As Gwinnett County has increasingly become more developed, many new homes have been built on smaller lots. As a result, we receive many inquiries from residents about what plants will grow rapidly and provide adequate privacy from neighbors’ homes or from undesirable views.
Some plants make better screens than others. Years ago, red tip photinias were one of the most popular plants used for this purpose before a leaf spot disease decimated them and today they are seldom used. The popular Leyland cypress has been overused and has a multitude of problems. They have the potential to grow more than 100 feet tall and nearly 50 feet wide. Although the tree has many fine attributes such as rapid growth, easy propagation and low cost, they are often planted so close together they lack adequate spacing for their normal growth. This may cause serious problems such as poor air circulation and increased incidence of disease.
Several other plants can be used successfully for screening. Hollies, arborvitaes, small pines, and magnolias do an excellent job of blocking unwanted views and creating privacy. The American holly, Foster holly, Savannah holly and three hybrid hollies, Nellie R. Stevens, Mary Nell and Emily Bruner, are among the best varieties of hollies to use for these situations due to their rapid growth and dense foliage. Wax myrtles grow well in our climate and can block unwanted views in a relatively short period of time. Some dense, lower-growing pine trees, such as the Virginia pine, also create effective screens. In shadier areas, fragrant tea olives and Canadian hemlocks make an excellent evergreen barrier as long as they have adequate drainage.
Arborvitaes, particularly the cultivars Green Giant and Emerald Green as well as Japanese cryptomerias, are excellent substitutes for the Leyland cypress. They are all coniferous evergreens with a similar growth pattern and appearance as the Leyland cypress but with better performance in the landscape. Dwarf southern magnolias cultivars such as Little Gem and D.D. Blanchard are small trees covered with dense foliage. They are often planted as specimen trees, but a row of dwarf magnolias can also create an effective screen or help to establish a boundary between adjoining properties.
As you can see a multitude of plants are available for use as screens and can be successfully used for this purpose if installed and maintained properly. The privacy they provide is invaluable and worth the investment.
Do not forget the Gwinnett County Extension Plant Sale. Some excellent plants are available at affordable prices.
Go to the extension website at www.gwinnettextension.org to download the brochure and order form or call the Gwinnett County Extension office for a form to be mailed to you. The deadline for ordering is Feb. 28. The order pick-up day will be March 10 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville.
Timothy Daly, M.S., Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent, Gwinnett County Extension. Tim may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.