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Evergreen Screens Offer Good Privacy
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Many homeowners are asking me what they can plant as a screen to increase privacy. The Leyland Cypress certainly is a good choice, as is the Eastern red cedar, but there are several other great choices for screens.
One of the best is last year's Mississippi Medallion winner, the Little Gem magnolia. This magnolia reaches about 10 feet wide and 21 feet high. Another of my favorite magnolias is the variety D.D. Blancher. This magnolia has a unique Christmas tree shape, with lustrous dark green leaves having an orangish-brown underside.
Hollies are my favorite plants for screens. Their dark green, shiny leaves contrast well with other shrubs. When spring freeze warnings send us scurrying to protect plants, I dare say no one covers hollies. They are the storm troopers of the landscape.
Nellie R. Stevens is a hybrid of the English Holly, Ilex aquifolium, and the Chinese Holly, Ilex cornuta. This pyramidal-shaped holly may reach 25 feet in height and is rather fast growing.
One of the most striking hollies we can plant in the landscape is Mary Nell. It is considered a large shrub or small tree reaching 12 feet in height. It has bold green leaves that are deeply toothed, ensuring no one will walk through a screen of these.
Growers in Alabama and Mississippi are starting to produce a group of hollies called the Red Holly Hybrids that are seedling selections from Mary Nell. These, like all the plants mentioned here, will perform in sun to partial shade.
Red Holly Hybrids get their name from the deep burgundy color of new growth. Thehollies in this group are Cardinal (14 feet), Festive (12 feet), Oakleaf (14 feet), Robin (14 feet) and Little Red (10 feet).
At the recent Mississippi Garden and Patio Show in Jackson, Cleyera was demonstrated as an effective privacy screen in the outdoor area. Large specimen placed side by side blocked out an undesirable view. Cleyera's shiny bronzy leaf color is particularly nice.
The Southern Indica azaleas like Formosa, George Lindley Taber and Pride of Mobile make excellent screens in the lower two-thirds of the state.
The Southern Gardening TV crew recently joined me at Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile to film a few segments. The Bellingrath staff does an excellent job of using both Camellia sasanquas and camellia japonicas as screens to hide a view, direct your path and provide a backdrop for other plants. These evergreens also produce an abundance of flowers.
Many people use screens to block a neighbor's view of their yards. Screens can also be used to create privacy around a patio or deck; hide the garage, vegetable garden or storage shed; or separate the patio from the driveway. Think of these shrubs as creating outdoor walls or making outdoor rooms.
Screens can block out a tremendous amount of road noise and block those cold winter winds we just endured. Now is a good time to consider planting container evergreens whether you plan to use them as a screen or a specimen.