When we bought the property in SJC one of the things we liked about it was the feeling of total privacy. The one plus acre was completely surrounded with a thick wall of foliage that you couldn't even see through. We literally had lived there for months before we even realized that the back of the property was enclosed with a chain link fence. We had assumed it was a wooden stake fence or a cinder block wall like the front of the property. The entire back yard perimeter was planted with oleanders which had filled in and were at least twelve feet tall and very thick. Not my plant of choice, but it worked fine. Then a few years ago oleander leaf scorch disease came to Southern California and everyone was losing their oleanders. Two of our neighbors that also had them surrounding their properties lost all of them a few years ago and now their beautiful homes are surrounded with bare chain link. Knowing that disease attacks stressed plants first, I tried to keep our oleander as healthy as possible. They are very drought tolerant but I gave them a bit extra water in the summer to keep them robust and prune off any sick looking branches. Every so often one out of the blue would die and we would replace it with another type of shrub.
Unfortunately it looks like I am starting to lose the battle in some areas and now it is time to take more aggressive measures. The properties on either side where the gaps have become obvious are remote areas of the neighbor's yards (there are horses and chickens on one side), but it is still nice to have the privacy. Next month we are removing most of the oleander and replacing it with a variety of screening plants. I'm taking a trip out to Tree of Life Nursery to discuss with them some of my native plant options. I'm also considering adding some bougainvillea for some color.This is what I am aiming for. This is the foliage screen on one side of the property that works well. The podocarpus, ficus and Carolina cherry all provide a thick, lush wall that is about 20 feet high. I have learned one important lesson though - choose a variety of plants to create a permanent screen if privacy is important to you. That way if a disease comes along (and they often do) that takes out an entire species, there will still be plenty of vegetation to fill in the gaps!