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View Full Version : Opinions wanted on fastest growing evergreen windbreak/screen plant


Constipated Mathematician
07-23-2006, 12:10 AM
I've been looking to buy a plant to block my view of a road. Something that will

1) grow quickly
2) remain green all year (evergreen)
3) be resistant to deer
4) go all the way to the ground (can't see through them)

So, I've done some research and come up with two leaders

1. Thuja Green Giant
2. Thuja Steeplechase

and a couple of others

3. Leland Cypress
4. Willow Hybrid

Anyone have any experiences with these plants and your success or failure with them?

The first two I can't find at local nurseries, but I can find them on line. The Steeplechase seems to get the nod for fullness and beauty, but it grows a bit more slowly than the Green Giant.

The Leland Cypress can be found at local nurseries, but I've heard these are a favorite of deer, especially in the winter. I've seen them munched on around here, and they look pretty unattractive when the deer eat a circular chunk out of the bottom of the plant.

The Willow Hybrid seems to be the fastest grower, but is deciduous, meaning they lose their foliage in the winter and kind of ruin the idea of blocking out the road in the winter months.


So, teemings... any thoughts, opinions, or suggestions? I'd like to start my project before September, but I'd like to know if anyone has had any good/bad experiences with any of these.

Also, if you have any other plant suggestions, they are most welcome.

Thanks!

freckafree
07-23-2006, 10:51 AM
I think the two Thuja cultivars you've picked are real winners.

I don't have experience with those particular ones, but a couple of years ago, I moved a little-bitty (not even a foot tall, IIRC) Thuja volunteer from the front of my house to the side, and I am astonished at how fast it has grown.

I also have a variegated or tri-color willow. True, it's deciduous, but it is a very striking plant (people always ask me what it is) and it, too, has gotten enormous in just a few years.

Mr. Duality
07-23-2006, 11:04 AM
To make intelligent suggestions, one would have to know where you are located or what climate zone you are in.

Norfolk Pines grow rapidly but won't tolerate cold winters.

Brynda
07-23-2006, 11:19 AM
We bought Thuja Green Giants from Greenwood Nursery this spring and although the plants were pretty small when they got here (about 1 foot high), they had terrific root systems and have done well so far. If you do go with Greenwood, join the free membership for discounted prices.

Cat Whisperer
07-23-2006, 02:40 PM
Yeah, we really do need to know your location for this. Thuja (cedars) grow up to the Arctic Circle, but they don't do well in Calgary because of our Chinooks. If you're in Calgary, don't waste your money on cedars when junipers would be a much better choice.

Constipated Mathematician
07-23-2006, 05:44 PM
Thanks all for your replies thus far.

I am in a Zone 5/6 area. I took that into account when I was doing my research.

freckafree, can you give me an idea of how small your thuja was and what its rate of growth was/is?

Similarly, Brynda, what was the size of the plants you received from Greenwood Nursery and what kind of growth rate have you seen? Greenwood is one of the nurseries I've been looking at. There is another one (can't remember the name off-hand), that sells Green Giants between 2'-3', which gives it a fair start, but they are more expensive than the 6"-12" plants I've seen elsewhere. If they grow 3-5 ft/year as advertised, I'd save a year if I bought the bigger plants, but it will cost me a bundle.

Mr. Duality, I've never looked at Norfolk Pines, but I'll do a google on them and see what I can find. Thanks for the suggestion!

One final question for those that may have a green thumb. If I bought the smaller thuja plants, could I keep them inside through the winter and grow them as a house plant until the spring? I would put them in large pots, feed and water, but I'm not sure they would grow properly without natural sunlight. I guess I could experiment with this, but I was hoping to buy something before the fall planting season is over.

Quartz
07-23-2006, 05:49 PM
Deer don't seem to like my parents' Leylandi. But Leylandi are evil. They do grow very fast, but they keep growing. If you live in suburbia your neighbours will soon hate you.

Brynda
07-23-2006, 06:22 PM
We only planted ours a few months ago, so I can't tell you anything about the grown rate yet. They do look very healthy, though, and they have grown a bit. Meanwhile, half of my neighbors' arborovitae have died, and over half of the Leyland cypress at the local grocery store have died, too. They looked great for the first two years, but I noticed last week that they are dropping like flies.

Constipated Mathematician
07-23-2006, 07:10 PM
Thanks Brynda,


Quartz, when you say Leylandi, are you speaking of Leyland Cypress?

Quartz
07-23-2006, 07:39 PM
Yes.

freckafree
07-23-2006, 08:01 PM
B]freckafree[/B], can you give me an idea of how small your thuja was and what its rate of growth was/is?

