Taming the Jungle and Replacing it with Oakleaf Hollies

oakleaf hollies after mulching

Well, I have another area of my yard that needs a drastic revision. I have been working on my sun garden island, and now my rose garden, and really don’t want to see the neighbor’s home in the background. I don’t have a problem with my neighbors, not one iota, I just want a wall of evergreen as a backdrop. I do like my privacy (she says on a website with a youtube channel). I am sure he does too. Isn’t that why we all moved to the woods? Oftentimes his dog, Mick, wanders over into my yard… so we do need to keep an open space to send him back.

tangled mess of a jungle needs a refresh with oakleaf hollies (too bad these aren’t roses!)

Not only can I see his house, but the grapevines and beautyberries, along with the bidens alba are a mangled thicket nightmare. It is so not attractive. What’s worse, however, is that these plants die back in the winter leaving even more open area into which I can view the neighbor’s side and front yards… And they can see into mine.

here, i mowed the weeds between the second and third hollies.

My first step was to cut down as much of the weeds as I possibly could with the riding mower. Most were bidens alba. While I did take a few broken beautyberry bushes to the knee, and had to be careful not to strangle myself in grapevines, this task went smoother than I had anticipated.

overgrown grapevines and beautyberry

The next step was to break out the chainsaw and cut back the grapevines and beautyberries. Then, I mowed again to get more of the weeds that grew under the bushes.

handy dandy little chainsaw: it helps to have the right tools.

Honestly, I thought it was going to be a tougher project than it was. Knocking back the jungle was actually easier than finding a conical, evergreen shrub that was at least 10 feet, if not 15 feet tall, that wouldn’t grow high enough to interfere with the electric lines at approximately 25 feet. We just don’t have the gorgeous dwarf evergreens here as they do up north like alberta spruce. The search was indeed a challenge for me.

Some of the evergreens I researched were Green Giant Thuja Arborvitae and Evergreen Arborvitae. They didn’t work out because the top of their agricultural zone range is 8 and I’m in 9B (even though there are arborvitae that do grow here… I’m just not a fan. I don’t like their plated leaves and I don’t like their gumdrop shape.)

I really wanted a Japanese blueberry tree, but they are not cheap (although I did find a reasonable tree nursery in Clermont I need to check out). Reports indicate the mature height ranges from 15 feet to 60 feet. I’m thinking the disparity is a result of one’s ability to prune… and that’s not something I want to labor over. I do think I will get some for an area not under electric wires. They are quite beautiful. I chatted with a nurseryman about why he didn’t carry these. He indicated that a lot of growers stopped selling them because they required too much maintenance by the homeowner on typical lots. He told me that “japanese blueberries like to be sheared” to keep their shape, and people just weren’t doing it, and so they didn’t sell.

Another tree I really wanted to try is Arizona Cypress. I have three of them but I planted them all in shade and they all look quite straggly. Also, they can get 50 feet tall. NEXT!

I love the look of Bald Cypress. I was shocked to find out that they don’t have to grow in swamps. They turn a beautiful bronze in the fall… and then the leaves fall off! What? Wait? A conifer that’s deciduous? And, they get humongous too! PASS… at least on this project. I do want to get some for another area, however.

Other evergreens that I considered were Nellie Stevens and Eagleston Holly (15-25 feet tall). No one had them in stock and they didn’t have more manageable sizes for me to plant on my own. And Dahoon hollies grow to 30 feet tall.

Italian Cypress also popped up on my list but they look too skinny, so I’d need a lot. Also turned out to be expensive for the larger trees and they grow to 40 feet… so that’s a “no”. ONWARD.

I even looked into junipers… but no luck. Someone suggested something like eugenia. Another suggested Leyland Cypress. I have one and I love it… I just wanted something different and longer living. I looked for Cryptomeria but I don’t even think nurseries around here sell those.

One nursery owner had Brodie Eastern Red Cedars but he mentioned that they have a girth of just 4-5-feet. I would have needed more than $1000 worth of those since the area I needed to cover was 30-40 feet wide. I have since seen report they grow eight feet wide. I really needed something wider than four that wouldn’t break the bank or the telephone lines and transformers.

Well, I stopped at yet another nursery to check on their inventory. They had gorgeous trees, especially the Japanese Blueberry tree, but what I settled on was smaller, more manageable (both physically and on the wallet) Oakleaf Hollies.

They have the typical sharp Holly leaves. This one is unusual because it is a hermaphrodite (asexual) and doesn’t need a partner tree to make berries. Having both male and female flowers itself, it produces its own fruit. Cultivated in Mississippi, the mother plant is known but the father is not. It does have Burford Holly in its lineage

Oakleaf Holly has a fast rate of growth and reaches a height of about 14-20 feet tall and 8-15-feet wide, They should be planted 6-12-feet apart. I planted mine with 8-feet spacing. It takes full sun to part shade.

landscape fabric before mulch
landscape fabric before mulch
oakland hollies after mulching
oakleaf hollies after mulching

Once i shape them up, remove the weeds, lay professional landscape fabric down (yes, I will put fabric down here because I don’t plan to grow anything between the trees… also, did you see the massive amount of seeds the spanish needles put out? if not, watch the video below), and mulch, this area will look so much better.

oakland hollies after mulching
oakleaf hollies after mulching
oakleaf holly in mulch
oakleaf holly in mulch

Read more about laying landscape fabric for mulch and watch the video here: Laying landscape fabric & mulching the Oakleaf hollies : Avant Gardens (

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