A look at reader mail and proper screening

  • Sunday, August 24, 2014

A local gardener writes:

Dear Bill,

I just wanted to thank you for your weekly gardening help column.

I find your columns helpful, informative and entertaining. I am an avid West Ashley gardener and I look forward to your local bend on gardening that one just cannot get from a nationally syndicated article from say, New York. I originally migrated here from Northern California from a similar zone (Zone 8), and I can confirm that what goes here does not go for gardens elsewhere in our diverse country.

And right now, with the Charleston Horticultural Society on “recess,” (Why in the heck do they do persist in doing this? Not all of us Charleston folks retire to summer villas in the mountains in summer!) I am especially feeling gardening-info deprived.

Wanted to add, while I am thinking about it, that I got a kick out of the Alice Cooper reference in your June 24 column. What a hoot!

Keep up the good work!


From another reader:

I've had a monoculture of 78 Leylands, half in full sun, the other half, half day, a.m. to noon sun. Otherwise, they were treated the same. I lost 38 of the trees in the second year, all full-sun trees, from the root rot problem and Needle Blight.

I replaced all 38 with Thuja “Steeplechase” a sport of Thuja “Green Giant.” All are doing well, yet are at different heights due to more or less a.m. sun and varying moisture uptake even given that the trees have a “drip” irrigation system in place. I find the Steeplechase, while glorious-looking, are quite sensitive to too much ground moisture when under say four feet.

Perhaps in your next Leyland installment you could talk about both the Green Giant and the Steeplechase?

The Green Giant and the Steeplechase are considered good substitutes for the Leyland Cypress. As of now, there are no known pest and disease problems (this could change).


The Steeplechase is an improvement on the Green Giant. The Steeplechase is smaller, denser, with finer foliage; however, it does not seem to do as well in wet soils or when exposed to very cold winds. Both varieties are tolerant to sand as well as clay soils.

If you have ever listened to the radio show when we (Paul and I) are talking about screening, you know I am big on diversified screens with many foliage types, fragrance, color shows (berries, flowers, leaf color and even bark color) and plant forms (weeping, upright, pyramidal, umbrella). Staggering your plantings gives you more air movement and is usually more visually appealing, depending on your overall landscape (a formal landscape may require more straight lines).

Depending on your soil conditions and what you are trying to screen, here are a few plants to consider:

Hollies – many, many choices with different forms, shapes and berry colors. Be sure to purchase while showing berries because all males do not have berries. Do not overlook the upright or weeping yaupon holly with their shiny berries and unique shape.

Magnolias – also many shapes and sizes available; some are big, some are narrow. Good fragrance. In the interest of time and column inches, I'm going to list several other plants. Usually planting in staggered, odd-numbered groups of three to nine of the same plant works really well. A few (there are many others) more plants to consider for screening: loquat (big foliage and fruit), bottlebrush (cool flowers that attract hummingbirds), camellias (fall and winter bloomers), azaleas, viburnum (foliage color, many sizes), loropetalum (foliage color, many sizes), wax myrtle, pyracantha (berries), oleander (summer flowers, unique growth habit), Arizona cypress, tea olive (fragrance), live oak, palms with several different staggered heads, Japanese cedar, eastern red cedar, anise (cool upright foliage that smells like anise – Twizzlers) and many more.

Always read, understand and follow product labels. The product label is a federal law.

Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum's Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possum's has three locations: 481 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant (843-971-9601), 3325 Business Circle in North Charleston (843-760-2600) and 606 Dupont Road in Charleston (843-766-1511). Bring your questions to a Possum's location, or visit us at www.possumsupply.com. You can also call in your questions to “The Garden Clinic,” Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. on 1250 WTMA (The Big Talker). Horticulture Hotline at www.possumsupply.com.

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