How to incorporate screening into your outdoor space.

There are many reasons to use screens in the garden: for privacy, to hide unsightly views, as a windbreak or to create an outdoor room. So let’s outline some clever uses for garden screening as well as some practical materials you can utilise. Screening doesn’t have to be a boring old paling fence or a straight-clipped hedge. There are some very interesting materials that can be used to create a screen, such as metal, bamboo, or a variety of plants.

Traditionally, screens have been used for practical purposes, such as to hide unsightly views or provide privacy from neighbours. Landscapers these days are frequently incorporating outdoor rooms into gardens. Screens are a great way to achieve these divisions of space. Outdoor rooms add intrigue, break up the space into sections, and make the garden generally feel larger. Personally, I think screens within a garden space should be somewhat transparent to add to the intrigue as well as offer glimpses of the garden beyond. Bamboo lends itself perfectly to this function, as does an interesting metal screen.

Bamboo can be used as a dried screen using the stems, either individually or in a roll of stems sewn together. Dried bamboo makes a great cladding to hide otherwise ugly fences and buildings. Alternatively, bamboo can be used as a beautiful living screen. There is a wide variety of bamboo, growing from one metre up to 15 metres or more, with one to suit almost all screening needs. Bear in mind there are two main varieties of bamboo: running and clumping. Ensure you never plant a running bamboo variety in the garden or you’ll end up screening your whole yard! Some popular garden choices include blue bamboo, slender weaver, alphonse karr and, for pots, the running variety of black bamboo.

Corten or weathered steel is an interesting material that has become easy to source over the last few years. This versatile product develops a fantastic colour as it weathers, becoming a rich rust/gold. Corten is often used as a feature backdrop screen as green foliage looks fantastic against its striking colour. It also makes a great solid fence with a unique appearance.

There’s a wide variety of edible shrubs and small trees that can be easily trained to form a relatively flat screening-plant along the fence line. Trees that will work in this fashion include citrus, apples, pears, apricots and figs. Simply prune these small trees into a flattish shape for the first couple of years by removing any outward-growing foliage. Once trained into this shape, ongoing maintenance is significantly less.

For smaller versions of this idea, there is a number of step-over hedging fruit trees nowadays, as well as blueberries and various herbs such as lemongrass and rosemary.

Screens for windbreaks should not be solid, as wind simply flows over this sort of fence without removing any of its speed. Ideally, windbreaks should break up the wind and reduce the speed. Informal hedges as well as bamboo and see-through timber screens will achieve this. When the wind hits these barriers, it will slow and soften.

When looking for screening ideas, consider a range of materials and designs that can add intrigue and interest to your landscape.

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