Another Screen Question - a bit different though

BADsDADFebruary 2, 2013

My wife and I are looking for a recommendation for what we should use as a privacy screen in our back yard. Unfortunately, the requirements are really driven by the need to block a neighborhood of poorly maintained, smelly aerobic septic systems to our south (wind is of course almost always from the south here).

-We are near Greenville so it gets very hot and dry and we have black gumbo clay which is very prone to cracking.
-We have about a 200' line that needs to be covered so cost is an issue (unfortunately)
-Would like the height to be 10-12' or more and screen all the way to the ground, or very close to it. We are trying to block all the wind we possibly can.
-Drought tolerant
-Fast growing

At this point, we really don't even care how pretty it is. We just want to do our best to block the smell and occasional nasty mist from these aerobic septic systems so that our children can play outside without us having to rush them indoors every time one goes off. We have even considered the mountain cedar (ashe Juniper) regardless of the allergy problems it creates.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Two ideas that come to mind are viburnum, some of which will grow that tall, and red tip photinia. Viburnum are pretty, but it'd cost you to cover that kind of space. I'm not a huge photinia fan, but they are cheap and they are big. Folks have problems with them because they try to prune them to fit suburban yards and/or cram too many into a small space. If you space them 6-8 feet apart and let them grow to their natural height of 12-15', they might work for you with little or no work.

Please do not plant Ashe Junipers. For the love of all of us who spend months every winter miserable, try to find something else. :)

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 10:43AM
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Thank you robyn_tx. The red tips were our first choice but we constantly read of the fungus issues and how the whole wall will be wiped out by it eventually. I see huge walls of these things around and they look to have been growing forever. They are huge and seem perfect. I just fear that we'll lose the whole thing at some point and be right back where we started.

I am thinking that a better idea (other than moving) would be to use red tips along with other species that would grow just as fast and as tall but we are not sure what those might be. This way, if we lose the red tips, we still have the others.

This is a list of what we have found, so far, that might work together with the red tips. Would you happen to have any experience with any of these that you, or anyone else can share?

Chinese Photinia
Arizona cypress
Yaupon holly
Wax Myrtle
Wax Ligustrum


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:00AM
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PKponder TX(7b)

I wanted to suggest Red Tip Photinia also just because of the affordability of the plants. They look amazing when allowed to grow into their natural form. They will provide plenty of privacy.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:02AM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I have four red tips that are over 20 years old, and have never had a problem with them, however I have never pruned or tried to shape them. They are quite large, bloom beautifully each Spring, and serve to give me privacy and noise abatement.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 1:23PM
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Excellent, thank you all. I will give the red tips a shot. I have no plans to shape them as the thicker and taller the better! The back yard is almost an acre so they can get as big as they like.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 2:32PM
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If you have a fence, you might try a vine. The mexican flame vine, is pretty and smells nice. It is a fast grower, in sandy soil. Stays green, and blooms almost all year long. Barbra

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:08PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

I don't believe that mexican flame vine is hardy up here in zone 8 Barbra, but I agree that vines do add fast coverage to a fence.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:18PM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Just don't be lured into "thicker the better" and plant them too closely. Plant them on 6-8' centers and keep your pruners/sheers away from them and you should have no fungal problems. For 200' you should be able to make this happen for $200-ish bucks with small Big Box plants. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:29PM
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~$200 would be excellent! I know that they are considered "fast-growing" but assuming that I put in a drip system for them and the soil is right, how fast would you say?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:15PM
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tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)

If you do that and feed them, I'd expect them to grow pretty fast. I have a hedge that's very mature, we chopped it down almost to the ground one February (they're really too big for the space but they came with the house...and I refuse to keep pruning them every week) and they were back at 3-4' tall within 2 years and now (4-5 years after cutting them back) they're at least 8' tall. Keep in mind that I don't water the yard frequently and only fed them once. I'm currently contemplating chopping them down again. I don't bother doing it with the hedge on the other side of the yard, there's enough room there for them.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:36AM
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I've got 18 photinias, spaced 30" apart and only 24" from a privacy fence. They were about 8 ft. tall when I moved here 20 years ago. My neighbor also has mature photinia on his side of the fence. I keep mine cut back to 12 ft. or so. My neighbor lets his go to maybe 15 ft. Mine get little direct sun. This should be, according to some gurus, a certain formula for rampant fungus problems. I've lost only one plant, over the years. I hardly ever water them.

When I first moved here, these plants had become very leggy, with little or no lower foliage. I had to make a lot of low pruning cuts to get the dense, bushy look I wanted. I have to do some serious pruning every few years.

Seems like it was about 10 years ago when the meme about photinia and fungus was created. I have seen little direct evidence to substantiate it in Central Texas.

Were I in your situation, I might think about spacing photinias about 3 ft. apart, and thinning them as they mature.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 11:06AM
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Purple Hyacinth Bean Vine! They love the heat and flower for months. Looks kind of like a sweet pea flower.

I was also just reading that black eyed susans LOVE clay soil

Here is a link that might be useful: Purple Hyacinth Bean Vine

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 10:21PM
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Lynn Marie

If you don't mind chemicals, you can always spray an antifungal if you have to. I love Photinias!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:24AM
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