Need recommendation for privacy screen/noise buffer

falcontxApril 19, 2011

I'm looking for something to use as a privacy screen and noise buffer to block the highway behind my house. The foliage would need to extend above the 6-foot brick wall that already exists, but reach a maximum height of approximately 15 feet, as there are power lines above the brick wall. I'm looking at covering a run of about 85 feet. Here's a picture of the wall:

My neighbor has some red-tip photinia that are the size/density that I'm looking for, but I've been told that this particular plant has problems with leaf diseases. The following picture shows these behind a 6-foot wooden fence, and below power lines of the same height that I'm dealing with. Here's the picture:

Ideally, I want something that will reach the desired size relatively quickly, that requires little-to-no maintenance, and that will readily withstand the climate conditions in this area.

I look forward to hearing what you recommend. Thanks in advance!

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tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)

As much as I dislike the red-tip photinia, it will work for what you want. The previous owners of my house planted it as a privacy fence and I haven't had any problems with disease. They grow just fine in full sun and I don't have to water them beyond watering the grass. The problem I have is that they want to be larger than the space they're given. If you can give them enough room for them to grow to their mature size (width as well as height) then they'd be OK. They do grow relatively quickly -- I've chopped some down to stubs and had them reach 8' tall again in a couple of years. They do really want to be about 15' tall, not the 6' that people seem to want them to be, and a good 6-8' wide. They haven't been bothered by any of the past six summers I've been here and the last two winters didn't phase them, either.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 8:16AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Red tip photinia is what we used for the same purpose as did many of our neighbors. All of them have been in for more than 20 years and no diseased leaves yet. They make a very good, uniform background along the fence lines because almost everyone used them. Give them plenty of room when you plant.

We are beginning to mix in some other plants like viburnum in front of them to cover better as they thin out over time.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 10:52AM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

I don't have any red tips, but I have noticed when I walk, that the red tips that are sheered frequently to keep them short and narrow are the ones that seem to succumb to the fungal problems, but the ones that are allowed to grow closer to their potential and not pruned so often, look healthy. I'm thinking that the pruning is what weakens them and makes them susceptible to disease. Might be wrong, but that's what I've noticed. You could intersperse red tips with hollies and/or viburnums so if the red tips do get the fungal problems you don't lose your whole row. Just take care not to crowd them so you don't have to prune alot.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 11:55AM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

How much space do you have between your home and the fence line? Do you want to give up that much space to a monoculture? It will work but will lack any sense of style,color,interest or change. It will always be a wall of photina. I'd mix up different plantings. I'd put in evergreens,decidious trees (lots of flowering ornamentals are around 15'), maybe a vine on a trellis. Maybe even a couple bird houses and a bird bath for focal point. The best lookign plantings are odd numbers in clumps or swales and repeated down the line. evergreen evergreen evergreen decidious tree for color, evergreen evergreen evergreen decidious tree for color, evergreen evergreen evergreen etc.. You can make that 5,7, or 9 but no even numbers they look funny.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 12:14PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I have redtips that I put in for a privacy/sound barrier almost twenty years ago. They have never been pruned and are beautiful and disease free. I would recommend them as they grow fast and require very little maintenance.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 12:41PM
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falcontx

@pjtexgirl: 30 ft. My back yard is huge, so I'm willing to lose the space to get rid of the view/noise.

I've also been told that Nelly Stevens Holly may achieve the desired result, and is VERY hardy, so I'm considering that, as well.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 1:43PM
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whitecap

I've got a Nelly Stevens. It has grown rather slowly, taking about 15 years to get 12 ft. or so tall. It doesn't have nearly the foliage density of my photinias, and requires more water. I'm a bit disappointed in it.

It is often said that photinias are prone to fungal problems, but I have observed little evidence of this. Your neighbor's photinias are obviously quite healthy. They will require a little attention to prevent all the foliage from migrating to the top of the trunks. You just need to make some low pruning cuts every other year or so, and never cut a lower branch off flush with the trunk.

