Outside of grass care and tree selection, the most frequent questions I get on GardenLine and through emails are about barrier shrubs.

They are usually about a need to block views or to create a boundary between properties.

Most people use old standards like wax-leaf ligustrums, red-tip photinias and oleanders to achieve those goals, but I usually suggest what I believe to be some of the most underutilized shrubbery.

While I hope some listeners will take a break from those standbys, don't assume I hold any disdain for them. I still love them ... Oleanders in particular, since they are used with our Galveston neighbors. But as hedgerows, they are simply overused.

I've said on GardenLine that if more listeners picked from my less-employed shrubs, I might not have many questions to answer each week. That's because my recommended plants don't have many problems with insects or diseases in our climate.

So, below I hope to send you off well-armed when you're looking for tall shrubs that can grow above a fence line in speedy fashion. And I've included a couple that aren't so tall. But all are fairly care-free and only need pruning maybe once a year.

elaeagnusELAEAGNUS a.k.a. Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifoli)- If you're looking for a screen plant, look no further. The elaeagnus (also spelled eleagnus) makes a perfect hedgerow that doubles as a screen plant rather quickly. More importantly for our region, it is also known to be drought-tolerant, and it can seemingly put up with water and temperature extremes that most shrubs can't handle. In fact, once established for about two years, it can actually survive with no additional irrigation. It's is also a sun-loving plant. Its silvery leaves reflect sunlight to give the plant a special sparkle. I consider this a fence line barrier shrub because it can definitely reach 10-12 feet in the first few years.

texaswaxmyrtleTEXAS WAX MYRTLE (Myrica cerifera) - If you've been around The Woodlands or Conroe, you've seen and probably smelled the Texas wax myrtle. I can't decide what I like best about it - the expedient growth, the wonderful scent, or its imperviousness to disease. The scent varies, but in most cases has sort of a spicy-orange aroma. The wax myrtle always seems to have lustrous evergreen leaves, and can seemingly grow a couple of feet every year. It can be shaped, but when left alone it provides a random hedge like no other. And this plant can be grown in total sun or filtered light. Although people really want this one to be taller than 10-12 feet and above the fence line or act as a stand-alone barrier, it's critical to prune them two to three times a year so they thicken up. Otherwise, they become extraordinarily "leggy."

coppertoneCOPPERTONE LOQUAT- This is a plant that gets confused with red tips, but doesn't have the same disease problems. The coppertone loquat was derived from the bronze loquat, which has a rather coppery bronze-looking leaf at the top, ala red-tip photinia. Coppertone loquats also have a creamy-white burst of flowers in early spring. And while they can be trained on espaliers and must be in totally sunny, warm environments, they should not be on a hot, west-facing wall. I think they work best up against wooden fences or as a medium-height shrub on property lines. I see it in Houston mostly as a 3-4 foot barrier between sidewalks and parking lots.

needlepointhollyNEEDLEPOINT HOLLY (Ilex cornuta) and NELLIE STEVENS HOLLY - This is another all-purpose plant that can survive shade or sun. But, the best thing about needlepoint hollies is that they don't hurt you the way old-fashioned holly bushes do. Needlepoint hollies only have one point on the very end and are infinitely softer than their more painful cousin. It's often mistaken for the burford holly, another close cousin. But the needlepoint has a more supple leaf than the burford. To tell the difference, note that the burford leaf is cupped down. Some people often call the needlepoint (I think mistakenly) a Chinese holly. Nevertheless, it makes a great hedge shrub. They are at their best when pruned once a year to approximately 4-5 feet. The Nellie Stevens holly is a great "accent" tree that won't get too big. It also produces berries that attract birds. But the Nellie Stevens is almost always a small tree - the needlepoint Holly is a medium-sized shrub.

natalplumbNATAL PLUM (Carissa macrocarpa) - The natal plum has been around for a while, but I still think it's a forgotten plant. It is a fast-growing, upright, rounding shrub with beautiful leathery, rich, green leaves and small spines. The natal plum also has fragrant, white flowers that look hauntingly like jasmine flowers. But natal plums also have a unique red, plum-shaped edible fruit. These wonderful babies tolerate poor soil, heat and drought. Problem is (Yep, you knew there had to be a problem) that they just aren't that readily available. These can be kept the shortest of any hedgerow too - three feet sometimes. And like coppertone loquats, they are best used as a shorter barrier along sidewalks, streets, driveways, parking lots, and adjacent properties. It also features some really sharp needles that might keep snoopy neighbors (Mrs. Kravitz) from passing through.

japaneseblueberryJAPANESE BLUEBERRY (Elaeocarpus decipiens) - By plant industry standards, this is still a relative newcomer. It has been solid in the Houston market for close to 20 years, but that's a far shorter time than all the other shrubs. That's why I think it's still somewhat underused. Despite its name, the Japanese blueberry tree, Shogun Series is not a fruit-producer, so just wipe that out of your head now. From a distance it looks similar to a coppertone loquat, but it grows more upright. It's very popular in the western states as a street, lawn or park tree with bronzy new growth, then glossy green foliage. Older leaves produce an ornamental effect as they turn bright red before dropping. It has numerous, tiny, scented white flowers and blue-black, olive-like fruit in winter. Yes, this is an evergreen that requires full sun. It can reach 35 feet tall and 20 feet wide, but with consistent pruning you can keep it shorter and thinner. If you're willing to trim it back from the top once or twice a year, you can make a Japanese blueberry a 15-foot-tall hedgerow. Even if you never prune the top, as long as you prune the sides and plant them fairly close together, they can grow to be the tallest of the barrier shrubs I recommend.