Privacy on our decks or balconies isn’t such a big deal when it’s snowy and cold outside. But come summer, we want to enjoy every moment possible outdoors, yet still have a little physical separation from our neighbors. Lifeless privacy screens will do the trick, although I think tall colourful plants are a far better choice. They strike the right balance by providing just enough seclusion without sacrificing beauty.
The simplest way to create a dramatic and beautiful living privacy screen for the summer is with strategic placement of the right varieties of colourful annual vines in large pots. Here are some of my favourites.
I’m torn about what I like best about this vine: the pretty heart-shaped leaves, or its yellow (or orange) flowers with their dark centres. It will quickly reach 2 to 2.5 m in a typical season, and enjoys sun. I find that black-eyed Susan wilts quite severely when it’s stressed for moisture, but recovers well and looks none-the-worse-for-wear once it gets a good soaking.
Canary Bird Vine
Canary bird vine is a great choice along a chain link fence. This sun lover grows amazingly fast reaching over 3.5 m. It sprawls and can look quite wild, but provides a very dense screen. Although it’s related to the nasturtium, its open-faced yellow flowers are reminiscent of tiny orchids. Canary bird vine is great if you want a visually impenetrable barrier.
Like the canary bird vine, hyacinth bean grows aggressively to about 3 m, and tends to sprawl. It produces fragrant flowers that are highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. After the blooms fade, it develops electric-purple pods for added visual interest.
Bougainvillea is one of my favourite privacy screen plants. Its growth habit isn’t particularly aggressive, so it’s a bit more “see through.” But it produces a nonstop mass of flowers all summer long. Bougainvillea thrives in the full, baking-hot sun on my west-facing deck, and is the most colourful of my privacy screens.
‘Pink’ Bower Vine
Bower vines have glossy, bright foliage that provides a nice background for their trumpet-shaped blooms. I like that the flowers have a darker rose-pink throat, which is very pretty. If we had a mild winter climate, bower vines would continue to grow to about 8 m but, since we don’t, expect about 1.5 m during a typical prairie growing season.
Not to be confused with the sweet potato vine (from the morning glory family), this vine is from the potato family. Its white, star-shaped flowers aren’t anywhere near as showy as, say, bougainvillea, but potato vine is easy to grow and maintain, and has a nice understated look.
If you’re growing your screening plants in containers, remember that large pots produce larger plants. Bigger containers are also easier to maintain because they don’t dry out as quickly. And to encourage fast, strong growth, be sure to fertilize your containers at least once a week.
Often, two or three plants are all you need so that you don’t feel so exposed to the world around you. Unlike with a solid rail or fence, living privacy screens allow for a bit of dappled light to penetrate, yet let me avoid that goldfish-in-a-bowl feeling. Hey, I think my neighbours are great, but I prefer they don’t how many dollops of sour cream I put on my baked potato.