Growing great evergreens for screens and hedges

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Tom Woods
Agricultural Technician
Story by Charlotte Glenn
Need some privacy? Want to screen out the view into your neighbor’s yard? Consider planting a living fence of evergreen shrubs, but look beyond the common disease-plagued Leyland Cypress! Local garden centers carry many evergreens suitable for screening…and fall is the perfect time to plant.

Fast growers for quick cover
One of the fastest growing evergreens for screening available is Green Giant Thuja, a variety of arborvitae that will eventually reach 40 feet or more in height, and grows 15-20 feet wide.
Green Giant is great for large landscapes where a tall screen is needed, but may be too large for smaller lots. It grows best in moist, but well drained, soil and full sun.
Chindo Viburnum is another fast grower, reaching 15-20 feet in height and 8-10 feet in width within several years. This evergreen viburnum has large, shiny, dark green leaves and occasionally produces clusters of red berries in the fall.
Chindo Viburnum prefers to grow in moist, well drained soil, but has good drought tolerance once established.
For fast-screening in poor sandy soil, consider wax myrtle or glossy abelia. Wax myrtle is a native evergreen with olive green foliage, growing 8-10 feet in height and width within a few years of planting.
One drawback of this shrub is its tendency to break apart during hurricanes, but it rapidly recovers even when large limbs break out. Glossy abelia can easily reach 8-foot-tall-by-8-foot-wide and grows best in sunny areas and acid soil. Its small glossy green leaves turn reddish purple in winter.

Upright varieties for narrow spaces
Upright evergreens work well as screens in narrow spaces because they take up little horizontal space. Two of the narrowest evergreens available are Spartan Juniper and Emerald Arborvitae, both of which grow 15 feet tall and only 3-4 feet wide.
The main difference between these two plants is the conditions in which they prefer to grow. Spartan Juniper is great for sandy sites because it is very drought tolerant, whereas Emerald Arborvitae prefers moist soil. Both grow best in full sun.
Several varieties of hollies are available that work well for hedges and screening because of their upright or pyramidal growth habit. The varieties Nellie Stevens, Oakleaf, Festive, Robin, Needlepoint and Emily Bruner all produce dense, dark green foliage year-round and red berries in fall that persist through winter.
Each of these varieties grow at a moderate rate to 15-20-foot tall and 8-10-foot wide, growing best in sun or part shade and well drained soil and are drought tolerant once established. Another relatively narrow evergreen with glossy dark green leaves that is great for hedges is Cleyera (Ternstroemia gymnanthera).
This tough, adaptable shrub thrives in sun or shade, is drought tolerant, and will grow 10-15-foot tall and 6-8-foot wide…and deer don’t eat it.

Flowering evergreens for screening
Evergreens with showy blooms provide a bonus feature for landscapes, giving both seasonal color, as well as year-round screening. Large evergreens with attractive flowers that can be used for screens in partly shaded sites include camellias and Viburnum tinus.
Though slow-growing, camellias make spectacular hedges, especially the fall blooming Sasanqua varieties like Kanjiro and Setsugekka, each of which will grow to 10 feet tall.
For best results, plant camellias in moist, well drained soil. Viburnum tinus is another shade tolerant evergreen for well drained sites, reaching 10 feet or more in height. Its pink flower buds open in winter to reveal flat clusters of white blossoms amid dark green leaves.
Flowering evergreens that thrive in sandy soils and sunny sites include the 8- to 10-foot-tall and wide pineapple guava, with silver green leaves and pink flowers in spring; Recurve Ligustrum, an 8- to 10-foot-tall variety of privet with large glossy dark green leaves and white flowers in early summer; and Majestic Beauty Indian Hawthorn, a vigorous Indian Hawthorn variety with pink flowers in late spring.
Like all Indian Hawthorns, Majestic Beauty is tolerant of drought and salt spray, but is unfortunately a favorite of deer and should not be planted in areas where deer frequently forage.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply.