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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

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 - July 30, 2013

From: El Cerrito, CA
Region: California
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Fast-growing tree for privacy in Berkeley, CA
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Help. I need fast growing tree for backyard privacy. Where in Berkeley is there a tree nursery to Buy Pittosporum trees? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Our focus and expertise here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are with plants native to North America.  Pittosporum species are native to Japan and China so it is not a tree that we would recommend for you to grow.   We can, however, recommend several native evergreen trees that would make a good privacy screen for you and would grow better than an imported non-native.  Here are a few evergreen trees and large shrubs that are native to your area:

Calocedrus decurrens (Incense cedar) can grow to 50 feet tall, but can also be pruned into a hedge shape.  It has a fast growth rate (to 20 feet or so) when young, but then slows down.  Here is more information and a photo from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber [synonym=Cercocarpus betuloides] (Birch-leaf mountain-mahogany) can grow to about 20 feet.   Here is more information from Santa Barbara City College.

Arctostaphylos manzanita (Whiteleaf manzanita) is a small tree, growing to about 15 feet.  Here is information about a variety called Dr. Hurd from Las Pilitas Nursery in Escondido and Santa Margarite, CA.

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (Blue blossom) is a small tree that can grow to 18 feet with blue flowers in the spring.  Here is more information from Plants for a Future.

Garrya elliptica (Wavyleaf silktassel) grows to 10 feet. Here is more information from Sonoma County Master Gardeners.

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) can grow to 15-20 feet and has bright red berries in the winter.  Here is more information from the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Morella californica [synonym=Myrica californica] (California wax myrtle) grows 10 to 25 feet high and has aromatic foliage.   Here is more information from Great Plant Picks.

You can find all these plants at Bay Natives in San Francisco.  The East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society also has a nursery, Native Here Nursery, located in Berkeley.  Check their webpage for contact information for the hours and the stock they have available.  You can check for other sources in your area by searching in our National Suppliers Directory.

 

From the Image Gallery


Smooth mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber

Blueblossom
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus

Toyon
Heteromeles arbutifolia

More Privacy Screening Questions

Large shrub or tree for front door in Houston
January 16, 2013 - I am in search of a shrub or tree to plant next to my front door. I want a showy medium sized shrub or tree (8 to 12 ft), decorative, and a privacy screen since my front door faces my next door neig...
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February 28, 2015 - I am wanting an evergreen shrub 6-8 ft tall to use as a screen in our backyard. Do you have any suggestions?
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May 04, 2013 - I live in Temecula and need a fast growing tree by our pool that is good to block neighbors house.
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July 31, 2013 - I need a solid row of screen tree / shrubs that are at least 10 feet (prefer 12) tall and can be kept trimmed to a narrow (6 foot or less?) width. Will be planted against a 6' cement wall facing west...
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Evergreen shrub/small tree for screen in southern California
August 06, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants - I would like to find an evergreen hedge, ~15-20' (or so) to screen a busy road (noise and visual). I'm zone 8b - 92539 (close to) - light snow in winter (to -25) and can ge...
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