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Janet Macunovich

Better list of shrubs for screening

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Bear with me through the next two bits of this topic, which is all about asking you to post:

Which plants would YOU suggest for screening, that would do the job and not cause unexpected maintenance issues or ecological consequences?

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The topic started this way, with this question that came to us by email:


Our township is updating their zoning ordinance. There is a section covering the use of fences, walls and plant material for screening undesirable views. The section lists suggestions for screening which I'm sure is out of date, since it includes Russian Olive. Hasn't that been declared invasive? Could you look over our present list, and recommend which plants should be removed from our list, and perhaps suggest replacements?


a. Deciduous trees :(should these even be on the list since they lose their leaves and lose their screening ability in the winter?) Ash, Beech, Birch, Flowering Crab, Ginkgo (male), Hackberry, Hard Maple, Hawthorn, Honey Locust, Linden, Magnolia, Redbud, and Scycamore.


b. Evergreen Trees: Cedar, Fir, Hemlock, Juniper, Pine, and Spruce


c. Shrubs :( I question the cotoneaster, Euonymous, Honeysuckle Privet and Russian Olive) Cotoneaster, Dogwood, Euonymous, Forsythia, Hazelnut, Honeysuckle, Hydrangea, Lilac, Privet, and Russian Olive.


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Woo, good question M.E.. "Outdated" is a subjective term, as is "declared invasive." If people are interested in native plants and ecological gardening then perhaps Russian Olive shouldn't be there. Certainly the Soil Conservation districts in most areas have stopped pushing AUTUMN olive, that tree's cousin, for its invasiveness. As for the declaration, we see a lot of plants declared invasive on NATIONAL lists that are NOT INVASIVE in some regions...


there's also a common name botanical name issue to be addressed in this list. It makes a difference: Some honeysuckles are very invasive over large areas. Ditto, some Euonymus. But some Lonicera species (honeysuckle) are native, some Euonymus are native.


There's a philosophy involved, too. Do we educate by NOT telling people, or by giving options and pointing people to learn? Most plants on that list are long term conventions, certainly workable. As "suggestions" the list does accomplish the purpose of giving people workable answers while allowing the property owner to make their own investigation re invasiveness and other criteria.


And there are mundane considerations. That the ginkgo should be male is not explained. Sure, some people don't want the fruit, which in close quarters has a bad odor. But the MALE trees raise the pollen count in an area. So does lawn grass. Cities in the desert Southwest viewed as refuge for those with allergies changed drastically in the other direction shortly after thousands chose to move there to get away from pollen. So much new building occurred, to suit easterners who wanted lawn and "non-messy" (seed free) male trees that pollen counts went through the roof.


Even the "simple" question of whether a screen should be evergreen or deciduous, has considerations.*


We'd like some wide input on this -- which is why we're posting it here.


So back to my question up top, to you-all:


Which plants would YOU suggest for screening, that would do the job and not cause unexpected maintenance issues or ecological consequences?


*Always exceptions. And one of them is a favorite hedge of mine!

Here's hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), a species used for 'way back in history for hedges. It's deciduous but because

1) Its juvenile (non-blooming) branches keep their leaves in winter (see marcescent back in our What's Up news section!) and

2) Regular shearing keeps the plant full of juvenile wood

It's pretty darned effective as a visual barrier even in winter.

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Hi Janet,

Hornbeam is a good tall hedge that is relatively disease free. Carpinus betula has two forms more narrow than the species. While these two cultivars seem different initially, experts who have grown them report they look very similar given some time. The two cultivar names are 'Frans Fontaine' & 'Fastigiata'. There are two newer dwarf cultivars that won't grow to 35' and would be slow growers but could be used if there were some overhead utility concerns. These are 'Monument' & 'Columnaris Nana'.

All the best!


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