Well, let's see. We've moved into this house in the summer of 1999. I'm thinking I didn't move the volunteer until spring of 2001. It was definitely (not "definately") less than two feet. It's raining right now so I'm not inclined to go out and measure it, so I just opened the blinds in the dining room to look at it.

I planted it in front of the dining room window to get some privacy because the neighbors' house is so close.

HOLY SHIT! That thing's gotta be well over 10 feet. I'm in Zone 5.

I wouldn't suggest overwintering them inside. They need the dormant period that winter provides. If you want to buy them small this season and not plant them until spring, either heel them in somewhere in your yard or leave them in their pots and protect the roots so they don't freeze.

Here's the common wisdom on perennials and woody plants:
The first year they sleep. The second year they creep. The third year they leap.




And it cracks me up that I work for a school that offers a plant identification class known as "Woody ID." I think I've learned to identify a woody when I see it, class or no.

Zsofia
07-23-2006, 10:26 PM
Be careful planting a living fence of just one kind of plant - cypresses all in a row, for example. I can't tell you how many times I've seen that where it looks really nice except for that one in the middle that died and is brown and really, really ugly. My personal aesthetic preference would be to mix it up a bit. Ideally, I'd make a screen out of plants of all different sizes to give a "edge of the wood" illusion to it, but I guess it depends on how much room you have. Anyway, beware the One Dead Tree problem.

Cat Whisperer
07-24-2006, 10:30 AM
<snip>And it cracks me up that I work for a school that offers a plant identification class known as "Woody ID." I think I've learned to identify a woody when I see it, class or no.
I took a plant id class at our local zoo called "Woodies," too. :D

romansperson
07-24-2006, 02:55 PM
Be careful planting a living fence of just one kind of plant - cypresses all in a row, for example. I can't tell you how many times I've seen that where it looks really nice except for that one in the middle that died and is brown and really, really ugly. My personal aesthetic preference would be to mix it up a bit. Ideally, I'd make a screen out of plants of all different sizes to give a "edge of the wood" illusion to it, but I guess it depends on how much room you have. Anyway, beware the One Dead Tree problem.

I agree - the builders that did our little street did the 'uniform line' thing, with cypresses in back and Bradford pear trees in the front. It's boring and very artificial looking (I personally was glad when an ice storm we had a few years ago took out a couple of the pear trees - maybe we can plant something hardier and more interesting now).

Our cypresses are now enormous, and I have no idea when or if they will stop growing. If one of them ever gets hit by lightning or gets taken down by a storm, someone's gonna be in a world of hurt depending on which way it falls. Our neighbors are also having some sort of insect problem with theirs, where brown patches are showing up. They are trying to deal with the problem, but if one of those things dies, there's going to be a big hole there that will be impossible to fill with anything approaching the size of the other plants.

Deer leave ours alone, though - we have lots and lots of deer, but they must have other things they prefer to eat. Birds and bats love to roost in them - when we let the dogs out in the yard after dark there are all kinds of things that come flapping and squawking out of there. :p

I think the areas in our neighborhood that were left natural are much, much more attractive and they provide good screening too.

elelle
07-24-2006, 11:06 PM
One problem with fast growing trees like Leland cypress and Bradford pear is that they are very suceptable to ice storm damage, because Fast growth = weak wood. The thujas, like Green Giant, fare better. Look at Chamaecyparis, and Cryptomeria too, not as fast, but they are reasonably reliable, and more beautiful. Cryptomeria'Yoshino' is one I like.

If you want a quick screen, don't be cheap. Get a 4-5 foot tree rather than a 1 foot one. It may cost you $40, but will fill out much more quickly, plus, no issues with crushing or browse with a tiny tree. It's worth the extra money. Buy a decent sized tree on site from a local nursery, not a tiny mailorder one.

Mama Zappa
07-25-2006, 09:20 AM
One problem with fast growing trees like Leland cypress and Bradford pear is that they are very suceptable to ice storm damage, because Fast growth = weak wood. The thujas, like Green Giant, fare better. Look at Chamaecyparis, and Cryptomeria too, not as fast, but they are reasonably reliable, and more beautiful. Cryptomeria'Yoshino' is one I like.

If you want a quick screen, don't be cheap. Get a 4-5 foot tree rather than a 1 foot one. It may cost you $40, but will fill out much more quickly, plus, no issues with crushing or browse with a tiny tree. It's worth the extra money. Buy a decent sized tree on site from a local nursery, not a tiny mailorder one.
What he (she?) said.

