Choosing the right plants to use as property boundaries can lead to years of enjoyment by both you and your neighbours. The wrong trees, however, can lead to disagreements over intruding roots or the dropping of seeds, leaves and flowers on the neighbour's flawless and wide open garden. Speak with the neighbours before planting boundary trees, and weigh all the options carefully to avoid a long-term feud.
Selecting trees to plant at a property boundary can be one of the most difficult plant choices to make due to the time and money investment as well as other factors. The height at maturity might not make much difference in a rural setting, but a tree that grows too big can cause headaches in the city. Branches that overhang the neighbouring property may cause a problem, while messy trees can be a headache for everyone.
Some trees will retain the same shape they have when they are young. A row of junipers or European hornbeam can give the property an elegant look without infringing on neighbours, while some pear and orange trees can create an interesting look without being messy. Evergreens like the fast-growing cypress or the Virginia pine are also well suited to property boundaries, as they will not lose their leaves, can be easily pruned and do not make a mess.
When it comes to tall shrubs, these plants can be easier to prune and shape than trees while still blocking out any unwanted sights from beyond the property. Evergreen shrubs can be most effective for property borders, as they will keep their full shape year-round. Those used for property boundaries will most likely have full or mostly full sun to deal with, so the fast-growing Chinese eleagnus and blue vase juniper, or the massive, flowering cherry laurel are all options for tall, prunable shrubs that will thrive in direct sunlight. Tall shrubs come in several different forms; wide, spreading shrubs like the Indian azalea are not only evergreen with bright flowers, but can be easily pruned to form a hedgelike boundary. Others remain columnar and upright, like the Japanese yew.
Short shrubs will mark a property boundary while still allowing for a view. The Abelia is a fast-growing evergreen shrub that can tolerate heavy pruning and generally does not get taller than 1.2 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 feet). The bottle brush is slower growing but is also cold-tolerant, and can grow back even if its branches and leaves are damaged by severe weather. The common juniper also makes an excellent hedge boundary, not getting taller than 90 cm (3 feet) when mature. The nandina is an interesting landscape specimen throughout the year, as it blooms in spring and summer months. The flowers turn to berries, which remain on the small, compact bush throughout the winter and can attract a number of birds and small animals.
For a small property, climbing vines allowed to climb and cover a fence or latticework can be an eye-catching addition to the backyard landscape while not drawing attention to their true purpose as a boundary marker. For some resourceful varieties, all that is needed for them to climb is a single piece of wire stretched between some posts. The clematis is a flowering climbing plant with large blooms that can grow up to 3.6 m (12 feet) in a single year. A more cold-hardy choice is the American bittersweet, able to be planted as far north as the Shetland Isles. Boston ivy has attractive, dark green leaves, while the flowers of the honeysuckle and the wisteria can complement almost any back garden.
Some vines and climbing flowers can be invasive, so take caution when selecting these types of plants. Check a your local garden centre to find out which species are considered invasive in your area.