Recommendation for Privacy Hedge LA

drexciya(23)August 24, 2008


I have a situation where my neighbors built a back two story home with a balcony that overlooks my yard. I have included a photo at this link.

They are usually respectful and rarely are out on the balcony, but at times their kids go go out on there and just stare at me while I'm sitting in my own yard. As you can imagine, at times it does get to me that I can not enjoy my own back yard.

At a local Home Depot they had Brush Cherry Syzygium Paniculatum which you see against the fence in the photo.

Is this a good privacy screen to use? Any other recommendations? I'm located in Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium area)which I think I'm in the zone 23 belt.

Thank You


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I don't like the Brush Cherry because the fruit is messy! I would like to recommend something that grows fast and narrow - either clumping bamboo or a Japanese or Wax Privet; they grow very fast. I have Japanese Privet as a privacy hedge between my driveway and the neighbor's house. It has white flowers in the late spring/summer and blue berries in the winter. The birds like the berries!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 6:22PM
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lindasewandsew(So Cal 9)

Hi, This may be far fetched, but I wonder if that's a shed in the photo. It's hard to tell where you 'live' in the yard, or how big the yard is. I might want to move that shed to a spot that would block a lot of their view. Something decorative, lattice, or just a cute wood fence could be added across the top of it to further block the view. The really good thing about fast growing plants is that they grow really fast. Unfortunately, it's also the really bad thing about them, because they have to be maintained. What about a nice tree (or three) between your living area and the balcony? I have some brush cherries, and unless you trim them all the time, the fruit IS a big mess.

If you can walk in your back yard and see it from the perspective of wanting to buy the house (I know you already live there), then you can say 'If I bought this house, I'd get rid of this, move that, plant this to block that view. That can help. Also, take lots of pictures. Looking at photos of the yard can be helpful because it's different than standing in the yard. Hope that makes sense. There's also a landscaping forum here on GW where some people can do magical things with your photos and show you what a change might look like. Linda

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 7:17PM
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Thanks for the replies. The included picture is taken from the back of my house. The large structure with the aluminum roof, is a very large garage that extends from one side of the property, to the other.

Where I would want my privacy hedge, is along the fence where the cement patio is. I would like to build some planter boxes instead of breaking away at the concrete.

As far as bamboo. The local Lowes has "Alphonse Karr" "Golden Godess" & "Buddha's Belly". I think if I were to go with bamboo, Buddha's Belly would be my best bet.?

How would bamboo do in a planters box?
Also for the clumping bamboo. Would I only need a few plants and they would clump, spread together?

I will look into the Privet.

Thanks for suggesting the landscaping forum. I will also give that forum a post.

Much Appreciated.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 10:24PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I would suggest that you could either plant a tree between you and your neighbor's balcony, or a small grove of narrower trees/tall shrubs. If the goal is to screen between the viewpoint and the balcony, then planting nearer the fence within the lawn area would make the most sense. Bamboo likes more root room than a shallow container is likely to supply, and also wants a lot of regular water, so it is more difficult to keep it looking good in small planters. Clumping bamboos such as Mexican Weeping Bamboo/Otatea acuminata or Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr' are both well behaved clumpers that get approximately 15 feet tall with age. I could also see using some narrow fast growing trees on 6 to 8 foot centers near the fence such as Sweetshade Tree/Hymenosporum flavum, or one accent flowering trees such as Jacaranda or Floss Silk Tree/Chorisia speciosa. Personally I don't much like the Syzygium paniculatum because it gets insect attacks that make the foliage look funky, and the Evergreen Privet is okay, but has a rather pungent flower fragrance that is not all that inviting, and reseeds everywhere in the garden. Tall, relatively fast growing trees such as Podocarpus gracilior are also often used as screen plants in your situation, but eventually get to be quite large trees in southern California.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 3:03AM
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Thank you for the recommendations. I took back the Brush Cherry and looking into every ones recommendations. Right now I am leaning towards bamboo. I will have to look into nurseries within Los Angeles that sell larger mature plants.

