Privacy hedge in LA

sheckylovejoy(USDA 10a Sunset 19)April 30, 2014

Hi. We're looking to put up a privacy hedge which will rather long (>150 ft). After doing lots of research, I've narrowed it down to either

Podocarpus gracilior
Podocarpus macrophyllus maki
Podocarpus macrophyllus
Ligustrum japonicum

I like the look of the Ligustrum the best, but the berries are a pain, and they are also a little invasive.

On the other hand, I'm worried that we won't be able to get a nice thick hedge with the Podocarpus. A privacy hedge with holes in it is sort of useless.

Any thoughts on which is best and how to plant? Thanks

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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

How much height do you need for the hedge, what is the width of the bed/growing area, what is the amount of sun and heat the section receives, and by what method do you plan to maintain the size of the hedge? Is the hedge to be against an open fence (see-through, such as chain link) or solid (cinder block/similar), or stand alone?

There is no law that states the hedge needs to be all one species of plant; in fact, there are a few landscape rules that might suggest that a row of one plant is often not the best choice. Some depth and illusion can be a powerful element in landscape design.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:28PM
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sheckylovejoy(USDA 10a Sunset 19)

Point taken in your second paragraph Gyr_Falcon, but I find mixed hedges often look messy. We want a nice tight wall of green.

To answer your questions in the first paragraph:

The hedge will be between 7' and 8'

The width of the bedding area can be whatever we want, since we are also pulling up the lawn and replacing it with flower beds and a veggie patch. Right now there is 3' between the fenceline and the edge of the lawn.

The light situation is full sun all day every day

Irrigation will be 12" spacing 1/2" drip hose in a figure-8 pattern

Plan to maintain by letting it grow to desired height, then trimming the top with the hope of getting a nice flat top. I'd also like to get a nice flat green front on the street.

Currently there is an old rotting white picket fence, which we are going to repair or replace with another, non-rotting white picket fence. It's variable, but it's about 42" high at the highest. I think this will give a nice white frame to the green wall.

Anyway, thanks for taking an interest. I look forward to your responses.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 5:08PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The podocarpus makes a good privacy screen. My neighbors--I think she has her guys shear it twice a year. It has gotten dense pretty quickly.

The Ligustrum--sheared as a hedge, it doesn't bloom that much and you don't get a lot of the berries. If you shear it right after it blooms around this time of the year, you can get rid of any developing berries. Ligustrum is going to take a little time to get to 8', but this is a pretty darn tough plant that can live as a great screen for decades. I planted my hedge as 1 gallons about 18 months ago and it's about 6' tall now, though not all that dense yet.

I prefer Podocarpus because it is simply a gorgeous plant, one of my favorites for beauty, but either of your choices is going to be a good screen as long as you maintain it well. The Ligustrum would have an initial cheaper price as Podocarpus are more expensive, but initial price is not the major cost of the hedge in the long term--irrigation water and maintenance are.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 3:41PM
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sheckylovejoy(USDA 10a Sunset 19)

Thanks hoovb. That's definitely a nice podocarpus screen, though I think we'd go with a more manicured look once it gets going. Do you have any preferences about the different species? I feel like the macrophallus or macrophallus maki make a better hedge, but mostly what I see around here (SF Valley) is gracillius.

I must admit, I love the cleaner look of the Ligustrum and that we can keep the berries to a minimum, but I still worry about it's propensity to get everywhere.

Who know this would be such a difficult choice? I've been researching for a month now.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 3:58PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I researched new trees for the front of the house for three years! Happily my choice is working out fantastically well (so far). Take your time. It is worth it.

For the size you stated, if it was my hedge I would do the P. m. maki, simply because the natural size is close to the proposed size of your hedge. I try to work with the DNA of the plant as much as possible, but that one is going to be a little slower than the others.

Of course you must already know the classic old choice for screens was Syzygium paniculatum (Eugenia myrtifolia) but the arrival of the Eugenia psyllid changed all that. Here the release of the predatory wasp has made them an option again, but that may not be true in your area. For a smoothly sheared wall of green, you really can't beat it. Mine gets a bit of damage, but looks really good overall. Then there is the 'Green Tower' boxwood which will get 7' fairly quickly, but SFV is pretty hot for that unless it is in shade. Even here close to the coast the ones I have in shade are much prettier--they don't yellow up.

I've spent a long time thinking about privacy screens! How I hated looking out my bathroom window only to see my neighbor's bathroom window. How happy I was to find precisely the right plant and see green foliage instead.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 3:47PM
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I have three of the plants listed in my garden. It seems to me like the Podocarpus gracilior is more thirsty than the
Podocarpus macrophyllus or Ligustrum. I actually love the leaf litter of the gracilior, it is like self mulch and looks nice.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 4:20PM
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sheckylovejoy(USDA 10a Sunset 19)

One last thing. If I go with the Maki, what sort of spacing should I use?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 7:51PM
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I have a very, very large podocarpus gracilior hedge I refer to as Hedgezilla on 3 sides of my backyard that we planted about 15 years ago. While it does provide much-needed privacy...I hate it. It's a bear to maintain. It provides no wildlife benefits. And I hate the fake, man-made monocultural effect it has on the garden. I would love to tear it out, but I think we would suffer shock from the loss of privacy. Instead, I have begun planting a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees in front of it where I have room (and repeating certain ones for continuity) that will provide screening when mature. Some are weeping, some are upright, some are native, etc. and will provide wildlife benefits and provide visual interest. While needing some trimming or lacing out occasionally, these plants won't require the constant, overwhelming maintenance the hedge does. And it's more interesting, in my opinion. Since I'm not a professional designer, I'll read and study, and stare at the hedge to envision what I should do next and where I should put something. Hopefully, when my new plants are bigger, I can gradually get rid of the hedge. It's a work in progress, though. I'm not sure how many feet we have, but it's a lot, and 150 feet of it, I think, might be more than you bargained for.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:13PM
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