ShadyGardens Blog

June 13, 2013

Alternatives to Leyland Cypress

Filed under: alternatives, Cypress, evergreen, hedge, holly, leyland, Osmanthus, privacy, rose, screen — shadygardens @ 11:57 am

Having been in the nursery business for many years now, we have received many requests for Leyland Cypress. Because of its fast growth rate and thick evergreen needles, Leyland Cypress is commonly planted close together in long rows as a privacy screen. It does make a good screen and very quickly too. However, most homeowners plant them way too close together. Because a mature Leyland Cypress Tree can be 12 to 20 feet wide, it is best to plant them at least 6 feet apart. I have seen local homeowners plant them 2 or 3 feet apart. The trees will grow quickly and just fine until they are wide enough to begin touching each other. Crowding leads to disease and ultimate death, resulting in a large brown dead tree right in the middle of the privacy screen. The University of Georgia has an excellent publication available for free detailing common Diseases of Leyland Cypress.




Rather than offer Leyland Cypress at our nursery and try to educate all on the proper planting techniques, I prefer to offer some more beautiful alternatives to the Leyland Cypress.

While it is true that Leyland Cypress offers excellent screening year round, why plant a tree that is simply evergreen, when you can plant an evergreen that offers additional benefits? Your options are limitless. You can choose from evergreens with berries, evergreens with showy blooms, evergreens with fragrant flowers, or even evergreens with edible fruit. But what I suggest to you is this: why choose at all? I recommend a mixed border. With my plan, you can have privacy, flowers, fragrance, and fruit all, by planting your property line with a variety of evergreen shrubs and trees.
Holly can’t be beat for a privacy screen.

Just make sure you choose one that will grow large enough, as there are many dwarf, low-growing, or compact varieties available. Additionally, not all hollies are evergreen. American Holly is the traditional Christmas Holly with spiny leaves and bright red decorative berries. A native American tree, American Holly is a very dense evergreen tree growing up to 50 feet tall. Chinese Hollies grow large also, and the heavy fruit-set attracts all kinds of birds to the garden. I like Lusterleaf Holly, for its large leaves and voluptuous clusters of red berries. Nellie R. Stevens is a cross between Chinese and English Holly. This fast-growing large shrub will provide privacy in no time, while also displaying large red berries against dark green foliage.

Camellias are a favorite for Southern gardens.


Sasanqua Camellias can grow quite fast if soil is rich and water is readily available. Blooms can be had in many colors and if you plant several different varieties, you can have blooms from September all the way to March. Japanese Camellias provide additional bloom types and colors, and with them you can extend your blooms all the way in to April or possibly even early May. Japonica blooms also make a good flower for taking indoors.

Rosa mutabilis Shady Gardens Nursery
Some varieties of shrub roses can get shockingly large, making them another ideal blooming plant for privacy screenings. Roses are mostly evergreen here in Georgia and Alabama. Knockout Roses are available everywhere now, even at the grocery store. Contrary to what is on the growing tag, they will grow up to 10 feet tall here in just 1 year’s time. Another shrub rose for privacy would be Mutabilis, an old China rose known as the Butterfly Rose. This rose grows very wide, so if you have a neighbor who wants you off her property, plant this one several feet from the property line. Rugosa Rose is one we haven’t got around to planting, but it is on our wishlist. Very thorny, so it will provide a barrier to keep out unwanted individuals. In addition to beautiful fragrant flowers, you and wild birds will be able to enjoy large orange or red rose hips in the Fall.
One of my favorite shrubs of all is Tea Olive. Osmanthus fragrans is so well-loved here that we have planted 6 of them already. When in bloom, our whole garden smells like fresh apricots. Flowers are very inconspicuous, but fragrance is oh so sweet! Osmanthus fragrans blooms heavily in Fall and again in Spring, with sporadic bloom all in between so that you can have fragrance in your garden almost year round. Osmanthus fortunei, also known as False Holly, has prickly holly-like leaves and flowers just as fragrant but that come only in Fall. Osmanthus Orange Blossom has masses of tiny orange flowers that, yet again, are just as fragrant as Osmanthus fragrans.

Orange Blossom Tea Olive also blooms just once a year in Fall, but all 3 of these large growing shrubs provide year round privacy with their dense evergreen foliage that is not usually bothered by any pests or diseases.

Edible plants are gaining in popularity for home-gardeners, probably due to the high cost of produce with the additional threat of food borne illnesses and pesticide contamination on store bought fruits and vegetables. Fruit-bearing evergreens are perfect for a privacy screen. Blueberry shrubs can develop into a nice dense bush when planted in full sun and given plenty of water. While not completely evergreen, blueberries are mostly evergreen in warmer areas of Georgia and Alabama. If citrus is hardy in your climate, Meyer Lemon and Loquat are excellent as an ornamental privacy screen. Fragrant blooms in summer develop into tasty and attractive fruit in winter.