Thank You


    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 11:40PM
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I don't think you should plant bamboo in the open ground. It spreads and is IMPOSSIBLE to remove.

How about an Italian Cypruss? They are narrow and will grow tall enough to block the view. They're also drought tolerant.

I also use a combo of privets and brush cherry. The privets are nice but they can have shallow roots. The cherry is fast but I'm not sure about the mess from the fruit either. Trimming the flowers will help.

The fastest screen I've used is a Cypruss leylandii. They are wider than the Italian versions (4 - 6 feet) and really fast. Mine is in my 'drought' section of the yard and is doing fine.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 3:04PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

I had two plantings of giant bamboo in my Malibu yard. I don't know the variety, there are lots of giant bamboos, but they were 3-4" thick and grew a good 20 feet high. They weren't the kind that spread like crazy, but did slowly spread outward from the original clump. One clump ended up about 12' wide and 4' across. One year the fire department required all the bamboo be cut down to the ground. It took about 3 years for it to grow back to 15 feet and within 5 years was as large as the original.

I think you'll find bamboo sold in nurseries, at least the large kind, is very expensive. There is the American Bamboo Society, with a web site and more information than you'll know what to do with. If they have local chapters in your area, you might find meetings where people offer up bamboo when it gets to be too much for the space they have.

I once dug up about 6 giant bamboo roots/shoots/individuals and it was a lot of work. It's a bit like digging (cutting off) banana plant babies, but a lot harder since the material is so much tougher than a banana trunk.

Also , my brother (Venice, Ca) planted bamboo along his fence for the same reason you want to, a neighbor built a 2 story building across the alley. It worked really well and looks very nice now, about 8 years later.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2008 at 11:58PM
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davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)

You might want to look at the pictures in this link, it is by a bamboo company that specializes in privacy fences, has some info about potted bamboo screens as well. If nothing else, it gives you an idea of what it will look like in the end, and what clumping varieties of bamboo work well as hedges.

Here is a link that might be useful: bamboo hedges

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 4:08PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hi Ralph,
Don't plant bamboo against a fence without a barrier or your neighbor may take out a contract on your life.
We planted Golden Bamboo to screen out the bright orange truck lifts up against our back chain-link fence. We got the bamboo for free from a friend who has been battling it for years. The auto mechanic behind us has cement slab on his side, which stops the bamboo. After spending 250 bucks on Bamboo Guard and digging a 28" deep trench on our side to contain it, it eats up about eight to ten feet of the back yard. Don't forget the sides! We did, and now I get to go over to my neighbor's and dig out bamboo.

That said, it's beautiful, it blocked out the orange truck lifts in two years, and the birds love it. It requires almost no water. My other neighbors are considering it so they don't have to look at all the motorhomes the mechanic parks against their back fence. I hope they go for it. I'm getting tired of digging.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 4:23PM
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wanda(Z9 CA)

Yikes! You definitely need privacy. If it were my yard, I would plant Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman'. I have 3 in my back yard as a screen from my neighbor's 2 story house. They grew extremely fast for me, are drought-tolerant (once established), native, and have beautiful blue blooms.

I also planted Pacific Wax Myrtle and Carolina Laurel Cherry to act as a screen. Neither have been as fast as the Ceanothus, although I do like them both.

I have a privet and their berries are messy and not a good choice if you have allergies when they are blooming. They also shed a ton of old leaves in the summer.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 5:43PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

Dodonaea viscosa hasn't been mentioned, if I read thoroughly. Wanda has excellent ideas and she should know with her knowlegde and experience.

We had Eugenias between our neighbor's pool & us. They worked wel but understand a pest has appeared in SoCal that attacks them. They also produced a show of berries that some wouldn't appreciate.

