Woven stick panel is inexpensive and is easily removed for access.
Over the past 30 years I have been snapping images of the ways gardeners hide the necessary evils – pool equipment, meters, propane tanks, air conditioners, and electric boxes. In this photo essay, I refer to all of them as the catchall term “the air conditioner.” Solutions fall into three basic groups – plants, enclosures, and walls/screens.
Left: Front and back of a wooden fence covered in ivy that hides pool equipment.
Here is a three-sided trellis box. The lid lifts off.
I use the three-part hinged wooden screen in almost every garden I design. It can be easily removed for access to meters, electric boxes, generators, or air conditioners. It can be painted, stained, or left natural.
Two-sided wooden can corral with hinged doors.
Wooden enclosure with hinged doors for garbage cans. Note ramped curb for wheeling garbage bins.
Broadleaf evergreens like holly (Ilex spp.), boxwood (Buxus spp.), Aucuba, Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), and leucothoe (Agarista populifolia) are effective solutions, as are conifers like arborvitae (Thuja spp.). Evergreen climbing plants like Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and ivy (Hedera spp.) have also been successful.
[Editor's Note: Aucuba, Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), leucothoe (Agarista populifolia), and Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) are not hardy below Zone 7.]
All of these plants are widely available and are the least expensive way to hide equipment.
Enclosures were made from fencing, stone, and trellis. Finishing details like capstones, feet that raised wooden enclosures above the soil, and attractive hardware made a difference between solutions that looked amateur and those that looked professional. One clever solution was a can enclosure that shared a wall with delivery bays for landscaping materials.
Walls and screens I saw were as simple as woven sticks and complicated as artistically stacked stone. They are useful if your guests will be viewing from only the front. My favorite solution is the three-paneled hinged screen that can be quickly removed for access to equipment.
In my own garden, I have taken an idea from Helen Yoest and thrown camouflage netting over an electric box and over a propane tank.
I hope some of these ideas will work for you.
A version of this article appeared in a
March 2016 edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of June Mays.