Thursday, March 13, 2008

Landscape and Nursery - Alternatives for Leyland Cypress

The following is a good article on substitutes for Leyland Cypress from the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center

Because of all its problems, it is necessary to consider substitutes (not just a single substitute) for Leyland cypress in the landscape. The idea is to choose plants for a particular site based upon cultural conditions and aesthetic considerations. It is best to have diversity in the landscape. The use of a variety of well-adapted species, whose requirements match the site conditions, results in more healthy plants.

When choosing screening substitutes for Leyland cypress, consider the actual needs – both of site conditions, and of screening purpose. How high does the screen really need to be for privacy? Few home sites actually require the height that Leyland cypress can ultimately reach. What is the purpose of the screen? Is full year privacy needed, or is screening needed only in certain seasons and for parts of the property? If instant privacy is needed, a fence fronted by shrubs and trees for interest may be more suitable than overcrowding plants. Alternatively, two staggered rows will create a screen more quickly with less chance of crowding. Also consider the contribution to the overall landscape that screening plants will provide. The best screening solutions should be a part of the total design for the property.

Recommended Screening Plants

For those who desire a tall narrow conifer similar in form to Leyland cypress, consider Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) for dry sites in full sun or ‘Green Giant’ arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’) for moist, but well drained, fertile sites in full sun. Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) makes a fine tall screen in partly shady areas.

Many broadleaved evergreens make excellent dense screens and also provide flowers or berries for seasonal interest. Tall, narrower cultivars of Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) such as ‘Alta’, ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’and ‘Edith Bogue’ are ideal for screening. In areas where not quite as high or wide a screen is needed, ‘Little Gem’ is very compact and upright in growth. Sweetbay magnolias (M. virginiana) will tolerate moister soil than most. The cultivars ‘Henry Hicks’ and ‘Santa Rosa’ are reliably evergreen.

Hollies provide a multitude of choices for tall screening plants. ‘Foster’s’ holly, the closely related ‘Savannah’ holly (both Ilex x attenuata), and the Aquipernyi hollies (I. x aquipernyi) ‘Dragon Lady’ and ‘Carolina Sentinal’ are all tall, narrow hollies suitable for areas where plant width is a consideration. In less restricted areas, broader hollies such as lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia), ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ holly, and many others can be considered. Most hollies grow well in either sun or part shade.

In many cases screens that range between 6 and 15 feet tall will be sufficient to provide privacy. For these areas, numerous choices are available. Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is excellent for many difficult sites with it’s tolerance of sand, wind, salt, and poor soil. It does require full sun. Taller varieties of yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) will give a fine texture and will tolerate a variety of difficult growing conditions from wet to dry soil, and even salt spray in sun or light shade. There are viburnums available for virtually any situation, and they will add to the landscape with flowers and berries. Many other species should be considered when looking for appropriate screening for a site.

Adapted for Delaware from "Leyland Cypress Alternatives" from the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center written by Karen Russ, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, Clemson University.

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