What are my options for low maintenance evergreen screen?

cityartistNovember 20, 2013

I've finally cleared a strip that was a real mess, by my wall (see pic), and need to plant some sort of screening plant, as the neighbor's house can otherwise look right in to my backyard (and a brick block wall is not the loveliest of landscaping choices!). I need 8 feet of height at least, and this is a 6-foot high wall, so no creeping vines! As you can see from the picture, we only have a roughly 12-inch wide trough in which to plant (looks like more, but the concrete base of wall takes up 8" or so under the first couple of inches of earth), and I don't want a plant with a disruptive root structure, that will break the paving, nor one that drops too many berries/pods/flowers etc...Help!!

Can anyone recommend a zone 9 tolerant (preferably drought tolerant but not absolutely necessary - I simply like to conserve water if possible), low maintenance plant that I could plant along this wall? It's about 20-feet long. Thanks!

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iris_gal(z9 CA)

This is probably the most difficult question. How to go up buy not out. And only 4 inches soil wide at the top and down a ways. So you will have to start with very young plants.

Then the problem of the neighbor's house being close. So if you were to get some 'standards' established their upper spread could cause dissension.

I would look for a near thornless 15ft climbing rose that is sold in a band (narrow container). Zephrine Drouhin comes to mind. Would require pruning maintenence as will anything with height.

A few years back Sinai posted an added height solution. It was a wood fence. At intervals a 4x4 was attached. It looked to be 2 ft. taller than the fence. Near the top of each 4x4 a hole had been drilled that allowed a heavy chain to pass thru, which was allowed to drape (not touching the top of the existing fence) before passing thru the next 4x4 post's hole. The climbing rose canes were to be attached to the chain creating the privacy height. Maybe this avoided any local rules about fence height?

I am a fan of Trachelospermum jasminoides for narrow drought spaces. But it would need support as it doesn't cling.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hoovb's narrow screening part I

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Thanks for those insights, iris_gal! You're suggestions are nice looking, but seem to either require too much maintenance for my plan, or have flowers that will drop a lot of petals. I'm tenuously leaning toward the dreaded bamboo, after further research - of course, only the clumping varieties! Not sure if this will be where I end up (I'm one of those people who love to over research things before I make a decision, so goodness only knows where I will eventually end my search!)

Right now, these are the varieties Im thinking about:

-Dwarf Malay variegated bamboo (Bambusa heterostachya)
-Murray Island Bamboo (Schizostachyum)
-Alphonse Karr
-Golden Goddess
-Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa'
-Thamnocalamus tessellatus
-Bambusa multiplex
-Umbrella bamboo

Anyone have thoughts on the matter?

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 6:48PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

I adore bamboo. Thanks for those names on 'clumpers'. I was given some black bamboo and warned not to put in the soil. Use a large pot I was told. Best advise I ever got.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 9:52PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Looking at the photo, unless your neighbor stands on a ladder inside his house, he'll have a hard time looking into your yard.

This being California, maybe he does stand on a ladder and look into your yard.

A short wrought iron "fence topper" with a vine growing up to and along it would be the most narrow solution that would allow you free movement along the side of your house. Unless the bamboo is a very vertical grower, it's going to be slapping you in the face and dropping crap into your neighbor's yard, which he may not appreciate.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 9:45PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

If you don't like that pink wall, cover it up with Parthenocissus tricuspidata, common name Boston Ivy (it's not Ivy). It's easy to manage.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 9:49PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Unfortunately, there are no plants like the one you need (everyone in Southern California needs that plant!)
The problem with bamboo is that it is really messy, and it will not grow straight up, it will lean into your narrow walkway.

If your neighbor doesn't mind, you could put a series of long terra cotta planters on top of the wall with a drip system and plant asparagus ferns.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 2:55AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I am guessing that the wall is the legal limit for a permanent structure and you can only go higher with a temporary support of no more than 2 feet. If that is so, I would suggest you add what is approved and plant two Clematis armandii. They are evergreen and will cover the whole wall easily within a couple of years, require no care, and bloom in the spring, with enough fragrance for the whole neighborhood. Al

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 9:50AM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

IMO, the plant you are looking for is Lavender Starflower (Grewia occidentalis; sometimes sold as G. caffra). Zone 9a 9b 10a 10b. Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24, H1, H2.

You will want to espalier it against the fence, but they are one of the easiest plants to espalier--the branch form is naturally flat! My current plantings are in a narrow 13"-15" planting strip along the house, but I have used them in narrower beds. They may go into a bit of shock trimming the roots of a 1 gal plant to 4" wide for your footing reduction, but these are tough customers and I would not bet against them being able to overcome the rough start with a bit of extra care.

Mine are currently about 8' tall and don't have any support other than resting against the side of our house, but a single horizontally strung wire would do the trick, if needed. They are generally listed as 6-10' height, but my SoCal experience is that espaliers easily reach 11'-15', if allowed. For all that, they are surprisingly quick and easy to keep pruned to form. They take heavy pruning like a champ, even hedging, and bounce right back.

The foliage is a nice dark green, and the 1" lavender flowers that show up mainly in spring and fall are attractive and hummingbirds like them. Not messy plants--mine have never produced much litter. The plants grow quickly from 1 gal. size; they take a little while to get going, but then make up for lost time. They are heat tolerant, wind tolerant and, once they are established, drought resistant. Mine have never been bothered by pests or diseases.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 4:51AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

espalier? I could have sworn the OP asked for "low maintenance".

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 1:25PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

Actually, I think they are very low maintenance. They are quite easily kept flat due to their form. You don't need to fuss with them as is the case with most espaliers. My three plants take less than 15 minutes per MONTH to keep in line during the growing season. When the root system gets well established (maybe after 5 years or so) they can bounce back with vigor. But they tend to grow flat and up rather than out. So I just cut off 3-4' at one time from the top when they reach that stage.

Only 2-3 plants would be needed to cover the 20' section.

Edited to add some photos. This full shot is of a plant that has not been pruned recently, because it was in bloom. It shows how the branches are still rather flat against the supporting wall.

This post was edited by Gyr_Falcon on Wed, Nov 27, 13 at 17:02

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 2:25PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

These photos show the branching form.The top part shows an unpruned branch. As you can see, it by nature does not have a lot of width. The bottom section of the photo shows how the form of the side branching is almost completely to the sides, so the branches stay rather flat against the support. Yes, there are some branches that will send out growth into other directions, but they are the exception for this plant, rather than the growth habit that is normal for most shrub plants. So there is not a lot of pruning required to remove them.

Now, I am not saying you cannot get this plant to form a round shrub with pruning. But it is rather unique in that when it is used as an espalier, it naturally wants to remain flat due to its flat branching pattern.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 5:15PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)

The OP said they have 12" to plant NET. They clearly said it looks like more than 12" but that 8" has a footing underneath. The picture clearly shows 20" of dirt between the wall and sidewalk. Compare the dirt width to the 16" long cement blocks.

They did NOT say they had 12" of dirt, 8" of which had the footing underneath.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 10:47PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

I think I got that from another post on the thread and didn't check and recalculate from the OP's information. Moot point, it seems. The original poster doesn't seem interested in the thread anymore.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 11:10PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)


Even if the OP doesn't come back to participate, you have helped other gardeners. I was very interested in your recommendations. I saved the info and sent links to a friend looking for a solution to a similar problem. Your pics and plant info are saved in my permanent reference folder.

Thanks for the info and pics!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 10:40AM
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Yes, Gyr, very helpful post. I had been deliberating on using it this past summer, and choose Pittosporum Heterophyllum instead, but seems grewia would have been an excellent choice.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 1:30PM
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