These are just a few of my favorites, but you might also consider Gardenia for fragrant blooms. Evergreen viburnums provide both fragrant blooms and often showy berries too. Loropetalum has deep purple foliage and bright pink blooms in several months out of the year. Actually, I could go on and on. So I will stop here. Go ahead and get started on your beautiful privacy screen and check back soon for some additional recommendations for plants you can add as you’re ready.



This last photo is not my own, and the shrubs are not all evergreen. But isn’t this a spectacular hedge? Actually, the only time this border would not provide a privacy screen is in the dead of winter. And who’s sitting outside then anyway? Not me.

January 3, 2012

A Native Garden in Winter

Filed under: American, Cypress, gardens, Georgia, holly, jasmine, native, nursery, pachysandra, plants, Shady, source, yucca — shadygardens @ 6:14 pm
Gelsemium sempervirens – Carolina Jasmine

Since a Georgia winter has frequent warm days, we enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors even in January and February. Finding native plants that are showy in winter can be challenging.


We do have many non-native evergreens in our garden, but we find it important to plant native plants whenever possible. After much searching, I have come up with a few suggestions of American native plants you should add to your winter garden:

  • American Holly, of course for the berries!
  • Carolina Jasmine, Gelsemium sempervirens, also known as Carolina Jessamine, begins blooming often as early as December. Profuse bloom in winter hides the leaves, which are evergreen in most of the South. This easy to grow vine will climb anything or can be grown as a spreading groundcover, but it is never considered invasive.
  • Pachysandra Procumbens, often referred to as Allegheny Spurge, is a non-invasive groundcover that develops a silvery mottling to its leaves in fall and winter.
  • Evergreens are an important addition to any garden. One I like in particular that looks just as good in winter as any other time of year is Arizona Cypress.
  • Yucca provides spikey interest year round and provides contrast in the garden. I like ‘Golden Sword’ for its bright yellow stripes appearing like sunshine in the garden.
In addition to being beautiful year round, these plants offer the added benefit of being drought tolerant, which is an important asset to consider after the drought we’ve endured for the last few years.

Source for these plants: Shady Gardens Nursery.

January 22, 2010

Winter Garden in Georgia with Native Plants

Since a Georgia winter has frequent warm days, we enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors even in January and February. Finding native plants that are showy in winter can be challenging.

We do have many non-native evergreens in our garden, but we find it important to choose native plants whenever possible. After much searching, I have come up with a few suggestions of American native plants you should add to your winter garden:

  • American Holly, of course for the berries!
  • Pachysandra Procumbens, often referred to as Allegheny Spurge, is a non-invasive groundcover that develops a silvery mottling to its leaves in fall and winter.

  • Lonicera fragrantissima begins blooming in January with sweetly fragrant and delicately beautiful blooms. This large growing shrub is commonly referred to as Winter Honeysuckle.
  • Evergreens are an important addition to any garden. One I like in particular that looks just as good in winter as any other time of year is Arizona Cypress.
  • Yucca provides spikey interest year round and provides contrast in the garden. I like ‘Golden Sword’ for its bright yellow stripes appearing like sunshine in the garden. The top photo shows Golden Sword Yucca in its January splendor.

In addition to being beautiful year round, these plants offer the added benefit of being drought tolerant and perfect for xeriscape gardens, which is an important asset to consider during today’s uncertain water conditions!

December 3, 2007

Arizona Cypress Loves the Georgia Drought

As rain continues to remain scarce, we are constantly seeking out drought tolerant plants that will beautify our garden. A couple of years ago, we discovered the stately yet durable Arizona Cypress. We’ve had 2 years of drought here in West Central Georgia. The Arizona Cypress trees are planted in the hottest, driest part of our garden where the soil is nothing but hard clay bricks. The columnar Arizona Cypress ‘Blue Ice’ has continued to grow taller and taller while maintaining its narrow form. We just love it. The blue color of the foliage is just as beautiful as the Colorado Blue Spruce, yet grows much better in our hot Georgia climate. Our Arizona Cypress Trees receive no supplemental water at all. Last year, in the middle of our summer drought, we added two more trees, and they have responded so well to the drought that we think they actually enjoy it! The Arizona Cypress does love the heat—as its name implies, it is a native of Arizona. The Arizona Cypress makes a great hedge or screen, and it is available in both a pyramidal form and a columnar form. Both are equally beautiful and they also make a great living Christmas Tree. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-10, the Arizona Cypress Tree will make a beautiful addition to your garden.

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