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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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Friday - May 01, 2015

From: Austin, TX
Region: Select Region
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title:
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Greetings! I am hoping to gain privacy on a 30' swath with existing 6' privacy fence, I need about 14' of height to hide unsightly apartments. Location is full sun without a nearby spigot, I can cart water out, it's about 40' from my house, so ideally minimal water needs. I am looking for a quick growing, evergreen something to plant.. We see the apartments from our back porch and they are just a few feet from the fence, so would like privacy ASAP. Any advice would be much appreciated!

ANSWER:

What could give you privacy ASAP would be a 14’ privacy fence, but it would be a violation of building code in Austin. Plants are going to take longer.

Let me tell you how to use our Native Plant Database  to select some plants to do this job.  Our Native Plant Database  contains 7,161 plants that are searchable by scientific name or common name.  There are several ways to use this feature to find plants, and I will show you just a couple.  Click on the Native Plant Data Base link, scroll down to the Combination Search box, and make the following selections: select Texas under State, Shrubs under General Appearance, and Perennial under Lifespan. Under Light Requirement, and Soil Moisture check the boxes that fit your situation, and check 12-36’ under Height Characteristics. Click on the Submit combination Search button and you will get a list of 43 native species from which to chose. Clicking on each of the Scientific names will bring up its NPIN page that gives the characteristics of the plant, its growth requirements, and in most cases, photos.

To use the Recommended Species lists, go to the Native Plant Database and click on Recommended Species Lists just above the search box. This takes you to the Special Collections where you will find the "Recommended Species by State "box. Clicking on Texas-Central will bring up a list of 156 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Central Texas. After reading through a few of these you’ll realize that all of them aren’t shrubs, and you need to narrow your search. Go to the ”Narrow Your Search” box on the left of the screen and make the selections that you did before. You can get several different lists by changing the selections in the Narrow Your Search box.

Mr. Smarty Plants often gets questions regarding hedges as privacy screens. I am going to take this opportunity to share the ancient wisdom of the “green gurus” by referring you to some previously answered questions (really not that ancient). 

Austin, TX  #2080

Austin, TX  #4355

Be aware that whatever you plant is going to require adequate watering in order to become establised, so you need to include an appropriate lenght garden hose to the budget for this project.

 

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August 03, 2011 - Could you recommend a medium-sized shrub/bush (max height of 6-7 feet) to plant along a privacy fence (purpose is to conceal the fence from the street view per HOA)? I live in Zone 8.
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