When Hurricane Isabel came through here (DC metro area) our little neighborhood of 20 houses lost 4 trees. Two were Leyland (sp?) cypresses, two were Bradford Pears. Both are attractive trees. The leylands provide good screening and are evergreen which would seem to meet your requirements, but they are very susceptible to this sort of damage. They're popular with builders around here because they do provide fast, effective screening, but they have to be replaced sooner than you'd like. So if you do go with a leyland, consider it as a shorter-term measure perhaps while something better is growing nearby.

Constipated Mathematician
07-25-2006, 03:16 PM
Thanks all!

In reading these replies and doing some more searching, I've stumbled on a few other trees that I'd like to get your opinions on (if you have them):

1. Murray Cypress
2. Carolina Sapphire
3. Thuja “Green Splendor” - seems very similar to "Green Giant", but isn't as wide
4. Cryptomeria japonica “Yoshino” - I believe this is the same one elelle mentioned, so I'd be curious as to what your experience is.
5. Blue Ice Cypress

Anyone have experience with these?

At this point, I'm leaning toward the Green Giants, but I think the point of having one die in the screen is a valid concern and would look bad. The Leyland Cypress is out, based on the invasive root system and disease potential.

Thanks again for sharing all of your opinions and experiences with these trees.

elelle
07-25-2006, 09:05 PM
I'se a She, Mama Z....

'Carolina Sapphire' and 'Blue Ice' are Arizona cypress, but do well outside the desert. They are gorgeous, beautiful blue grey foliage. 'Blue Ice' is more spiky looking,'Carolina Sapphire', softer. Not zoom quick, but steady growing, and really stunning.

Cryptomeria 'Yoshino' is pretty quick, and has a soft, draping habit. Very Pacific woods looking. It gets quite large; my best specimen is about 50 feet tall after 18 years. It was topped in a big ice storm here in NC 5 years ago, but has recovered nicely, much better than Leland cypress damaged worse by the same storm.

Archergal
07-25-2006, 09:14 PM
Bradford pears are the rottenest tree in the world, IMHO. Every single time a storm goes through the area, I see yards where about 1/3 of a Bradford pear has just broken off. I hate them, and wish they would all die.

Sharky
07-25-2006, 10:36 PM
When Hurricane Isabel came through here (DC metro area) our little neighborhood of 20 houses lost 4 trees.
When Hurricane Opal came through here, I had a few Leylands that were about ten feet tall. A pine tree fell right on top of one of them, splitting the trunk right down the middle. It grew back as twin trees, side by side, currently thirty feet tall and still growing. :cool:

Cat Whisperer
07-26-2006, 10:35 AM
Bradford pears are the rottenest tree in the world, IMHO. Every single time a storm goes through the area, I see yards where about 1/3 of a Bradford pear has just broken off. I hate them, and wish they would all die.
I see your Bradford Pears, and raise you the virtually useless Cotton Poplar. :)

Constipated Mathematician
07-26-2006, 07:51 PM
I'se a She, Mama Z....

'Carolina Sapphire' and 'Blue Ice' are Arizona cypress, but do well outside the desert. They are gorgeous, beautiful blue grey foliage. 'Blue Ice' is more spiky looking,'Carolina Sapphire', softer. Not zoom quick, but steady growing, and really stunning.

Cryptomeria 'Yoshino' is pretty quick, and has a soft, draping habit. Very Pacific woods looking. It gets quite large; my best specimen is about 50 feet tall after 18 years. It was topped in a big ice storm here in NC 5 years ago, but has recovered nicely, much better than Leland cypress damaged worse by the same storm.

Thanks, elelle. I don't know if the Carolina Sapphire or Blue Ice would be able to get through the winter in my zone (I'm on a 5/6 border). I love the look of them both, though. As an accent plant, I'd try one or two, but I don't think I could use them for a long privacy screen.

The Yoshino, though, could be an option. Perhaps as a plant to intersperse with the Green Giants. I like the idea of "Pacific woods looking". Again, I'm concerned about the zone. I think the Green Giants are leading the pack, but I've also stumbled onto a Thuja "Green Splendor", but I can't find out much about it.

CM

elelle
07-26-2006, 10:04 PM
Generally, Arizona cypress is listed as Zone 7 and warmer, that's it's native range, but it can take higher elevations, so is probably more cold-hardy. Here's (http://coloradotrees.org/treeomonth/2004/may_04.htm) a site indicating that it does well in Colorado, doing fine in zone 5.

