Asked on Apr 4, 2013

Ideas for landscaping along a backyard fence?

Betty JohnsonBarbElizabeth Sagarminaga


I would appreciate ideas for what to do with this one part of our back garden, which we are redoing from scratch. I know I want something tall and dark (up to 6 feet high) along just this section of fence, from the big pine tree on the left to where the hellebores are on the right. I then want to plant small shrubs or high flowers (maybe three or so feet high), in front of that, and then something low, like hostas, in front.

A couple of notes: This is a very shady area, so I need plants that do well in shade. I do not like arborvitae, junipers, or similar evergreens. And I want perennials only.

I bought three sky pencil hollies and put them in front of the fence, and they were sort of what I wanted, but I decided to plant them in the corner that's on the right side of the pictures where they work perfectly. So I don't want to plant any more. I'm now thinking of having tall camellia bushes, which of course have the added benefit of flowers. But one thing I want is to be able to keep those tall bushes cut about 2 feet wide so they don't take up the whole space -- could I do that with camellias?

In case you're curious about what's on the right, I have two encore azaleas behind those hellebores. I will be planting the hellebores right where they are, and hostas in front of them.
17 answers
  • Debbie Borthwick
    on Apr 4, 2013

    I don't know what works best in your zone, but for shady areas, I absolutely love astilbe and heuchera! Heuchera forms nice mounds of leaves which come in a huge variety of colour. Beautiful mixed in with hosta, they give a nice contrast in foliage. Astilbe send out tall plumes of feathery flowers in pastel colours. You can't go wrong if these are in your shade garden! IMHO :)

  • Douglas Hunt
    on Apr 5, 2013

    Melissa, a plant two feet wide and six feet tall is very fastigiate and you'd be torturing a camellia to achieve that. If you could live with four feet wide you might take a look at Camellia hiemalis "October Magic Rose." Debbie's given you some great suggestions. Cimicifuga is another wonderful upright plant for shade, as is goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus).

  • Melissa G
    on Apr 5, 2013

    Thanks for the feedback!

    • Petra Kloi
      on Oct 15, 2019

      If you're looking for landscaping ideas, I cannot recommend the book "Ideas 4 Landscaping" enough. Ideas 4 Landscaping is a collection of over 7,250 landscaping images, outdoor projects, and step by step guidelines to create the perfect garden design. It is a massive online database of projects and ideas, organized into 64 different categories for easy browsing.

      It sounds just like what you're looking for. Here's a link to their website.

  • Gail Salminen
    on Apr 6, 2013

    @Melissa G have you thought of possibly using a climbing rose instead of a shrub. If you attached a few lattices to the fence, it would provide the foliage and flowers to boot and fairly low maintenance! I love cone flowers who come in various colours. I would love to hear/see what you do. Thanks for posting :)

  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim
    on Apr 6, 2013

    I wish before I had started to work in my yard along my fence I had painted it white. The darkness of parts of the fence kind of makes my plants hardly show at all. I am now going to try to paint just my own side of the fence white to give more brightness to my plants in the shade. The fence is Cedar and it is sealed so not even sure I can get white put on it! But everything just blends with it being the same color you have! Even painting another color would help its just I"m a total "cottage garden" person and white is my go to color!

  • Jeanette S
    on Apr 6, 2013

    Tip...if you don't want to paint the fence, you might want to whitewash it. I would plant some small shrub...many varieties thrive here...and then put in some plants for color. Since we have had the drought here, watering is a problem so I would add plants such as border grass with different colors instead of a lot of flowers. You can put in an occasional flower for color...I use Gerber Daises. See attached photo for various colors. (The Dusty Miller does need to be trimmed to stay short but not that often and can be left to grow taller). Everything in this bed is a perennial! This is my favorite spot ever! I don't know how, but I got the perfect mix of soil/sand etc. It looks good all the time.

    q ideas for landscaping along a backyard fence, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, This little bed gets the baking west sun all day And it stays fresh and pretty with limited watering It is mainly grass and or non blooming plants
  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim
    on Apr 7, 2013

    @Jeanette S I am wondering what whitewash is exactly? I had always thought it was simply watered down paint and I guess I'm too young to have ever had to do it other than watch tom Sawyer get his friends to do it for him..hehe

  • Jeanette S
    on Apr 7, 2013

    Yes, whitewash is watered down acts more like a stain than a paint so it does not peal and look bad...requires less upkeep to keep it looking like you want it.

  • Gail Salminen
    on Apr 7, 2013

    @Melissa G if you don't want to make your own white wash paint, Olympia has some great whitewash colours. We painted our fence over 25 years ago with a cape cod grey and haven't had to paint it since - ages very nicely.

  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim
    on Apr 8, 2013

    The fence we have they put a sealer on it after they put it up...will the paint go over that you think?

  • Susan
    on Apr 8, 2013

    Hosta plants would look nice too!

  • Gail Salminen
    on Apr 8, 2013

    @Tanya Peterson Felsheim I would check with your paint retailer, they should know the answer. It may depend on what base the sealer is, i.e. you can't put latex over oil, but I think acrylic works on most anything. Check with the experts though.

  • Evelyn McMullen
    on Apr 9, 2013

    When I had papyrus clumps thinned in my front yard, I had them put in a row in back yard to hide the side fence. Fast growing and they look great.

  • For a 3 foot high flower for shade, I would say Japanese anemones. They take a little bit to get growing, but will grow like crazy after a few years of getting established. Thalictrum gets quite tall, but is also beautiful and airy. For an evergreen besides the ones you mentioned, there are Yew that are especially hardy in hot climates. Some Euonymus are evergreen, though you will need to check on your particular species to see which is aggressive/invasive for your area.

  • Elizabeth Sagarminaga
    on Oct 30, 2015

    As far as your question is concerned,I would like to say ,Before you set about creating your own little getaway area, you will need to determine how big you want it to be and the general layout of the area. If you want the area to remain private and secluded, adding a fence of lattice or wood planks would be a nice touch. It will keep pets and children from invading your quiet time and gives a firm background for ivy and other climbing plants to attach and cling to.

  • Barb
    on Oct 31, 2015

    there is a wide range of evergreen shrubs like rhododendrons, azaleas, daphne, mountain laurel, weigela, and camellia all of these shrubs do flowers. you could also try evergreen vines like climates or honeysuckles, you get the flower, the green leaves and the decorative trellis.

  • Betty Johnson
    on Dec 23, 2015

    With big trees on either side of this stretch of fence, I can see why the plants that go there would need to do well in the shade. I'm not sure what kind of soil you have in your yard. That would affect the varieties of plants that might do well. Maybe you could do one of those soil tests. Landscaping stores sometimes have those.

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