both privacy and a great-looking boundary. You can grow enough evergreens to block the public's gaze while injecting enough color with flowering shrubs to keep your own eyes constantly stimulated. Nor do you have to stop at planting shrubs, alone. Why not mix in long-blooming perennials and other...MORE plants to create a feast for the eyes?

  • 04 of 10
    Maiden grass
    Mark Bolton/Getty Images

    Stir up the pot in your mixed border even further by using some tall ornamental grasses. Two of the best are:

    1. Maiden Grass
    2. Zebra Grass

    An added bonus with tall ornamental grasses for you Northerners is that they will add interest to your border planting during the winter months, too. Another benefit is that they're low-maintenance.

    Bamboo is also a member of the Grass family. Increasingly, I see Northerners landscaping property lines with it, as it's great at providing privacy. But you have...MORE to really know what you're doing with bamboo. Read my article on bamboo plants to find out which types are invasive (and which types are tamer).

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Holly shrub
    Neleh/Pixabay/ CC0

    A hedge of holly shrubs won't keep a burglar off your property. But the barbed leaves on many hollies aren't exactly comfortable to brush up against. The discomfort level should be sufficient to keep all but the most determined of would-be trespassers at bay.

  • 06 of 10
    Mixed border plants
    Matt Anker/Getty Images

    But no matter how great you think a shrub will look in your border, and no matter how much privacy you think it would afford, all sorts of challenges can rear their ugly heads and dash your best-laid plans. That's why, when engaging in plant selection, while you can let your dreams inspire you, always come back to reality at the end of the process and make an evaluation based on practical considerations.

    Below I discuss one of them: pollution. Here are some other practical issues to put on...MORE the front burner:

    • Is the boundary a predominantly sunny or shady area?
    • Does the soil there stay on the wet side, or does it tend to be dry?
    • Could the plants you've chosen (tentatively) for your border be favorite foods for Bambi (assuming that deer pests are a problem in your region)? In the absence of evidence to the contrary, you have to assume that deer will eat your plants.
  • 07 of 10
    Tall green hedges
    JPM/Getty Images

    So far, in considering options for landscaping property lines, I've dealt with plants. Below, I'll be presenting some choices for hardscape walls. While hedges are still "plants," a nicely trimmed hedge represents something of a middle ground. Properly manicured, they form a partition that's as close to being a "wall" as plants possibly can be.

    Thus a hedge can be viewed as something of a compromise solution. Do you crave privacy but can't stand fences? Do you like...MORE the neat appearance of straight lines and even surfaces? Then a hedge can satisfy all your needs. It's a plant-based solution that -- unlike the mixed borders discussed above -- gives you all the formality and crispness of a hardscape feature.

    If you're going to be fussy about the way your hedge looks, though, that could mean a lot of shearing. Are you prepared for that much maintenance? You can lower maintenance some by using a power hedger (as opposed to trimming manually); lower it further by using a cordless hedge trimmer. My experience, at least, is that the job goes a lot faster if I don't have to worry about plugging in a cord, keeping it out of my way while shearing, then storing it away afterward.

  • 08 of 10
    Arborvitae windbreak trees
    J. Paul Moore/Getty Images

    In addition to shrubs and ornamental grasses, a popular plant choice in landscaping property lines is trees. Not only can trees offer privacy, they can also form windbreaks. If you live in a windy area, planting a windbreak on your boundary may be eminently practical. An example of a good tree for windbreaks is the Colorado blue spruce tree.

    To be an effective street tree (which means almost any tree planted on a small plot in an urban setting), a tree must also be tolerant of pollution; examples...MORE are given in this article. One form of pollution is road salt, which is why you'll also want to learn more about salt-tolerant plants.

    Remember, some trees become quite large at maturity, so consider what impact this will have -- not only on your own property but on your neighbor's. Bushes and dwarf trees might be a better choice in certain cases. Some trees are also messier than others, which increases yard maintenance requirements (including raking leaves). Even underground growth is something to which you should pay heed; for example, some plants are good around septic tank drain fields, while others are strictly taboo in such areas because of their invasive root systems.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Wooden privacy fence
    Benjamin Rondel/Getty Images

    The poetic interpretation of Robert Frost's famous dictum, "Good fences make good neighbors" is more complex than its pedestrian interpretation. But the latter serves my purposes just fine in talking about privacy fences, specifically. Indeed, whether the poet felt this way about it or not, the maxim contains much wisdom. Most all of us need our privacy, on some level. Without it, we become grumpy -- and perhaps even bad neighbors.

    Some styles are geared to privacy, others to...MORE appearance and still others to both. Then there are those that may afford neither privacy nor good looks, but they serve another function. For example, see why chain-link fences make the best security fences. And sometimes you get a two-for-one deal; for example, noise barriers will exclude both unwanted sounds and unwanted glances.

    Remember that if you go with a wooden fence, there will be some upkeep involved in the form of periodic staining. An alternative that will minimize maintenance is a PVC vinyl fence.

    In addition to mixing shrubs, ornamental grasses, trees and other plants, you can also mix fences with plantings. A fence can serve as a nice backdrop for plants, even furnishing them with a microclimate. If you contain the planting with landscape timber edging, you introduce yet another element. At our house, we have just such a combination. A stockade-style privacy fence separates our land from the neighbors. We planted shrubs and perennials on our side of the fence. Later, we provided the bed with landscape timber edging for a more finished look.

  • 10 of 10
    Stone wall in yard
    Jumping Rocks/UIG/Getty Images

    Finally, as noted earlier, the objective for some of you in landscaping a property line may be simply to draw attention to a boundary, as a way of saying, "This is where my kingdom begins and ends." All options are on the table since the objective, in this case, is so broad. The winnowing process may begin by disqualifying some choices (too high-maintenance, too costly, etc.) and end by arriving at an optimal selection based on your aesthetic tastes.

    I, for one, love the appearance of a st...MOREone wall. If you agree, then the decision-making process is over. Well, almost over. All that's left is to decide whether the stone wall should stand alone or be complemented with a planting. For example, a planting of vines could be allowed to scramble over the wall. Personally, if the stone wall is particularly well made, I would be loath to cover it. I'd rather reserve a space somewhere else in the yard for my vines.