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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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Sunday - June 24, 2012

From: Boones Mill, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shade Tolerant
Title: Evergreens for privacy in VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I need fast growing evergreens or large shrubs, flowering or non-flowering, for privacy. They will need to flourish among large oak and hickory trees that are 75 plus years old. We don't want to damage established tree root systems, which may or may not be a problem. There is little to no direct sun due to the trees. We live in Roanoke, Virginia.

ANSWER:

I imagine that you already suspect that your situation is difficult and your choices limited.

As a matter of fact, when you consider all the variables, the only evergreen that will grow in dry shade to a height of more than six feet and is native to your area is Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon).  If you are willing to give the plants supplemental water you can add Ilex glabra (Inkberry) and Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) to the list.  They are all plants that are commonly used for screening and could do the job for you.  It is unlikely that they will grow quickly, though, as life is not easy in the soil between the roots of 75 year old trees.

It is impossible for us to make a recommendation about a situation we cannot actually see, but you may need to look at alternative ways to create the privacy you need.  A landscape designer may have suggestions of how to combine sections of fence and plant groupings in strategic locations to avoid planting directly below those grand old trees.

 

From the Image Gallery


Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Inkberry
Ilex glabra

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

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