Share This Page

Garden Q&A: Few evergreens make good 'fence'

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jessica Walliser
A heavily sheared, privacy hedge of 'Green Giant.'

Question: We are considering planting a privacy row of bushes, but we have a problem with wind. What can we plant that will withstand heavy winter winds?

Answer: Fencing would be my first choice. A fence is a fairly wind-proof, instant screen. You don't have to water it and installing a few panels of privacy fence isn't that expensive.

But I understand that you probably want something green. Perhaps you would consider combining the two? Put up a fence, then locate some plants on your side of it, or cover the fence with some hearty vines.

If a fence is not an option, there are a few plants that would work. If you don't necessarily need something evergreen, consider using taller ornamental grasses like maiden grass or switch grass. They are tough as nails and easy to maintain.

Good evergreen choices for screening in full sun are not as plentiful as many people would hope. That being said, one of my favorite evergreens is perfectly suited to such a situation. The Leyland cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii) is a great option, growing a reported 3 to 4 feet per season and retaining a lovely pyramidal shape even with no pruning at all. Leyland cypress has a beautiful form and loose, feathery foliage. Remember, though, that this will grow into a very large tree — up to 70 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Give each specimen plenty of room and don't located it under electrical wires or near foundations.

Probably the toughest evergreen for privacy planting is Thuja “Green Giant.” It is reportedly resistant to bagworms and is very tolerant of lousy soils. It will need to be staked with a heavy metal stake for the first two or three winters until the roots become established and can withstand the high winds. This cultivar grows 3 to 5 feet per year to an eventual unpruned height of 50 feet. “Green Giant's” foliage is a dark, lush green and quite soft to the touch. It has a very nice fragrance when disturbed and is fairly tolerant of heavy snow and ice loads.

A third, shorter, choice is Japanese holly ( Ilex japonica). The dark green, spiny leaves are beautiful, but the plant is not deer-proof. If you want berries, you'll have to plant one male plant for every five to six females. They can be pruned every few years if necessary to keep their growth lush and reasonably compact. Various cultivars grow anywhere from 3 feet to 12 feet in height, so pay attention to mature height when selecting the best variety for your garden.

No matter what plant you choose, be sure to keep them well watered for the first year or two after planting, and allow them plenty of room to grow. These plants are widely available at local garden centers in pot sizes ranging from one to 5 gallons.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.