Help me select a (very specific) screen shrub?

mc510(9b)June 3, 2011

I'm in need of a tall shrub to create a screen effect in my front yard at the street, but I'm having difficulty identifying the right plant. Perhaps because I have a ridiculously specific, and possibly contradictory, set of criteria! But if anyone wants to take up the challenge, I'd love to hear your thoughts for a plant that is:

1. Evergreen, or at least mostly evergreen in moderate coastal climate.

2. Will grow fairly fast to 8 to 10 feet, and can be held at that height with, say, modest annual pruning.

3. Upright growth, with an attractive branching structure and is not too dense (i.e., I don't want a solid green wall; I want to be able to prune it so that you can see through the foliage)

4. Doesn't require much summer water (I'm in a cool coastal climate, so it doesn't have to be fully drought-tolerant, but it can't require constantly moist soil).

5. Not attractive to deer.

6. Not too wild, weedy, or desert-y in appearance. Foliage that is a nice green, rather than dull gray or gray-green.

What I've thought of so far is Pyracantha 'victory' (not crazy about the berries or the thorns, though) or Cotoneaster (not crazy about the berries or the dull green).

Some other ideas that I've had are Ligustrum obtusifolium (I think this is typically deciduous, but I don't know about my area), or maybe some kind of evergreen Viburnum (though I'm not really familiar with them).

Any thoughts about the plants that I've nominated, or any other/better suggestions? Thanks

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Cape Honeysuckle tecoma capensis
It will quickly get to 10 feet in a year and can get to 8 feet wide also. The bottom can be dense but the top will have upright and arching branches.
I have seen it 20x20x20. I cut mine back twice a year to 3 feet tall and let it get to 6-7 feet.
The foliage is bright green and comes in orange, yellow or red flowers. Hummers and bees love it.
It might be a bit aggressive for you and the you might not want bees around in front.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 9:19PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

How wide can it get? That will make a difference in the recommendations.

I love pyracantha.

Duranta repens- especially the purple-flowered variety or the variegated ones. They grow tall fast, stay wispy if you don't shear them, come in different foliage colors, nice growth habit. Don't know about deer. They require summer water, but do not require constant moisture. My variegated green and gold one has large thorns, but they are few and far between and very long, so they are easily avoided. I have not seen thorns on my deep green ones.

The white flowering varieties do not grow as fast, and avoid the groundcover variety!

I'll try to find a photo of one of mine.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 12:37AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Here are a few fuzzy photos of two of my durantas- a variegated green and gold and a variegated white and green. The plain green ones have been eaten by other shrubs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Duranta photos

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 1:34AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

There is at least one conflicting set of requirements here; fast growth yet controlled height with only annual pruning. You might consider using more herbaceous plants such as some of the South African Restios. Elegia capensis and Chondropetalum tectorum might fit the bill perfectly. A couple of California natives that will top out at that height might include Arctostaphylos densiflorus 'Sentinel', or Carpenteria californica 'Elizabeth'. Some of the South African Proteas such as Leucadendron salignum 'Winter Red'/'Summer Red'/'Blush', might also work well. Nandina domestica could also fit the bill.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 10:53AM
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Thanks all for those quick and insightful responses; I'll try to answer some of your questions.

bahia, by "fast growth" I dont' really expect it to grow to 8 feet in 1 year ... but it would be nice if it got there in maybe 4 or 5 years. I don't really want a herbaceous plant here if I can help it (mostly just for aesthetic reasons). Carpenteria I like, but I understand it to grow very slowly; Nandia suffers terribly from powdery mildew in my climate. I actually have a small 'Sentinel', maybe i should try to move it to this position! I need to read up on your other suggestions.

Size/spread: 8 ft tall and 8ft wide is okay, except that I'll need to prune it to maybe 4 feet deep. Some plants can accommodate this (Pyracantha, e.g.) and some probably can't be well pruned this way.

hosenemesis, your garden is gorgeous! I'll look some more into duranta.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 11:09AM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Renee, I want to be you when I grow up! Those photos look like something out of a magazine. I feel so lucky to have you and bahia here doling out such wonderful advice.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 9:23PM
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How about pineapple guava?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pineapple Guava

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 1:34AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

How about one of the nice Pittosporum tenuifoliums? I had the same identical set of requirements to create a nice screen around the east side of my greenhouse. You have some very nice hybrids to chose from, 'Silver Sheen' which has a lovely silvery color and black stems, 'Majorie Channon', which is variegated. Both have a more open habit than the species, especially 'Silver Sheen', and lacy looking. If you want something a little more full, the regular Pittosporum tenuifolium species is really very nice, a nice shade of green against black stems. Grows quickly and prunes up very easily as well. I put mine on drips and pretty much forget about it until I need to prune it up a little. It will grow in full sun and in shade very nicely.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: San Marcos Growers: Pittosporum teniufolium

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 10:47AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Loribee, I'm going to print out your comment and frame it- I feel so jazzed at being put into the same sentence as bahia!

