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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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Tuesday - December 02, 2008

From: McLean, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Evergreen for privacy screen in Virginia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Last year we lost a large pine that was part of privacy screen and we replaced it with two Eastern red cedars. There is still a substantial gap that won't be filled in by the cedars and we were considering some American hollies to provide textural contrast and wildlife benefit. Our nursery said that the hollies grow slowly and eventually get very large. Adjacent to the site are huge white pines that filter the light coming in. Do you have any suggestions for an evergreen of 15 feet max mature height that would grow faster than the holly and have wildlife value that would do well in this site? We are in Northern Virginia.

ANSWER:

The biggest problem here was your need for an evergreen plant. It is true that the hollies are evergreen, and Ilex opaca (American holly) has some dwarf cultivars that you might inquire about at your nursery. They are not fast-growing, and in order to have berries, you must have both male and female plants, with at least one male to every three or four females, and within about 30'. Beyond that, we found four plants that could suit your purposes. Follow the links to the webpage on each plant for more information, and go down to the bottom of that webpage to click on a link to Google on that plant. 

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush) - 6 to 12', occasionally taller, blooms white and pink June to September, part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun daily) to shade (less than 2 hours of sun), nectar for bees and butterflies, fruit for birds. Poisonous leaves.

Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) - 12 to 20' shrub, white, pink blooms June, July, part shade. All parts poisonous.

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - 12 to 20' shrub, can reach 20', fast growing, sun (over 6 hours of sun daily) to part shade, fragrant foliage, attracts many different birds

Rhododendron maximum (great laurel) - 4 to 15' tall, can grow to 30', white, pink blooms in June, part shade. All parts poisonous.


Cephalanthus occidentalis

Kalmia latifolia

Morella cerifera

Rhododendron maximum

 

 

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