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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Euonymus, Osmanthus, Ilex, Hedges

Can you all give me some recommendations for plants that will form a tight hedge? I want a fast growing plant that does not get more than 2-3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. I do not want boxwood. Evergreen with glossy leaves is preferable; flowers do not matter to me.


I collected some information from websites and a couple of books for you. I am making one other plant suggestion, and it is the last item.

Euonymus japonicus 'Microphyllus'

Ilex crenata 'Northern Beauty' is described on the website of Great Plant Picks

Ilex glabra 'Shamrock'
See Missouri Botanical Garden for information and an image.

Osmanthus delavayi
This can be grown as a dense hedge. It can reach about 8 feet, but takes pruning well. Evergreen and attractive all year. Small, oval, tooth-edged leaves. Fragrant tiny white flowers in spring. Here in Seattle it can take the full sun but partial shade is okay too.

Great Plant Picks is a local organization with information about plants that do particularly well in the Pacific Northwest.

Date 2017-12-08
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pyracantha, Screens, Thuja, Hedges

What shrubs or trees will grow quickly to provide a privacy screen above the 6 foot fence between me and my neighbor? My back yard is only about 20 feet from house to fence, and the first 10 feet is a concrete patio.


The classic fast-growing evergreens for hedges are Thuja 'Green Giant' or Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii), but they are a bit boring and because they grow so fast (1-3 ft/yr) it can be a big chore to keep them at a reasonable height. These trees do not stop at 8 feet, but could get to 30-50 feet.

Another fast evergreen is Pyracantha (Pyracantha crenatoserrata to ~8 feet). It is a shrub, but is easily trained/pruned to grow flat. In the past Forestfarm nursery in Oregon has sold both of these, as do most large nurseries. Be aware, however, that this shrub has fierce thorns!

Various types of bamboo could be an option for a fast screen, but plants may be expensive and running bamboo species MUST have a root barrier installed.

Date 2017-06-09
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Screens, Thuja, Juniperus, Viburnum, Hedges, Ceanothus

I will be having a very overgrown, rarely pruned laurel removed from my back garden. It has been, if a monstrosity, an effective visual screen. The bare area that it leaves is appproximately 40' in length, is atop a rockery, approximately 3' high, and will look up into the neighbor's back hillside, while they peer down at us in dismay. Can you suggest one or several fast growing, shrubby plants or suitable trees that will act as an attractive visual screen? I do not want bamboo.


Here are a few ideas:

Morella californica

Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd'

Osmanthus delavayi is also a good choice, but it doesn't get quite tall enough--my own hedge, which is pruned at least twice a year, is about 8 feet tall, so if I really let it go, maybe it would be 10-12 feet.

Juniperus scopulorum 'Wichita Blue'

Juniperus virginiana 'Manhattan Blue'

Viburnum tinus

Ceanothus would also be striking, with blue flowers, but you'd need to find the tallest possible species, and they tend to be short lived.

You could plant a mixed hedgerow, which would allow you to include some of the flowering plants you prefer. King Conservation District has more information on hedgerows.

Date 2018-06-22
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Berberis, Trachelospermum, Euonymus, Taxus baccata, Screens, Thuja, Nandina domestica, Hydrangea, Ilex, Hedges, Clematis, Buxus, Bamboo

Could you recommend some plants for a privacy screen that are also narrow? These would be planted in front of a fence in our backyard.


Here is some general information on plants for creating a screen.

Trees for Problem Landscape Sites -- Screening from Virginia Cooperative Extension

Good Hedges Make Good Neighbors from the Humane Society

Bet on Hedges by local garden writer Valerie Easton.

Here is a list of narrow plants for a screen from local garden designer Chris Pfeiffer:

Fastigiate shrubs for naturally narrow hedges. Compiled by Chris Pfeiffer. 2005.