I think Hoovb wrote about these pittosporums somewhere, maybe on her blog, and she liked Marjorie Channon as I dimly recall. They do have a wonderfully lacy look. My silver sheen is more of a tree, but I think most people keep them as hedges. Very pretty.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 11:50PM
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hoosierquilt, I've actually been thinking about 'silver sheen' for a different location. I do like it a lot and I could use it in the spot that I'm asking about here ... but the shrub that I'm fantasizing about has a more sinuous and substantial branching structure than does the pittosporum. But if I don't land on my fantasy shrub, I might well come back to 'silver sheen'; it's quite attractive.

melikeeatplants, pineapple guava has exactly the structure that I'm hoping for, but I'm hoping for a more bright green foliage. I grew up with pineapple guavas at home, and I must admit I don't care for the fruit either.

Oh my, I feel like I'm just shooting down all the ideas that everyone is gamely offering. I *do* appreciate all of the suggestions!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 12:52AM
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How about Dodonea viscosa (Hopbush)?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 2:23PM
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I love dodonea! So much that I already have it in a nearby spot. Also, what I'm hoping for in this particular spot is a plant with more of a spreading branch structure (like Pyracantha, Cotoneaster, or feijoa); dodonea and pittosporum have what I think of as a fastigiate structure ... nice, but not what I'm hoping for in this spot.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 4:53PM
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Leaves might be too grayish, but I'm going to throw it out there about Lavatera maritima?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 5:45PM
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Yeah, Lavatera maritima doesn't have the color (lush green) or the shape (upright/spreading/vase) that I'm hoping for.

Dang; this is a tough one.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 2:18PM
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I just had an idea while browsing at the nurery: Manzanita 'Dr Hurd'. It doesn't have the rich green foliage that I'm hoping for, but it's still more green than gray. And in other respects it seem to fit most of my requirements. Not to mention that I generally love Mazanita. Probably my leading contender at the moment

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 3:15PM
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Lydia Lee

I ended up going with Azara dentata for a screen--I needed something that would take deep shade and top out at around 15 feet. It's pretty slow-growing but I love the branching habit. It has cute round leaves and yellow powder-puff flowers in the spring. Doesn't sound like it would be a good fit for your situation if manzanita is your top choice, but just FYI.

Here is a link that might be useful: Azara dentata

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 1:28PM
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Hi Cowper; I did notice Azara dentata while browsing for inspiration at the nursery ... but I've never seen a mature one, so I didn't give it too much thought. It sounds like it might make a pretty dense hedge; is that right in your experience? (I guess yours is in the shade; my full-sun site will probably make most plants a little more dense than if they were in the shade.)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 11:02PM
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Update -- I'm now leaning towards one of the large, 12-footish, Escallonia ... E. bifida; E. exoniensis 'Balfouri'; E. laevis; E. rubra. Though they seem to be not that widely available; hopefully my local nursery could locate them somewhere. Anyone have any experience with any of these?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 4:26PM
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I have a hedge of Escallonia that is about 30 years old that protects a front fence from taggers. It is in a 3 foot wide planting strip but actually wants to be wider. I have controlled the hedge with two or three prunings a year. It is about 10 to 12 feet tall and a rather dense hedge. I cut it back drastically last year to better control the width and have more blooms. Since it is so narrow shearing it sacrificed a lot of the blooms. It does great in the sun but part of the fence line (125 feet long) is shaded by a large Brazilian Pepper tree. In the shaded area it grows more slowly and not as tall, 8 to 10 feet, or quite as dense. The shaded foliage is yellow and green where the sunniest areas are very bold green. It has done a great job as a hedge and I love it. I'm trying to locate some Escallonia Rubra Macrantha, Escallonia Laevis and Escallonia Bifida to replace about 80 feet of a back fence area that had large Oleanders, red, white and pink, hiding some high power towers that are unsightly. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate the large Escallonias here in the SF Bay Area. I have tried many nurseries both retail and wholesale with no luck in finding them. Only the dwarf varieties (5 to 6 feet) are available here. I bought the original Escallonias from a nursery I used to work for, since sold out to developers. If anyone knows where to purchase them in Northern California please let me know. I have been very pleased with Escallonias and want more. BTW, extra fertilizer and Foliar Iron seem to cure the "varigated" yellow and green leaves which are rather attractive in a way. Good luck in your quest.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 5:47PM
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Hi joekona, I ended up with Escallonia Iveyi, which I found at Berkeley Hort nursery. I don't think it, or any unusual Escaonia, are in their regular stock, but they might be able to order what you want. It took about two years to get well established, about 4ft tall now and adding 12 to 18 inches per year.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 6:32PM
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Hi, the E. Iveyi is a very nice plant but too small for my needs. At four feet yours are about full grown. I think that is about max for E. Iveyi. Thanx for recommending Berkeley Hort Nursery. I will call them on Monday to see if they can help.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 11:13PM
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Did anyone suggest Xylosma or Grewia?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 4:43PM
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Mc510, correction for size of Escallonia Iveyi. They grow to 3 or 4 meters tall not 3 or 4 feet. That was a misprint from a site giving info on Escallonia. Sorry for the mistake. I hope it didn't cause anyone any problem.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 2:28PM
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