Use shady plants to hide view of neighbors house

How do you hide a white vinyl house viewed through the woods? This is the resounding question heard each time Diane M. rests on her living room couch. No couch potato, Diane travels often for work and the moments of serenity she gleans at home are precious - too precious to view the side of her neighbor's white vinyl home.

Diane's home of two months, a 1960s brick ranch, is in a neighborhood with mature trees. Moving from Cleveland, Ohio, Diane knows a lot about gardening in a different zone. Simple observations informed Diane many plants she knew in Ohio had extreme behavioral changes in the South.

Some plants, rhododendron, didn't seem to do well here and others were two and three times larger here than in Ohio. And the soil comparison was shocking, Georgia soil being similar to orange concrete.

The backyard of Diane's home sold the house. She knew she could transform it into her personal arcadia. At the moment, dreams and reality diverge. It's not surprising I met Diane, for the first time, last Saturday at a landscape design lecture I gave for the Extension Service.

Single, 49 and vigorous, she'll be doing most of the work herself. Her spunk is palpable. Starting her landscape design from inside her home, from the couch view is exactly the right beginning. Landscape design begins inside the home.

Challenging areas in a landscape are the easiest to conquer. The solutions are fewer. Answers for Diane begin with evergreen plants, at least 15 feet tall, requiring shade. An unspoken baseline of low maintenance and drought tolerance is inherent.

Eastern red cedar grows well in sun or shade but is too slow growing for Diane's age and sunlight. She could purchase a larger plant but would be unable to transport and plant it herself. Cryptomeria is a conifer for sun or shade, a bit faster in growth than the eastern red cedar, making it a viable choice.

Several large-growing shrubs would be good choices: ligustrum, anise, camellia and Leucothoe populifolia. Ligustrum has dark green foliage and would look good next to the chartreuse green foliage of anise. Camellias would have the showiest blooms. L. populifolia has a nice arching habit.

Choosing three or four types of shrubs, several of each, would create a tapestry hedge appropriate to the age of Diane's home. Preparing the soil, choosing the right plants and adding a bench will hide the white vinyl house.

Diane will soon look out from her couch and see a garden room. Her arcadia, a reality, not a dream.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens.

E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.