Tag Archives: Italian Cypress

Three Dependable Landscape Plants for Fast Privacy Screens in Dry Gardens

Many people are rediscovering the joys of staying home and taking ‘staycations’. Your garden can become the perfect place to provide a peaceful sanctuary to escape from the world and unwind. Screen plants can provide privacy in your garden, hide an unsightly area and provide shade. Hopseed Bush, Brush Cherry and Italian Cypress are three shrubs or small trees that are useful for screens, grow fast or are drought tolerant. Some plants have all three qualities!

When creating your backyard paradise these screening shrubs can also help create ‘walls’ to establish separate sections in a garden, so you can create different ‘garden rooms’ in your yard. Two of these are also good for planting in narrow spaces between houses to help block out the world. Try these versatile plants in your Patch of Heaven:

HOPSEED BUSH (Dodonaea viscosa)
USDA Zone: 9-11
Sunset Zone: 7-24
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Moderate to low, drought tolerant

Hop Seed bushes come with leaves in either bright, lime green or dark purple. Both versions have leaves about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide and are very shiny on multiple shrubby branches. These drought tolerant shrubs are fast growers to about 10 feet tall and almost as wide. They take full sun to part shade. Once established in the garden (1-2 years) they can survive on rainfall alone.

Hopseed bushes have a growth habit that is a bit airy, with lots of small branches and the long leaves add to the lacy feel. They can be trimmed as hedges or espaliers for a slightly denser effect. These are good for layering to create a full, lush feel in the border. They are perfect for the back of the bed (where the sprinkler won’t reach), along fences or as border screens. In late spring they develop large, papery seed pods, usually light brown, which hang on for weeks and provide a dramatic effect. Although the seed pods break down quickly in the soil, I do not recommend planting these bushes near pools.

BRUSH CHERRY, CAROLINA LAUREL CHERRY (Prunus caroliniana)
USDA Zone: 7 – 9
Sunset Zone: 5 – 24
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Moderate to low

Brush Cherry is another dependable, versatile garden shrub for quick screens and hedges. These shrubs can grow up to 30 feet tall and 10 – 12 feet wide. Although I have seen mature stands of Carolina Laurel grow even taller. They can grow in full sun to part shade. Once established they can survive drought conditions. However, in desert areas they prefer less sun and will appreciate more water during the hottest summer weather.
Brush Cherries have a dense growth habit with lots of branches so they take well to heaving shearing as a hedge and can even be used for topiaries. Left untrimmed, they will still maintain their neat, shrubby shape, but the interior growth will not have leaves. They can also be trained as small multi-trunk trees. New growth is a pretty reddish rusty color in the spring. They get sprays of white flowers followed by clusters of small, bright red cherries. The cherries can stain concrete and make a mess. If you don’t have enough birds in your area to take care of the cherries for you, just trim off the flowers before they set. This will also relieve the plant of the stress of producing seeds.

ITALIAN CYPRESS (Cupressus sempervirens)
USDA Zone: 7 – 9
Sunset Zone: 4 – 24
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Moderate to low, drought tolerant

Italian Cypress trees are a familiar staple in the city, growing along border lines as tall screens. They grow up to 60 feet high on single trunks and are generally 1-2 feet wide but mature plants can be much wider. All cypresses prefer full sun, but will tolerate part shade and can survive on little water once they are established in a year or two.

Italian cypress are perfect shrubs for problem areas. They grow tall but they’re thin, so you can tuck them into narrow spaces. Their trunks will eventually reach about 12 inches around, so your narrow bed should at least be that wide. Their growth habit is sleek and cylindrical, with most of their leaves pointing up. They lose a small amount of needles during they year, but litter is not a big problem with these trees. They do not grow very fast the first year, but they will make up for their lack of growth in the second year. Continually trimming the tops will result in a slightly fatter shrub, but they are fairly care free, needing no trimming.

When you are planning on having your shrubs survive on rainfall, it is best to encourage deep root development early on by soaking your plants every few days instead of sprinkling the topsoil every night. Even established plants appreciate a deep soak during a heat wave, when the weather has been over 100 degrees, or when it has been especially dry and windy.