Need advice on very fast-growing, dense privacy hedge

pierce_phillips(7a)October 12, 2007

Hi everyone! My name is Pierce; I'm new here on these forums; and I've recently moved from Virginia to Henderson, North Carolina (Zone 7a) where I need an awesome hedge!

I live on an acre of land -- it's a corner lot, with a 6' chain-link fence around the entire perimeter. And while the fence is great for keeping my dogs inside (and other dogs out), it provides no privacy. I've learned, since moving to Henderson, that I have arrived in a fairly high-crime neighborhood where a lot of folks (mostly 20-something-year-old kids) seem to have nothing better to do all day than drive or bike slowly by and stare; and I've had some issues with vandalism and burglary. So, I'm wanting to grow a privacy hedge.

My ideal hedge would be something that would...

* Easily grow to 8' (or, preferably, higher)

* Something that would be very dense (privacy is the main concern here)

* Something that would grow and become nice and dense VERY FAST

* Something that I can easily prune/trim with my electric hedge-trimmers

* Something that could deal with full sunlight & high heat & perhaps a good drought & my crappy soil (full of brick fragments and dust from the house that used to be here a long time ago)

* Something that's relatively inexpensive, as I will need about 400 feet of hedge

I understand I'm probably asking for a "magic bullet" here -- a wonder-plant that doesn't exist -- but I know almost nothing about plants, so I'm hoping that some of you could point me in the direction of a plant that will come as close as possible to meeting my needs.

I've been searching around on the Internet for a little while, and the things I see recommended most often (by commercial sites, so I don't know whether or not to trust them) are: American Holly, Nellie Stevens Holly, and Siberian Elm.

Any and all suggestions for my hedge would be greatly appreciated!


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I think the Nellie Stevens holly would be nice. Great green color and lots of berries for the birds, plus fast growing. A bit taller than you need, but it will grow fast. This site tells you how close to plant them. See link.

Sometimes when you find them they will be trimmed into a tree form, but you'll want one kept in the natural shape to give you the bushiness you need.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nellie Stevens Holly

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 8:57PM
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Welcome, Pierce! Sounds like you have a good handle on your needs and with a full acre to encompass you've got your work cut out for you! The hollies are a great idea, and I've got a couple other trees here in my yard that might be worth a look too. I'm going w/the evergreen/year round privacy line of thought .... and know little more than my yards have taught me. All cited below have withstood the test of time, heavy sun and heat.

I have a Black Dragon Cryptomeria that has exceeded even my overblown expectations - stunning when it was planted, and majorly larger now in but five years. A row of these would be knock-outs and there are many cryptomeria varieties. Btw, no pruning necessary.

Another fave of mine is my Clindo Viburnum, broadleaf rather than lacy and another fast grower for me. And another no-prune unless you wish to do so.

Thinking within your parameters, I do have another variety of shrub which has thrived in the worst location thru all the worst times ..... they were installed by the builder as part of the 'obligatory' planting, placed badly but when moved have exceeded anyone's expectations, particularly in height. Evergreen, does need control trimming, is fairly common ...... and I'm gonna have to go look them up - I can't remember just now what they are.

Another, not evergreen but most intruder unfriendly is pyrocantus (fire thorn). A stunning bush/tree, fast grower in my experience.

Thinking inside your one acre fenced box, it also occurs to me that your need will vary based on just what part of the fence you are planting and how your ultimate garden plan will evolve. So don't forget dense vining plants to break up the monotony of tree after tree in the more private areas. That's another whole subject ...

No matter what you choose, deeply tilling the soil and amending it to the hilt will be necessary. And no matter what you plant, you are looking at about two years of spoon feeding to get them established. Sounds daunting, but it really isn't and the end result is the ultimate reward!

Hope this helps .....

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 9:50PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Several Thujas - aka arborvitae - could also fit your needs, although most are thinner, not wide. Some of the other viburnums are also evergreen - don't restrict yourself to conifers. Winter honeysuckle - Lonicera fragrantissima - is mostly evergreen for me, and flowers in late winter/early spring. Hollies should work well, if you select cultivars that stay shortish, some can mature over 30' tall, granted after a good few years - but they will be 15' wide! While they are a bit cliche-ed, the variegated euonymus cultivars are attractive as a mixer-in - they will take some shade. In more shade, there is always the variegated aucuba - also a cliche! I don't recommend a lot of variegation, but as focal point, it can be very nice. A clumping (NOT a running) bamboo might also be a good focal point. Again, in part shade, various camellias, while slower growing, would also be very nice. Loropetalum, both the green and the red/purple leaved varieties, will take sun or shade, flowering in pink. You might have to do some pruning to keep it to size, but the afore-mentioned Pyracantha comes with berries in differing shades of red, yellow or orange - around here the usually recommended one is the orange-red 'Mohave', but there are others that are also disease resistant. Abelia or Indian Hawthorne might not be tall enough, Abelia being the faster-growing choice in my experience.

In the areas that don't need quite so much privacy, a deciduous shrub such as Forsythia, Hydrangeas, Weigela, Bottlebrush Buckeye, Beauty Bush/Kolkwitzia, Smoke Tree/Cotinus as either the green or red-leaved form, or a Clethra, to list some possibilities, would give flowers, maybe berries, and maybe foliage in the fall. Once the shrubs get some age and size on them, they are pretty much able to block clear views in the winter, even while the leaves are off.

