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Trees, Shrubs That Keep Your Life Private

April 17, 1999|U.C. MASTER GARDENERS

Question: What kinds of shrubs or trees make a good privacy screen?

S.K., Aliso Viejo

Answer: A variety of trees and shrubs that grow in Orange County can provide privacy. Some of the denser plants even help block noise.

Whether you wish to plant shrubs or trees depends on the height necessary.

Here are some to choose from:

* Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum): Grows to a large evergreen shrub, or small tree. Can reach 30 feet high and wide. Has white blooms in spring. Space 1 to 6 feet apart for screen or clipped hedge.

* Catalina cherry (Prunus lyonii): Evergreen shrub that can be pruned to a desired height, left as an informal hedge or allowed to grow to a 45-foot tree. Has white blooms April through May. Can drop fruit, so not good near sidewalks or patios. Drought-tolerant once established.

* Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster): Vigorous growing shrub that requires little maintenance or water, once established. C. lacteus is an evergreen shrub with an arching habit that reaches 8 feet or taller. Good informal screen or espalier.

* Escallonia (Escallonia): Evergreen shrub that can be sheared as a hedge (sacrifices some blooms). Good screening plant. E. bifida can be kept at 8 to 10 feet to screen an unwanted view, or if allowed to grow will reach 25 feet as a small tree.

* Himalyan cocculus (Cocculus laurifolius): Evergreen shrub/small tree that grows slowly at first, then rapidly reaches 25 feet or more. Can be pruned to keep lower and trained as an espalier. Long, willowy branches take umbrella-form as a tree.

* Holly (Ilex): Evergreen shrub or tree. I. altaclarensis 'Wilsonii' is a 6- to 8-foot shrub that can be grown to a 15- to 20-foot tree. Select both male and female varieties to ensure bright red berry production.

* Hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa): Fast-growing evergreen shrub that is great clipped as a hedge or unclipped as a screen. Plant 3 feet apart for clipped hedge and 6 feet apart for tall, wide, unpruned screen.

* Juniper (Juniperus): There is a large variety of juniper shrubs to choose from. These 8-foot shrubs to 40-foot trees provide suitable hedges and screens.

* Melaleuca (Melaleuca): Evergreen shrub and tree. Choose a small variety to use as a clipped hedge or unclipped informal screen, such as the drooping melaleuca (M. armillaris). This grows 15 to 30 feet with white blooms. Gray honey myrtle (M. incana), grows 9 feet high and wide, with gray, furry foliage and yellowish blooms. This malaleuca can also be shaped into a small tree.

* Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata): Also known as mock orange, this plant has fast growth to 6 to 8 feet high and wide. Fragrant white blooms early spring into April and sporadically throughout summer. Likes full sun near coast and light shade inland.

* Orange jessamine (Murraya paniculata): A 6- to 15-foot wide and tall evergreen shrub with white scented blooms in late summer and fall.

* Pittosporum: Evergreen shrub comes in a variety of sizes and forms. P. crassifolium has gray-green leaves and can be kept from 6 to 10 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide with yearly pruning. P. tobira can be kept to 6 feet by heading back.

* Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens): A 6- to 8-foot-tall shrub with purple or white blooms. Can be used as clipped hedges.

* Wax-leaf privet (Ligustrum japonicum): Evergreen hedge that becomes dense and compact and reaches 10 to 12 feet tall.

* Weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis): Fast growth to 20 to 30 feet, 15-foot spread; bright red brushes May through July. Cultivar 'McCaskilii' is more dense in habit and more vigorous, with better flower color and form.

Have a problem in your yard? University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners are here to help. These certified horticultural volunteers are dedicated to extending research-based, scientifically accurate information to the public about home horticulture and pest management. They are involved with a variety of outreach programs, including the UCCE Master Garden hotline, which provides answers to specific questions. You can reach the hotline at (714) 708-1646 or send e-mail to ucmastergardeners Calls and e-mail are picked up daily and are generally returned within three days.

Making the Green Scene

* Have your questions answered by UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners when you visit their booth at the Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza today and Sunday ([714] 435-2160), and the Green Scene Garden Show at the Fullerton Arboretum on April 24-25, ([714] 278-3404). Literature on killer bees and fire ants will be available. The group will also be selling a variety of beneficial insects.

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