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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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Friday - May 27, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Need plant suggestions for a 700' long privacy screen in Wimberley, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I live in Wimberley. Tx Dot has ruined 700' of my side yard's (& back yard's) privacy by clearing all the plants/trees that had grown up in their right of way adjacent to our property. They're also increasing the noise for my property because they're moving one lane of traffic a full lane closer to this 700' and it will nearly touch our fence! With only 2-3" of top soil over limestone, is there ANYTHING Native and hardy we can plant on our property in those spots where we don't have plants/trees to hide this monstrosity? OR..Will we have to create raised beds to plant anything? We want to totally block the view of RR12 and help muffle the noise so the property looks like it did when we bought it 4 years ago? And we'd like for these trees/shrubs to grow fast and reach heights of 10-15' high. Some have suggested non invasive bamboo.

ANSWER:

If you really want fast, cedar fencing is a distinct possibility. However, 700’ of fencing is quite and undertaking, but so is 700’ of plantings. Some perennial plants (shrubs and trees) are said to be fast growing, but their growth rate may be two to three feet a year. Annuals grow faster; consider how tall sunflowers Helianthus annuus (Common sunflower) and corn  can grow in a single growing season, but this probably isn't what you had in mind.

Just for some background, what kinds of plants did TxDot remove? Were any of them natives? SInce you know they will grow in that location, maybe using some of those species as replacements could be a part of the solution.

As to plant selection, let me begin by saying that the mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes. Bamboo, either invasive or non-invasive, is non-native, and falls outside the focus of the Wildflower Center, so we don't recommend its use. A bamboo that is native to North America is Arundinaria gigantea, but it probably wouldn’t work for the situation you described.

For different plants, let me introduce you to the Native Plant Database. We can use it to help us select some plants that might fit your situation. One way of using the Database is to go to the Recommended Species Lists. Click on "View Recommended Species Page", and then click on Central Texas on the map. This will bring up 156 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Texas. This is more information than you need, so go to the Narrow Your Search box to the right of the window and make the following selections: select Texas under State, Shrub under habit, and Perennial under duration. Check the appropriate boxes under Light Requirement and Soil Moisture, and 6-12 under Height. Click on the Narrow Your Search button and the list is reduced. Clicking on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN pages that has plant characteristics, growth requirements and photos. These can help you select plants suitable for your location.

Mr. Smarty Plants often receives questions regarding privacy screens and hedges. This is a link to a previously answered question which in turn gives links to four other previously answered questions about privacy hedges in the Austin area. This may give you all of the information that you need.

 

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