Privacy Please: Elegant Hedge Ideas for the Southern Garden

Create your own backyard hideaway with these beautiful plants

Whether a Southern garden is large or small, there are usually areas that would benefit from plants that provide privacy and, in turn, a peaceful oasis. When our tiny Charleston garden matures, we’re hoping to have beautiful, living, green “fences” on nearly every side so it truly feels secreted away, in classic jewel-box style. 

We’ve had success with Japanese yew, and love them for their incredibly fast growth and bright green foliage, but this year we planted a long row of wavy leaf Ligustrum along a portion of our property that needed more coverage. They grow quickly, too, and are evergreen, but I really appreciate them in spring when they develop tumbling white blooms.

From left: Japanese yew; wavy leaf Ligustrum.

Elegant suggestions for plants that thrive in the South don’t end there. There’s also the evergreen wax myrtle, which also takes off very quickly, the conical Nellie Stevens holly, and the incredibly heady tea olive, all from the North Carolina–based online nursery PlantingTree. Tea olive is a particularly sought-after specimen in the South because, in addition to the scent, it also offers a low-maintenance, evergreen screen.

From left: wax myrtle; Nellie Stevens holly; tea olive.

Some less expected but equally dramatic suggestions include the Purple Pillar variety of Rose of Sharon and hydrangeas. “Let’s dispel the myth that hedges need to be evergreen,” says Justin LeCompte, of Proven Winners. “This pillar form of Rose of Sharon has a tall, graceful habit that is perfect for using as a privacy screen when you can’t give up a lot of ground space—and they provide pops of color all summer long.”

Purple Pillar Rose of Sharon hibiscus.

LeCompte is also a fan of using tall oakleaf hydrangeas as flowering screens because they bring a blousy, informal softness to the landscape. “I love the Gatsby Pink oakleaf hydrangea,” he says. “The natural shape of this native plant doesn’t need to be clipped. Plus, they grow up to eight feet and are hardy to Zone 9.”

Gatsby Pink oakleaf hydrangea.