Here my neighbor has the Dodonaea (Hopseed bush), green (more) and red (fewer) leafed versions and they are kept to a width of approx. 4 feet. Hers are about 12 feet tall altho they grow to 15 feet. Fast growers. I think she has them pruned once or twice a year to keep the width down.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 6:40PM
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Thank all of you for the recommendations. I'm a bit late to respond as I had left town for the week.

At the Lowes in Burbank, they had Oldham's bamboo (Bambusa Oldhamii) giant bamboo. They had 3.5 gallon plants for $30. I picked up the last of there stock (Four), which should cover the area at 5'to 6' spacing.

I will need to cut away the concrete that runs to the property line. So hopefully I can get started soon.

Thanks for the info on the Bamboo running all over the place. I will dig deep and place some kind of barrier along the property. Might use the slim half sized cinder blocks and cement them. A bit of work, but sounds like it will save me from future frustrations.

How deep should I dig for a barrier? I'm not sure on the root system for bamboo.

So what I'm thinking, is cutting away 3' to 4' of concrete from the fence, running the length of the current patio, as you can see in the photo where the concrete meets the yard. Placing a barrier in the ground to keep the bamboo from running over to the neighbors. I will likely raise a bed up from the concrete. Sort of like this.

I am very excited as I can start enjoying my own yard without peeping eyes.

Other forums can be a bit hostile at times. So thank You for all your help.

One last question. That concrete has been covering that soil since the 30's. So I will have to replace or condition that soil. Any suggestions on what I should do?
Any recommendations for a supplier that delivers soil?
Not sure if it's too big of an area to just use bags that are sold at Home Depot & Lowes.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 1:12AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It would probably be easier to trench for plastic bamboo rhizome barriers, which can be installed as a continuous ring around the planting area to a 30 inch depth, and done more easily than cementing concrete block, and will actually be more resistant to bamboo escaping than the concrete. The Timber Bamboo you purchased is not a running type bamboo, but will still eventually want to expand beyond a 3 foot diameter with age, so an edging barrier is not a bad idea. I would suggest that the 4 foot width for planting area is a good minimum width.

As to need to improve your soil, adding organic soil amendments to your probably clay soil won't hurt. You can have bulk material by the cubic yard delivered to your residence from any reputable landscape materials supply company in your area, look them up in the yellow pages. Be aware that bamboo loves water, so don't expect it to do much unless you irrigate in summer. Also, bamboo spends the first year growing roots, the second year pushing up the first new rhizomes, and not until the third year does it really start to give you privacy. Until then, feed and water to get maximum speed of growth. I do hope that you really wanted 30 to 40 feet tall bamboo, because that is what you will ultimately get...

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 2:35AM
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I will look into picking up the Bamboo Barrier.

Would I also need to place the barrier on the side of the concrete?
The slab is about 4". Not sure if it would cause cracking in the cement.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 8:26PM
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davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)

Bambusa's are clumpers and don't really need a barrier. Google "clumping versus running bamboos" and see for yourself.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 11:15AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hey Ralph, the bamboo barrier is much less work that cinderblock, it's cheaper, it works better, and it is thin, so it will not take up space. 80 feet cost me about 200 bucks.

The reason I mention this even though you have purchased a clumper is that with the height of the Oldham's, you may want to interplant with another shorter species. From what bahia says, the leaves of your bamboo might not shield you from the neighbor's view for long.

Let us know what the soil looks like under that slab, ok? It might not be as bad as you think. You may be able to soak it, turn it, and add amendments by the bag.

I think it will be beautiful.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 3:12PM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

Good choice Ralph. Not only will it lend a tropical air to your garden but the sound of breeze or wind through bamboo is heavenly. Plus you can cut the culms for making fences, trellis, stakes, and the new sprouts are even edible.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 8:00PM
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I will follow up soon with some pictures. I have cut away the concrete. It's a hard clay. Next weekend I will build the small retaining wall.

Several of you recommended mixing another bamboo with it for better screening. I will also ask this in the bamboo forum.

What should other bamboo should I use to mix with the Oldham?
Lowes is currently carrying Alphonse Karr, Buddha's Belly, Golden Goddess & Golden Bamboo. Will any of these work?

