Fences, walls, security bars, and frosted window films are perfectly good ways to keep your home safe and gain a little privacy. If these fortifications seem a little too imposing, however, you might decide to use hedges and shrubs as a more natural way to enhance security and solitude.

Hedges for Privacy

There’s an ancient tradition of using hedges to define property boundaries, but many modern homeowners appreciate more qualities than just their effectiveness as living fences. In addition to providing privacy, a hedge can also act as a windbreak, a sound barrier, or a welcome obstruction between you and an unlovely vista.

Evergreen trees are most popular for planting hedges. Not only do evergreens provide a year-round privacy screen, but they also generally require less pruning than deciduous plants. To achieve the look of a formal garden, many homeowners prefer to install uniform rows of trees; however, as the US National Arboretum points out, disease can easily spread through a hedge composed of just one type of plant, so it makes sense to include different species.

One of the most popular evergreen species for hedges is Arborvitae, which thrives in full to partial sun and is adaptable to most types of soil, including poor soils. There are over 300 varieties of Arborvitae, so homeowners can choose from many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Eastern Redcedar and Holly are two other popular species for hedges, both being hardy trees with dense foliage that will flourish in most parts of the US.

Shrubs for Added Security

If security is your main concern, then plants installed directly under the house’s windows may be the solution. Holly also works well for this purpose, if trimmed to the right height—high enough to create a barrier to intruders, but no so high that it provides unintentional cover for mischief. Pyracantha, with its more delicate branches and colorful blooms, seems like a purely ornamental plant, but beneath its foliage are formidable thorns that should deter anyone from coming too close. If planted near the home, Pyracantha species should be pruned frequently, as the plants grow rapidly. Pyracantha, roses, and other thorny plants can also be attached to manmade fences as another layer of defense from intruders.

Plants obviously need a little more maintenance than traditional measures for privacy and security; you must select species appropriate for your region, care for them in their earliest stages of growth, and continue to prune them throughout their life. If you prefer greenery to hardware, though, consider some well-placed trees and shrubs to achieve a little peace and quiet as well as a little peace of mind.

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Sources: The New York Times; Purdue University Department of Horticulture; University of Minnesota Extension; US National Arboretum.

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