I think I would stay away from a solid mass of one kind of shrub - not only would it be boring, but if any died, the replacement would be out of proportion with the rest in a monoculture. As well, if, by some hopefully unlikely chance, a disease or insect pest struck, then only some of the shrubs might be affected, not all of them.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 12:33AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Since you live on a corner lot, you may have some restrictions regarding the blocking of visibility on the roadways. Check into that first before making your selection. might want to wait until AFTER we get past this drought.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 12:42AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Dottie has a point - anything you plant will need to be watered well, although if you can get it planted this fall, the water needs will be a bit less than they would be in 80-plus weather! I don't know whether Henderson is under water restrictions, but you might also want to check on that, as well as any corner planting restrictions.

While you can get around the corner planting restrictions by either planting short-growing shrubs or by cutting off the corner as you plant (just be aware that your dogs WILL go into the corner behind the shrubs, so you will need to keep an eye on it for digging, etc.), I am not sure what leniency you may have for watering. There MAY be a 30 day period to let the new plants get SOME water, and there may not; it depends on how badly off your town's reservoir is.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 8:52AM
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Also keep in mind that dense hedges prevent people from seeing your property when you might want them to ... like when someone is burglarizing you. By the way, the viburnum mentioned earlier is Viburnum awabuki 'Chindo'.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 7:24PM
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Lots of good ideas here ..... and I do apologize to the forum for mutilating the spelling of a couple of my suggestions above. Note to self: do not post when too lazy to look up proper spelling. :o)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 11:01AM
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You could always grow English Ivy on the fence. Just keep the lawn mowed low.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 12:36PM
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prickly pear cactus and poison ivy

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 3:43PM
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Thanks to everyone who replied. I really appreciate it!

A few notes:

* Henderson was not been subject to water restrictions, even during the worst parts of the drought this summer. I am, however, on city water, so any future restrictions would apply to me.

* The dog going behind hedges and digging isn't a concern. The 6' high chain-link fence has a bottom tension wire, which no dog can get through. In addition, this particular German Shepherd isn't a "digger"...some of the ones I've had get the digging gene, others don't.

* I'm not worried about people not being able to see in when I want them to (i.e. the police not being able to see if I were being robbed). I live here and run a business from here; in addition, the fenced-in yard contains a German Shepherd. And I'm armed to the hilt with assault rifles, shotguns, riot guns, and handguns. I doubt anyone would want to witness what would happen if someone tried coming in here :-). Besides the fact that the whole point is to keep people from seeing in, PERIOD.

* Privacy is the utmost concern, and so something which will give me that quickly is what I'm looking for. I'm definitely leaning towards the Nellie R. Stevens Holly -- it's dense, grows fast, a nice color green, has pretty red berries, and has thorny-tipped leaves. I think it would make a great hedge.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 11:04AM
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joefalco(z8 MB SC)

You might want to check out the bamboo forum. I wouldn't discount a running bamboo epically for the large area you need to screen.

If your neighbors cut their grass all the time I don't think it will invade their yard.

Just a thought, You can even find it for free. Digging it is lots of work however. I have purchased from bamboo plantation on the net, Prices are reasonable

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 11:38AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Pierce, just be aware that you will need a male holly for every 5-7 female plants to get berries. Because you will be planting tightly, you might be able to stretch it to one per 10 females. Most of the male forms I know of are shorter growing than the females, in general. You could get around this by using 1-gallon males and planting in the same hole as the females/'Nellie R.Stevens' as you space them out - they can grow up and be available, but are 'hidden' among the mass of the females. I know 15 gal. 'Nellie R. Stevens' are available, but can't speak as to price.

While the 'Nellie R. Stevens' are a good hedge plant, if you wanted to mix in another type of tree, the Thuja 'Emerald Green' (a.k.a. 'Emerald Beauty' or 'Smaragd') is another good hedging plant, growing fairly fast to 12-15', and about 3-5' wide. You can fairly easily find 5 gallon plants, at about 4-6' tall - and pay more for them than 1 gal. - so they might be good where you want immediate height.

While running bamboos will provide a solid screen once they are established, they will also RUN!! I have pulled out runners that are up to 8' long, and about 6" deep, in the spring. As long as you mow faithfully, you can keep them in check. However, even asphalt won't stop them from coming up - cement MIGHT! You can buy barriers, but you need to make a 3' deep trench for the barrier to be effective, and even then, you will probably have to watch for escapees over the top. Clumping bamboos are much better behaved, and will expand, but stay where you plant them.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 2:49PM
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joefalco(z8 MB SC)

Clumping bamboos are better for staying in place, but it's going to be really expensive to plant the area you need to cover.

I have not tried these but Hybrid Willow is supposed to grow really fast.

Also for a manageable running bamboo try Semiarundinaria fastuosa This is a close runner. I have planted this along my chain link fence. It will be at least a couple of years for it to fill in but I am excited to see the results.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fast Trees

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 3:37PM
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I think Sweet Olive would grow fairly fast and you would get the lovely scent, too. I use sweet olive as a screen at my house. Denise

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 3:55PM
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Thanks to all who replied. I have a lot of great choices to consider here, and a lot of great advice. Much appreciated!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 11:11AM
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