For Cryptomeria 'Yoshino', in a scoot thru various hort oriented message boards, some in zone 5 have have grown fine, some, in harsher winter wind conditions, perish. If you aren't using it as a true windscreen (the only trees in a cleared area), I'd give it a try. I couldn't find a photo on the web that does it justice, but it is a stunning tree

Thuja plicata 'Green Splendor' (for whatever reason, botanical cultivars are indicated by single quote marks) was first known as Thuja 'Hoyt', after the Hoyt Arboretum, in Portland, Oregon. It has the same attributes as Thuja 'Green Giant', but is more columnar, ie, a narrower profile than Th GG.

Thuja 'Green Giant' is a hybrid of the native Th plicata and Th standishii, more readily available, so you should be able to get good sized trees for a reasonable price. As I said before, get a 4' tree rather than a 1' one, it's worth the extra money.

Thuja 'Steeplechase' is a sport of 'Green Giant' (a noteworthy branch from a GG tree that exhibited different traits, cuttings taken and propagated). It is more feathery in texture than GG, and is relatively new, being patented by Wayside Gardens. Pricier, and less available. It would be harder to find larger trees to plant.

There ya go. Go out and plant them trees, and remember to give them some extra nurturing the first couple of years for best growth.

Constipated Mathematician
07-28-2006, 08:24 PM
Thanks again for all of the opinions, especially elelle.

Before I buy, I've stumbled onto two other potentials (damn internet!)

Siberian Elm (ulmus pumila)
Sub-Zero Hardy Canadian Hemlock (tsuga canadensis)

Anyone have any experience with these? They appear to form a much nicer wall than the green giants, but I have no idea on their growth rate.

I promise not to throw any other curve balls. I need to make a decision and place an order.

elelle
07-28-2006, 09:43 PM
Well, Consty, I'm not going to abandon you at this point....

Siberian Elm (http://nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/ulpu1.htm) is quick growing, but can have brittle wood and suffer from storm damage. There's also the issue of invasiveness. From the above site:
ECOLOGICAL THREAT
Dry to mesic prairies and stream banks are vulnerable to Siberian elm invasion. Thickets of seedlings soon form around seed-producing trees, bare ground areas, animal and insect mounds, and other disturbed areas. Wind carries seed to distant areas where new colonies can form. This tough exotic survives under conditions not easily tolerated by other species, allowing it to take advantage of open ground and resources otherwise used by native plants. Fast growing seedlings of Siberian elm quickly overtake native vegetation, especially shade-intolerant species. This often leads to invasion by additional weedy species, compounding the problem.

That means it's pretty seedy. At the least, that means you'll have to mow or pull hundreds of seedlings in your own yard, which will be a PITA. Also, it may be bad for the environment, displacing native species.

From Dr. Michael Dirr, the reigning tree and shrub master, author of the hefty reference book used by most horticulturalists: Siberian elm is "one of, if not the, world's worst trees...a poor ornamental that does not deserve to be planted anywhere". And he really tries to give a tree a break in promotion.

Canadian Hemlock is a beautiful tree. Not especially fast, but worthy as a screen tree. In the same screen row with the Cryptomeria 'Yoshino' previously mentioned, the next tree is a Canadian hemlock. Both were topped by a bad ice storm 5 years ago, and both recovered equally well. Here's (http://ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/tsuga_canadensis.html) the NC State University page on Tsuga can. They are a nice reference for many plants as to garden worthiness, especially trees.

I've seen both the elm and hemlock used planted closely together and sheared to make a hedge, but that does require some maintenance. Might cut down on the seedy and breakage issues with the elm, though.

Quartz
07-30-2006, 06:33 PM
Sub-Zero Hardy Canadian Hemlock (tsuga canadensis)

Umm... hemlock?

elelle
08-01-2006, 09:42 PM
Quartz, I've waited a bit to see if you would say what your question was exactly about Hemlock, but, I suppose you are just confusing the legendary hemlock poison that sucked Socrateslast breathe, with Tsuga canadensis. They are not at all the same plant. Tsuga c. is a big ol' tree, native to North America, and the last gasp of Socrates is, by all accounts,

elelle
08-01-2006, 09:52 PM
Well, then, hit the wrong button...see if I can recoup a bit...

Tsuga canadensis is a tree, native to North America. Socrates poison was Conicum maculatum (http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hemloc18.html), a large plant that looks like parsely or Queen Anne's lace that is very deadly. I remember it well, as it's the only plant my well-taught herb teacher yelled at me as being stupid to even touch it. That's why you find a good teacher.

Quartz
08-02-2006, 05:33 PM
So, why's it called Hemlock, then? I've been educated here about the idiocy of American laws on poisonous flora, and you can bet your boots that some lawyer's going to ask, "And why exactly did you plant a tree called Hemlock?"

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