Initially I wanted a 4' bed from the fence. Unfortunately that wide of a bed was not going to work, so the bed is just over 3' at 38" wide of soil. So 38" x 25'.

Thank You


    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 9:29PM
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I'd support the earlier poster who suggested you might do something with the tent--not instead of a permanent screen, but as a temporary solution while you create the permanent planting and wait for it to grow.

You could buy another one of those tent/gazebo things, just to give you somewhere private to sit outside now while your larger plantings get established. Put some comfy outdoor furniture in it and you'll have a private nook for yourself while your plants grow.

If you want to create a more permanent privacy nook, use sheets of woven lattice to enclose your tent on three sides (leaving the opening facing away from the neighbours) and plant climbers through--and across the top of, to form a roof--the lattice. When the climbers are thick enough, you could then remove the tent/gazebo and enjoy the privacy of your own eco-friendly outdoor room. Choose a scented climber and you'll be enveloped in fragrance as you sit outside in your garden. And you'll have protection from the hot sun too.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 9:13PM
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trpool(10, Sunset 24)

I have a very tall (at least 12 feet) Podocarpus gracillior hedge on 3 sides of my yard which serves as a privacy screen from 2-story neighbors on all sides. We have a pool, and although it doesn't break up concrete and is an effective screen, it is a MAJOR maintenance chore and I wouldn't recommend it, unless you like getting up on a ladder and trimming constantly. I would love to rip it out.

I also have an Australian willow (Geijera parviflora), which is an evergreen, very pretty, slighty weeping, not a lot of litter, well-behaved-roots tree. This might be a good solution for what looks like a narrow spot where the neighbor's balcony is and where your concrete starts. I've seen them grow with either a roundish canopy or taller and narrower canopy. When choosing a tree, if you want a narrower silhouette, pick a young tree that's narrower. It casts light shade and isn't a dense tree like some others, but it will certainly soften the intrusion from the neighbors and provide some relief from the kiddies.

Another favorite of mine which many people may eschew, is Nichol's eucaplyptus (or Eucalyptus nicholii). I have three of them and I love them. They are tall, as tall as my 2-story house, and willowy. They grow in very narrow spots and don't break up concrete. They don't get as tall as the eucalpytus you seen along the freeways (E. citriodora). The E. citriodora (or lemon gum) is also susceptible to the psyllid which is killing many of them. (I had a lemon gum which got the pysllid and a nicholii 10 feet away from it which didn't. I had the citriodora removed and the nicholii is still just fine.) Some people however, complain that because of the toxins in the eucalyptus leaves, they can't grow anything below them. I don't have that problem, but you might want to keep that in mind. They are also very difficult to find, but there are nurseries that can order them if you really want one.

I recently had a large melaleuca tree removed because it was too close to the pool and was about to bust through. We are now naked to the world (or so it seems) in that spot. Rather than plant more of the hedge-from-hell, I plan to to plant a naturalistic collection of evergreen trees and plants that will act as a hedge, but not require the constant upkeep of a hedge. I'm in Huntington Beach, BTW.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 2:18AM
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I've got a question. Which (if any) clumping bamboo can take full afternoon sun, in a 3foot wide bed (plenty long tho) and grows about 10 feet high or can be continuously pruned to that height? I'm tired of living with my bedroom shades closed all the time due to direct window view of neighbor 9 feet away (my three feet plus her driveway). I'm in Long Beach so marine layer factors in a bit but the side strip usually bakes in the afternoon.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 2:21AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Suzy, you may want to pose this question on the Bamboo forum as well.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 1:44PM
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I did but no one answered...

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 1:49AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hmm, there might not be a clumping bamboo that suits your specs. I have Golden Bamboo, which is a running kind. It's the height you want and it's pretty, but it's tough to contain. Perhaps you should start a new thread asking for suggestions for that spot. Have you seen the FAQ on narrow privacy hedges?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 1:38AM
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