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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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Tuesday - May 27, 2008

From: Floral Park, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Evergreen screening shrubs for New York
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I need evergreen screening shrubs that aren't too deep. The shrubs are to be planted along an existing wrought iron fence, which is a few feet behind a children's swing set.

ANSWER:

We are rather limited in the native evergreen shrubs that will be a good choice near a children's play area, but here are a couple:

Ilex glabra (inkberry). You can read more about several of the cultivars. Although generally a rounded shrub, it can be pruned to shape it to your space. Here is more information from Ohio State University.

Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry). You can find information for several of the cultivars from the University of Connecticut and more information from Virginia Tech. This plant does have leaves that are spiny so it might not be ideal for your area with small children.

Here are a few native evergreens to avoid because they have toxic properties:

Leucothoe fontanesiana (highland doghobble)

Kalmia spp.

Rhododendron spp.

You find information about poisonous plants in Poisonous Plants of North Carolina and Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database.

As an alternative to an evergreen shrub you might consider ferns that are evergreen and reasonably tall. Here are a few suggestions:

Dryopteris cristata (crested woodfern)

Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)


Ilex glabra

Mahonia aquifolium

Dryopteris cristata

Dryopteris marginalis

Polystichum acrostichoides
 

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