Getting from home to work has a price most felt at home: noise. What may once have been a peaceful location is now less than pleasant. Planting a hedge can often diminish the problem, shielding your yard from noise and related pollutants. Evergreens can provide a dense, year-round noise barrier in a way that deciduous shrubs and trees cannot. The wide diversity of evergreens available to home gardeners assures choices for every climate and growing situation.
Consider how high your noise barrier needs to be when choosing evergreens. Unless you are dealing with an elevated road or a house on a hill, evergreens whose heights range from 10 to 30 feet are ideal. Larger shrubs can be used as well, and kept under control with pruning. University of Tennessee researchers suggest native Ilex family members, Foster and Savannah hollies; juniper family members Juniperus chinensis, scopulorum and virginiana; several members of the Thuja family, including occidentalus, Eastern Arborvitae, and plicata, Western Red Cedar.
The rate at which plants form a solid hedge of the height you want may be the critical element in choosing an evergreen variety. North Carolina State Extension describes the size plants will attain in "several" years. Among the rapid growers it lists Thuja "Green Giant"; Chindo viburnum; Thorny eleagnus or Eleagnus pungens and Wax Myrtle, or Morella cerifera. Tennessee quantifies its growth rate: the height and width a 3-gallon plant is likely to reach in 5 years. More typical are nursery listings, which note rapid growers without explanation.
To create a solid barrier, it is important to know the growth habits of different evergreen varieties. Cone-shaped, pyramidal and even pillar-like evergreens mature with short main trunks and skirts of branches reaching close to the ground. A Georgia nursery, for example, displays several small trees meeting those criteria. Deodora cedar, Cedrus deodora, in spite of a mature height of up to 50 feet, remains branched all the way to its base. Cryptomeria japonica, also rated as a fast grower, is cone-shaped to the ground. One reason Leyland cypress, Cupressocyparis, is valued as a dense hedge plant is the fullness at its base.
The great diversity of evergreen hedging plants makes it possible to plant shrubs or trees well suited to your specific growing conditions. Especially since noise-reducing hedges may be at some distance from your house, drought-tolerance can be an issue. Some plants need acid soils, others do best in sandy soil and still others tolerate alkaline soil. Once you have analysed the growing conditions of your yard, your local County Extension service can advise you on appropriate choices.
Planting a hedge is a big job and can involve considerable expense. One of the best ways to insure that your evergreens will do well is to contact your local or regional native plant society. Native plants are well suited to local climates and soil conditions and will therefore require less care than non-natives.
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- University of Tennessee: Evergreens for Screens and Hedges in the Landscape
- North Carolina State University Extension: Great Evergreens for Screens and Hedges; Charlotte Glen; October 2009
- Wilson Brothers Nursery: All About Screens and Hedges
- Ask Mr. Smarty Plants: Evergreen Shrubs, Small Tree for Screen in Southern California