Those of you with larger lots may see little need to plant trees and shrubs for privacy, but where houses are crowded onto quarter-acres, there are some of us who find a green screen is not just a nicety, but is essential for sanity. Two pecans, probably planted in the late 1970’s, shade the right half of the back yard.
When we first hauled our 100-plus pots to this house in the summer of 2004, that part of the yard looked and felt leafy and private, but late that fall the leaves fell, revealing not only the bare boughs, but the surrounding roofs, walls and windows. This depressing vista proved that almost everything along the fences of our adjoining yards was deciduous – pecans, crepe myrtles, ash trees, oaks, tall Mockoranges… even a magnolia ID’d as evergreen turned out to be a deciduous saucer type instead. So the next spring we added some broadleaf evergreens along the back fence, and also planted young trees on the treeless left side of the yard. When we’re sitting outside, it's not exactly our own little kingdom, but the loquat helps, and the six-foot ‘privacy fence’ makes a good background, and the greenery will fill in eventually.
While we’re waiting for that sense of enclosure to develop, let’s see how tall everything is now.
Our idea is that once these crepe myrtles get their crowns above the fence line, they’ll soften the horizontal line of the wood, and their irregular branches will break up views of roofs and house walls. The tips on the left one stretch to 6’ 6” now, and the right crepe myrtle has just hit 6-feet. By the end of this summer we may be able to tell whether our theory will work.
Halfway between the crepe myrtles is a tiny evergreen with potential. This is Pinus pinea, the Italian Stone Pine. I bought it at some garden club sale at Zilker Park a couple of years ago, and it's supposed to do well here. At the time it was an unbranched sapling, about 10” tall, growing in a plastic tube for $1. Now it has branched out, and reached the amazing height of 17”. This pine is seen in classic Italian paintings, and is the source for pinenuts. Who could resist an Italian classic for one buck?
You've seen our Magnolia “Little Gem’ folded over in the ice photos.
'Little Gem' was measured at 56” last February, and it has grown some, but not much, to 60”. But as you can see, there's more than 4" of new wood on the individual branches: Apparently, when the weight of January’s ice fanned the tree branches outward, some of the height was transmuted into breadth.
This loquat was a foot-tall seedling with a few leaves when I got it in 2000. It’s been in the ground for over a year and has reached 9’6” tall, and can actually cast a little shade on the patio. It's also branching out, so it's starting to look like a real tree, instead of a sapling.
Diva-of-the-Dirt Buffy gave me another foot-tall loquat seedling in spring 2005. I keep moving it to larger and larger containers, while occasionally taking off the bottom leaves. This loquat is now 35-inches tall.
We need beauty and fragrance as well as privacy, so we planted a small, evergreen shrub in the Triangle Garden. It's called Texas Mountain Laurel, botanically Sophora secundfolia, from the pea family, totally unrelated to the Eastern Laurels. At 26” inches tall, this slow-grower won’t make much impact for awhile, but it has a few flower buds!
In this photo from 2004, you can see what we hope for this spring.
We had three mountain laurels at our previous Austin house, and took a closeup of the beautiful, fragrant purple- blue flowers. The fragrance is described as grape Kool-aid or grape bubble gum.
It might be easier to catch the fruity fragrance once the flowers are at shoulder level rather than near our knees.
Do any of you grow Michelia figo, also called Banana shrub? It’s related to Magnolias, and the small flowers really do smell like bananas. I bought a one-foot, one-gallon plant in fall 2004, so at 38-inches, it’s done well, but will have to do a lot of growing if it's going to reach the fence top. Off to the right there are two unseen evergreen shrubs, a 40" Loropetalum, and a 30" Podocarpus, sometimes called Buddhist Pine.
Last February I remembered to measure the camellia and recorded it as 55” tall. So what happened – a year later it measures only 54"!! Since the branches show new growth, I guess this is another case where the shrub is now growing outward instead of upward.
Philo estimated the larger Pecan to be 40’ tall, and it's probably been here a quarter of a century. But we don't need our plants to be 40-feet tall - eight or ten will do, and we like watching things grow, so we'll try to be patient as we wait for our green & private Eden to develop.
2016 – APRIL ANNIE’S GARDEN DAY
1 month ago