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Wednesday - December 01, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Neat and tidy, poolside in Austin Texas.
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


I have a small section between our pool and fence (approx 3 feet wide). I would like to plant something native that obscures the fence but does not create a mess for the pool. The area gets sun most of the afternoon.


Evergreen choices are what you are looking for to keep things clean through out the year. Keep in mind living plants have to reproduce and in order to do that they must flower and fruit. So there isn't any species that can be recommended that is completely clean, unless it is a fake one. 

What you can look for are plants that have light flowers that easily blow away when they fall and ideally plants that attract wildlife, in hopes that the wildlife do the cleaning for you. If you do your homework and research the plant links below, you will find what types of fruit and flower each species produces. You will see that with some of the fruit bearing plants only the female plants produce berries, so if you find male specimens, you won't have any berries at all.

Here are a sample of evergreen shrubs and trees that reach around 8' or higher. Some can become quite big but are listed because they make fine privacy hedges when trimmed. The links are from the Plant Database section of our web site. If you search for Texas as your state and shrub as the habit you will find hundreds to choose from.

Here are a few to get you going.

Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo) Cenizo is an attractive bush with little pink flowers and light silver blue foliage. These flowers do drop, however the plant flowers sporadically and the flowers themselves are light. Usually a quick sweep will do the trick. Cenizo prefers full sun but will work with part shade. You can leave them alone as they grow fairly upright and are about 3' thick when fully grown. You can also plant them closer together and trim them to form a tight hedge.

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) Texas mountain laurel is another no fuss evergreen. Again this plant does flower but the flowers are fairly sporadic and usually light enough to blow away with the wind. They will produce a fruit pod with a large woody seed. The good news is the seeds won't make a mess on the pavement and you can sweep them up easily. Texas mountain laurel reaches a height of 30' but this tree is a slow grower so if you plant them just a bit lower than the height you are looking for, you will have years before they become too big for the area.

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) Yaupon trees would work as well as a shrub and can take pruning to keep it the height and width you need. They also come in dwarf varieties. Birds love their cheery bright red berries in the winter so if you are lucky, you won't have to pick up. If you don't want any berries buy the male plants as the females are the only fruit producers.

Arctostaphylos pungens (Pointleaf manzanita) Pointleaf manzanita can produce dense foliage and has a beautiful smooth red bark. This would be a more formal looking shrub for the space. It also produces berries that the birds will love. Not knowing just how much sun your space has, read up on the light requirements to make sure it isn't too sunny a location.

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) Wax myrtle is also a good option. With some pruning it can make a nice hedge or you can use a dwarf variety. It has an interesting olive coloring and pale blue berries in the winter. This is another example of a species where the females produce the fruit.

Lastly Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) Agarita is a great plant for hiding fences. it stays bushy all year long, doesn't grow too high or thick and can take pruning when needed. Agarita is a slow grower so it doesn't get out of hand. Birds love the berries all summer long and so might you. They are edible and have a delicious tart lime flavor. In fact, if you can brave the pointed leaves to collect enough berries, you can host a pool party and be the only one on your block serving Agarita margaritas! 


From the Image Gallery

Pointleaf manzanita
Arctostaphylos pungens

Leucophyllum frutescens

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