Zones 5-6:

American arborvitae 'Rheingold' (Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold') 5'h x 3'w

Barberry 'Helmond Pillar' (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Helmond Pillar') 6'h x 2'w

Boxwood 'Graham Blandy' (Buxus sempervirens 'Graham Blandy') 8'h x 1-1/2' w

English yew 'Standishii' (Taxus baccata 'Standishii') 4'h x 1-1/2' w

Irish yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata') 20' h x 4' w

Japanese holly Jersey pinnacle (Ilex crenata 'Jersey Pinnacle') 6' h x 4' w

Japanese holly Mariesii (Ilex crenata 'Mariesii') 3' h x 1-1/2' w

Zones 7-9, in addition to the above:

Dwarf yeddo rhaphiolepis (Rhaphiolepis umbellata Gulf GreenTM) 3-4' h x 2' w

Heavenly bamboo 'Gulf Stream' (Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream') 4' h x 2' w

Japanese euonymus 'Green Spire' (Euonymus japonicus 'Green Spire') 15' h x 6' w

You might also consider installing a trellis to increase the height of the fence, and then growing an evergreen vine such as Clematis armandii, evergreen hydrangea (Hydrangea seemanii), or star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).

This link is also helpful (scroll down to "Evergreen Vines" and look for appropriate height and light requirements).

You could grow bamboo, but I would recommend growing it in a container, or a series of containers, as you do not want the roots to spread. I have seen an effective bamboo screen between two houses growing in a long rectangular lined wooden trough (lined with bamboo barrier). Some species of bamboo are more tolerant of partial shade than others. Look for a clumping, rather than a running, bamboo (like Fargesia) to be on the safe side.

Growing Bamboo in Georgia

Running and Clumping Bamboos

Bamboos for hedges or tall privacy screens

Date 2018-04-11
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Neighbor law, Hedges, Garden structures and building materials, Bamboo

Are there any restrictions to planting bamboo near a property line? We are planting it at least 1 1/2 feet from the property line and will be using the appropriate barrier (if planting the runner variety) or clumping bamboo. Basically we want to regain some privacy for our yard and house but not encroach upon the neighboring property.


Although I cannot speak to whether there are legal restrictions about planting bamboo (this would be a question for King County Law Library), my hunch is that as long as you take the necessary precautions to control the spread of the plant by installing a root or rhizome barrier, it should not pose a problem. If you intentionally planted an uncontrolled invasive plant at the property line, it might be possible for someone to contend that it was malicious, as mentioned below (Revised Code of Washington):

RCW 7.40.030

Malicious erection of structure may be enjoined.

An injunction may be granted to restrain the malicious erection, by any owner or lessee of land, of any structure intended to spite, injure or annoy an adjoining proprietor. And where any owner or lessee of land has maliciously erected such a structure with such intent, a mandatory injunction will lie to compel its abatement and removal.

The American Bamboo Society has helpful information on how to control bamboo. Here is an excerpt describing barriers:

To prevent a running bamboo from spreading, a rhizome barrier is essential. A barrier two or three feet deep is effective. It should be slanted outward at the top so that when the rhizomes hit the barrier they will bend upwards. A barrier does not stop a running rhizome; it only deflects it. The barrier should project an inch or two above ground level. Check the barrier once a year, and cut off rhizomes that arch over the top.

Barriers can be concrete, or metal, or plastic. The usual recommendation is high-density polypropylene, 40 mil or heavier, glued or taped at junctions, or clamped with stainless-steel clamps. This material comes in rolls, or as hinged sections, and is available from some landscape suppliers and bamboo nurseries, frequently termed root barrier. More elaborate barriers with corner posts that hold the material at the proper angle are also available.

One other option is to plant your bamboo in pots. Even then, you would need to check the bottoms of the pots periodically for escaping roots. You can also purchase lengths of bamboo fencing or willow fencing, if you do not wish to install a heavier fence. Here is an example of willow fencing, and here is a local company, Bamboo Builders Northwest, which has examples of bamboo fencing.

