Posted: 17/05/2015 at 16:55
Wow - a clean slate! You mention bamboo but contain it in pots. I'd probably suggest that as you are starting from afresh, you should look to plant the bamboo straight into the ground, but contain it by putting in a planting barrier that will stop it from running (even clumping ones run) across your and your neighbours garden. If you buy a large bamboo then you can pay around £50/£60 for a modest sized pot, but it will already have height to it, so you can get instant impact and privacy. Give it plenty of room to grow and you will have a very good screen of bamboo in no time. Make sure you dig in lots of organic matter, but being on clay you might be alright anyway - clay soil may also slow it down a little. It will need quite a lot of watering until its established.
Another good one to go for is a Pittosporum. Go for a variegated one, in my view, as they do look a lot nicer and provide a bit more interest. Pittosporum can be fast growing, and you can keep them trimmed if you want to keep it in check.
Have a look at Taxus or more commonly known as Yew. Go for a column one, such as Taxus × media 'Hicksii'. It might be a bit slow growing, but over time it can get up to 8m in height. Just be wary if you have children who might be attracted to the berries, which are fine to eat (if they do), but the seeds are poisonous, as are the leaves. Some people are a bit over sensitive to having poisonous plants in the garden!
Have a single species hedge is fine, but if you can afford it, then go for a mixed planted hedge, perhaps made up of a few evergreen and deciduous trees/shrubs and include ones which give interest during the year like nice autumn display or berries for the birds. Look at Pyracantha, which is ever green, fast growing, summer flowers, winter berries, and if you're worried about somebody climbing over your back fence, has 2 inch spikes which are deadly! Pyracantha can be pruned hard and will bounce back, and also can be trained to climb up the fence.
If you want to have something self climbing up/over the fence, look at climbing hydrangea, which will grow in full shade, and has white flowers. It is deciduous.
If you want to help wildlife in the winter, look at ivy - Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart'. It is large leafed, and fairly fast growing, evergreen, and its berries feed the birds in the winter, and it will provide a habitat for over wintering bugs and creepies.
I know its always an option especially for cheap and quick, but avoid Leylandii like the plague. Not my favourite shrub is Photenia Red Robin, because it does have a tendency to drop leaves all year, but it is very fast growing, and even if you trim it hard, it will be back to where it was and more in no time at all (another reason I personally don't like it).
Hope that helps.