The electric transformer box in your yard serves an important purpose, but it can also be a serious eyesore. Although you can't move the box, it doesn't need to take center stage. Well-placed hedges, plantings or screens will help draw the attention away from the box and onto the yard's more decorative elements.
Before landscaping around a transformer box, check with the utility company to familiarize yourself with any restrictions. In some cases, for instance, clearances might be required around the transformer to allow for easy access. In addition, underground cables and wires might be located underground near a transformer, so you should call the national digging alert hotline at 811 before digging as part of any landscaping project. Utilities will send workers to mark the locations of underground wires, cables and pipes.
If you just want to hide the transformer and aren't concerned about it blending it with the landscape, install fencing or another type of screen. Picket fencing that is as tall as the transformer can hide the box from view and add charm to the yard. For an even more decorative look, put up lattice panels around the transformer or build a wooden box to slip over it. No matter which method you choose, however, make sure the transformer is still accessible; you may only want to enclose the transformer on three sides or build the box with a door or hinged panel.
Screen with Plants
If you don't just want to conceal the transformer but help it disappear into the landscape, creating a screen with plants is one effective option. Hedges such as emerald arborvitate (Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald,' hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 through 7) and north privet (Ligustrum x ibolium, hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8) create an effective screen. You can also plant tall ornamental grasses, such as fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum,' hardy USDA zones 5 through 9) and feather reed grass ( Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster,' hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9), around the transformer to hide it without disrupting the flow of the landscape. As with fencing, though, plant in a way that allows access to the transformer.
Create a Distraction
You don't necessarily have to completely cover or screen a transformer to hide it with landscaping. By placing decorative elements in front of or beside the transformer, you can block it from view and help distract from its appearance. Consider placing a large boulder or other decorative rock in front of the transformer box. Add other smaller boulders and gravel to create a rock garden around the transformer. A large garden statue or fountain in front of the transformer also takes attention away from the box.
- University of Idaho, College of Agriculture Sciences: Landscaping and Utilities -- Problems, Prevention, and Plant Selection
- Southern California Edison: Landscaping Around Residential Pad-Mounted Transformers
- Coldwell Banker: Choosing Decorative Plants to Hide Utility Boxes
- AEP Public Service Company of Oklahoma: Landscaping Tips for Ground-Level Electrical Facilities
- Arbor Day Foundation: Arborvitae, Emerald Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald'
- Arbor Day Foundation: Privet, North Ligustrum x ibolium
- Midwest Living: Best Ornamental Grasses for Midwest Gardens
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
- Call 811: How 811 Works
Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on BobVila.com, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.