The Chinese photinia has been touted as a disease-free alternative to red tip photinia, but it isn't nearly as attractive.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 4:08PM
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falcontx

Since asking, I've been hearing more and more that few people in the area are having problems with photinia. That said, I also spoke to a landscape designer who is coming out to look at the property on Tuesday, but based upon my description on the phone, he thinks Wax Myrtle may be the way to go, since coverage isn't needed all the way to the ground (thanks to the fence). Any thoughts on that?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 5:11PM
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whitecap

I think evergreen foliage is far more attractive than fence pickets, but that's just me.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 9:09PM
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plantmaven(8b/9a TX)

I planted a spring bouquet viburnum at a new house and it grew very fast even in limestone and caliche.

Here is a link that might be useful: viburnum

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 9:21PM
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falcontx

@whitecap: It's a brick fence, so I'm not necessarily determined to completely cover it. See Picture 1.

@plantmaven: I do like th viburnum, but I don't think it's tall enough for what I need (10-15ft).

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 9:35PM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

Wax myrtle would look nice, but they seem to sucker very badly, so you might have a nightmare keeping them from taking over or going where you don't want them to go.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 10:26PM
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rowdysmom

I just moved into a new (to me) home and have a privacy hedge that was planted many many years ago. Most of the hedge is a shrub that I can't identify, but there are some red-tipped photinia, and some viburnum. The vibrunum and photinia look the best and the unidentified shrub is OK, but I don't like the looks as much. All are at least 12 foot high.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 10:48PM
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whitecap

Ok, brick fence. Well, photinias are easily shaped into single trunk trees, and you can get them already trained that way. I am obliged to admit to total ignorance concerning wax myrtles, but I have the impression that they aren't as drought tolerant as photinias.

The Spring Bouquet viburnum is one of my favorite shrubs, but they do need a little shade or supplemental watering, and top out at 8 ft. or so. The sweet viburnum might reach 15 ft., in time, but tends to get a bit "woody," and isn't particularly drought tolerant.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 11:03AM
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falcontx

@whitecap: I've been told that it's quite drought tolerant once established. I'm okay with having to water it for the first year or so, and then it will be fine, from what I've read.

I like the ideas that were presented in this thread and plan to bring them up with the landscape designer. I'll probably end up with some mix of plants along the fence that will help me achieve the desired result with some variety.

Other plants that I've read may work are: Blue point juniper, little gem magnolia, and possibly even a trellis with crossvine.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 1:00PM
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liz_h(7/8 DFW Texas)

I think a mix of plants would be very attractive. Will you get better sound reduction with foliage in front of the fence instead of just the fence? (I've no idea - just thinking.) There may be some large shrubs that would yield plenty of foliage above the fence, but mostly stems for the first few feet. You could intermix some shorter shrubs there.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 6:23PM
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rowdysmom

What about mountain laurels? They certainly get tall enough and are thick enough to provide lots of privacy

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 10:46PM
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whitecap

One rarely sees wax myrtles in my area (North Bexar County), possibly because they do not respond well to the alkalinity of our soil and water. Even the ones offered by nurseries are frequently yellowish, if they've been there a while. For your area, however, that just might be the way to go. From the photos I've recently seen, they make a most attractive screen, where they do well.

I have to list Blue Point Juniper near the top of the list of my gardening failures. Mine just didn't get enough sun, which shouldn't be a problem for you. Above and beyond that, however, I had some distressing and time-consuming problems with various parasites which caused dead areas in the foliage. As I recall, the Blue Point doesn't grow back where it has been pruned. I think a little research will confirm that it can be troublesome to maintain.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 11:13AM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I have three blue rug junipers, and I wish I had NEVER put them in..............very difficult to contain.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 2:00PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Texas Mountain Laurels are beautiful, but very slow growing. We plant them in front of the existing red tips and fence so they will eventually add variety to the screen.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 3:25PM
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lucas_tx_gw

Another huge benefit of the wax myrtles is that they are native and form an important part of a healthy ecosystem, in particular they are a valuable food source for yellow rumped warblers among other birds.

Teri

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 3:28PM
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