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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 - April 14, 2010

From: Round Lake, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Plants for privacy in Round Lake IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I recently purchased a house in northern Illinois that overlooks a busy walking path. The yard is 80 feet wide and currently has a 4 foot chain link fence, but I would like to add something for privacy. It would get full sun and the yard has been rather wet so far. Red dogwood was suggested, but I was not sure how close to fence I could plant it or if it would work well for privacy. Any other suggestions?

ANSWER:

The good news is that we found four very nice shrubs native to Lake County, in the far northeastern corner of Illinois, Zone 5a to 5b. The bad news is that none of them are evergreen, a tough characteristic to find that far north in the United States. There are two dogwoods, Cornus racemosa (gray dogwood) and Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood), which is probably the "red dogwood" that was recommended to you.The other two are Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark) and Spiraea alba (white meadowsweet).  We found these four by searching on our Native Plant Database on "shrub," "full sun" and "moist" soil. There is one more shrub that is evergreen and grows in your area, Juniperus communis var. depressa (common juniper), but its soil moisture requirement is "dry." Another problem with this plant is that although our website says it grows from 3 to 6 ft. tall, most of the other references show it as a creeping, low bush. Pictures of Juniperus communis var. depressa (common juniper) from Google. 

Follow each of the plant links above to our webpage on that particular plant to learn other characteristics, height to which they will grow and so forth. On your question about distance from the fence, we think probably 3 ft. from the trunk will suffice. Since the fence is a 4-ft. tall chain link, branches that  protrude further will either go through the openings in the chain link, or be tall enough to go over it, both contributing to the privacy.

Since our database does not contain every native plant to every area, we suggest that you contact the University of Illinois Extension Office for Lake County for more possibilities. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Cornus racemosa

Cornus sericea

Physocarpus opulifolius

Spiraea alba

 

 

 

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