Good plants for a hedge that blocks intruders but doesn't hide them

Backyard Q&A

September 01, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

Q. We have an empty lot next to our rowhouse and would like to plant a hedge to beautify the area and to discourage foot traffic. However, we do not want to create a screen for people to hide behind. Can you recommend plants for this?

A. There are two types of plants that will work for this purpose. You could plant a tall shrub like crape myrtle that is open at the base, or you could select a short, thick plant and then keep it trimmed to a height where you can see over it. If this is the case and you are looking for an evergreen, you might try a Japanese holly, a yew or a juniper. However, remember that there are many different varieties of these plants and they grow quite differently. I would select one that matures at 4 to 5 feet in height.

If you are looking for a deciduous shrub, there are several barberries that would work, but do not select a dwarf variety as they are too small. The full-size varieties mature at 4 to 5 feet. Two other nice plants that would work are 'Snowmound' spirea and 'Miss Kim' lilac. The spirea blooms white in spring and grows to about 5 feet, while the lilac grows to 3 or 4 feet and has purple blooms.

Q. I was planning to reseed my lawn this month, but I am concerned about the drought. Should I seed now or later?

A. In most years, early September is the best time to get a lawn started. This is when our typical weather is best for getting seed to germinate and grow. However, even in the best of years, new lawns need some help to get started. Most important, they need additional water during the first couple of weeks after planting. The drought restrictions permit the watering of newly seeded lawns, so that should not be a problem. If the area you are seeding is relatively small, and you can commit yourself to watering the area every day, go ahead and plant. Otherwise, wait until late September or early October to plant. Hope-fully, by that time we will have received some additional rain.

In most situations, we recommend planting turf type tall fescue seed. It germinates and establishes itself quickly, and is more tolerant of drought than Kentucky bluegrass.

Checklist

1. Are your day lilies looking bad from the heat and drought? Do not be too discouraged. They are very resilient plants that can survive extreme conditions.

2. Remove all vegetable plants that are not producing fruits. Stressed plants are prone to harmful diseases and insects that can spread to other plants.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Mary-land Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www.hgic.umd.edu.

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