Advice on evergreen screening plant for dry area - thank you !
Hi there - I hope you're all well and had a lovely Xmas. We live in South London / Kent area and need advice about an evergreen hedge/screening plant to plant in our garden. This is a dry area as our neighbours have huge leyandi trees near by which create a 'rain shadow' on this flowerbed. It would be a lovely south facing spot but unfortunately the leyandi trees dry out the soil and block the rain. Please can you suggest something for us to plant here as an evergreen screening plant / hedge - preferably something fairly quick growing. Unfortunately we have spent quite a lot on some thujia plicata for this area which haven't been able to tolerate the dry conditions so we need to take them out and replace them with something else. Thank you so much for any advice (pruning the leyandi is not an option unfortunately!) Best wishes.
I agree that Sarcococca are a good genus for this purpose, and also you could try Nandina domestica, which is used in California as a shade shrub. But you don't say what effect you're aiming for. Neither of these will make more than a low hedge. For a taller one, you could try yew (Taxus baccata), Aucuba, or perhaps Lonicera nitida. I think in your shoes I would be tempted to try Aucuba.
Even with those, though, you wouldn't want to bung them in and just leave them without help. It would be a good idea to prepare the site by digging in plenty of organic-rich compost, and then mulching your young plants after planting. After that, you will still need to water them all through their first year. Giving them a good soak every few days, so the water gets right down to the roots, is what is needed--you don't want to give them a dribble every day, they need to get a bit dry so they put their effort into growing a root system large enough to sustain them. Also, check on them, particularly in hot weather, and if they look miserable, up the watering frequency.
By the second or third year they will have developed a root system sufficient for the purpose. Be aware that you won't see much top growth while they are doing that. But once established they should grow well and suit your purpose.
There's a more labour-intensive method that would minimise the Leylandii problem--you dig a fairly deep trench along the line of the Leylandii, then line one side with plastic to prevent the Leylandii roots creeping in. Then you backfill your trench with good quality topsoil and plant your hedging plants in that.
However, even for this method, using young plants is definitely better. Within about 3 years they will be a much healthier, and faster-growing, hedge than one planted using mature specimens.
Keep your fingers crossed the trees do not have many years left before they die naturally as they are not long lived compared to many other trees. Councils have banned leylandii from being planted because they grow so tall and cause so many problems between neighbours.
If you are desperate to grow plants near the trees perhaps have a look at desert plants such as aloe and cactus type plants, as well as Mediterranean plants which like impoverished, hot dry arid conditions. Some are quite spectacular and can grow to several feet in height and spread.