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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - January 01, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Thoughts on non-native Italian Cypress in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I would like to know your thoughts on growing Italian Cypress trees in Austin Texas? We are looking to create a privacy screen(and prepared to pay more for mature trees to cut down the wait to grow time). We would like something evergreen and these will be planted along a fence line with no other trees in the area (most will be planted under what is now vegetable garden beds). The issue is 2/3 of the area receive 3 or 4 hours sun while the other 6+. If Italian Cypress aren't ideal..could you recommend something else fast growing in a similar compact but tall style? The main requirements are a) privacy and b) some road noise. Thanks!

ANSWER:

After answering nearly 9000 questions, Mr. Smarty Plants feels there is nothing much new in the garden world, and since we are lazy (it is, after all, Christmas vacation) we are going to refer you to a couple of previous answers on Italian Cypress, both of them from Austin:

Replacement of stressed Italian Cypress:

"Another problem for your Cupressus sempervirens, of course, is that it is not native to North America and certainly not to Central Texas. It needs fertile soil with good drainage. Our area is predominantly a heavy clay (along with the solid limestone), alkaline in pH and very poor drainage. This sort of situation is one of the reasons the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown."

These answers below feature more links and many pictures of appropriate plants from our Image Gallery.

Previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on privacy plants from Austin.

And this one, from Buda (very close to Austin).

See, we told you we were lazy, but since there are no native trees that will emulate Italian Cypress and still flourish in Central Texas, we think you would be happier with a mixed planting of trees and shrubs that will distract the eye from the encroaching buildings and certainly muffle the highway noise, as well as changing with the seasons and offering a variety of looks over time. In all cases, follow the plant links (like Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) to our webpage on that plant to learn its growing conditions, sunlight and water needs and soils best suited to it, as well as showing pictures.

 

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