Date 2018-06-22
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Prunus laurocerasus, Pruning shrubs, Hedges

We have inherited a 25-foot tall English laurel hedge. The former owner never took care of of so most of the 'inside' is just dead branches, but the rest is VERY healthy. Our neighbors would like us to prune it so it's not obstructing their view, and I'd like to reduce its size so I don't need to climb a ladder to prune it in the future. Can I cut it back severely, and regrow it into a more manageable hedge? I don't have the energy to remove it entirely.


I doubt that anyone would ever consider English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) a manageable hedge plant since what it really wants is to be a tree, but since you want to keep it as a screen, you should be able to cut it back quite hard. It will most likely put on new growth. However, it will look fairly awful while you are waiting for this to happen. According to local Plant Amnesty pruning expert Cass Turnbull (in her Guide to Pruning, Sasquatch Books, 2006), "radical renovations of laurel hedges are common. In the spring, saw the overgrown hedge into the desired shape, except perhaps a foot or two smaller than the final desired size. That's because it will need that room to resprout and be sheared into a thick green coat again. Be sure to cut your hedge narrow as well as short. It should be narrow enough for one gardener to reach across with a hedge shear. I have only seen one laurel hedge that didn't recover from this radical treatment. (...) Please avoid heavy pruning on a hot July or August day, as you might burn up some internal leaves or scald the bark."

Date 2018-07-12
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: fastigiate trees and shrubs, Woody plant cuttings, Hedges

I have an interest in propagating woody plants such as columnar, or more fastigiate types of holly, barberry and others for establishing barrier hedges here in Oregon. Is there any merit to the suggestion that only vertical cuttings be selected from the parent plant, as opposed to selecting other material from lower down, or that which has a less skyward orientation?


I consulted Michael Dirr's Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation (Varsity Press, 2006). What he says about Taxus (yew, not a plant you mentioned, but one which has some upright cultivars) is that "Taxus cuttings are highly topophytic and maintain the growth habit they exhibited on the parent plant." In this case, that would suggest to me that if you wish to encourage a plant with mostly vertical form, then a vertical cutting would be useful *if* that genus of plant has cuttings which echo the shape they had on the original plant.

I don't see any obvious indications that all species of Berberis (barberry) or Ilex (holly) have this characteristic. Ginkgo does, and so a cutting from a horizontally-growing parent plant will retain that growth habit. (See Peter Del Tredici's article on ginkgo trees from Arnoldia, Summer 1991 issue.)

In order to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of which plants exhibit topophysis and which do not, you would need to consult a plant physiologist, or spend a fair amount of time consulting books such as Dirr's mentioned above. Hartmann & Kester's Plant Propagation (8th ed., 2011) says that "plants of certain species produced by cuttings taken from upright shoots (orthotropic) will produce plants in which the shoots grow vertically. Plants produced from cuttings taken from lateral shoots (plagiotropic) will grow horizontally, as occurs with Podocarpus." Alas, this book does not provide a thorough list of plants which do this. The few examples given include: Taxus cuspidata, Norfolk Island pine, Podocarpus, and coffee.

You could always err on the side of caution, and only select upright cuttings. However, in some plants, cuttings from lateral shoots have better rooting rates (such as Rhododendron).

An aside: some species of holly (especially English holly, Ilex aquifolium), and some species of Berberis are considered invasive or noxious in some parts of the U.S. Check your county noxious weed lists before propagating them.

Date 2018-03-14
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Landscaping for Privacy by Marty Wingate, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

book"Landscaping for Privacy" by Marty Wingate is very practical and addresses annoying issues like siting the recycle bins, and how to embrace wildlife or pets without letting them run amok, while empowering you to create a space that is very distinctly your own. Relatively few gardening books address fences and hedges in any depth, but for Wingate "screening hedges become more than shrubs planted in a line; they create a green, living wall, incorporating the design elements of sequence and repetition to pull together the landscape."

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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May 31 2018 13:14:08