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Mon, Sept. 23

Column: New plant for living privacy screens

Cindy of Prescott Valley e-mailed this question: "I received your garden newsletter several weeks ago describing the dwarf yedda hawthorn, but by the time I was ready to plant one there were none left to buy. They were all gone. How often do you receive new plants, and if I can find a dwarf yedda can I still plant it now?"

Hawthorns are a frequently stocked plant at garden centers especially through winter and spring. The first crop of 2008 was just harvested and I have to say the dwarf yedda hawthorns look even better than the last batch. This is a good time to plant evergreens, either in the ground or in containers, because right now the risk of transplant shock is zero. The rich evergreen color, fragrant showy spring flowers and minimal water use in summer all add up to a very popular plant.

My clients' number one landscape objectives are living privacy screens. With ever larger homes going up on ever smaller lots, the distance between each home grows smaller; so the demand for privacy screens has become greater. Choosing the correct screening plants is critical as many can become overgrown and unsightly very quickly.

A relative of the Arizona cypress that grows wild throughout northern Arizona has long been the usual choice for screens. It looks very similar to juniper and frequently is mistaken for juniper. Cypresses put on small round cones instead of berries, and people have far fewer allergic reactions to cypresses than to junipers. Cypresses grow fast and large, making them an ideal choice for privacy screens and wind-breaks. They grow very large very quickly but, like other screening plants, they can outgrow their space if not strategically planted. Fortunately, now there is a better option for privacy screens in smaller spaces.

Genetic development has presented us with a new series of fast-growing cypresses, which grow very thick and very tall, but remain accommodatingly narrow. The Emerald Isle Cypress, Cupressocyparis leylandii 'Moncal', is a stunning achievement of these newly created plants. It fits perfectly in tight spaces where, previously, overgrown plants commonly have plagued landscapes.

This variety, that never needs pruning, is tall enough to provide screening from neighboring second-story windows. When tightly spaced, it will produce a solid wall of year 'round bright green foliage to about 6-feet wide and 20-feet high. Cypresses are low water users especially when planted in clay soils. If you are going to kill this plant, it will be from over watering.

I'm excited about this new variety of cypress and the versatility it brings to landscape design. It is a beautiful sight against warm-colored stucco walls. The columnar form suits a formal garden design when used in matched pairs to flank doorways, gates, art, or a fountain. Used in the English style it creates a staccato colonnade of deep green at the back of a mixed border. Because it is such a new plant, you will find it available in sizes ranging from small 1-gallon starter plants to large 15-gallon established trees.

I would like to know your thoughts, concerns, questions or topic suggestions for this column. You may submit them to Watters Garden Center, 1815 Irons Springs Road, Prescott, AZ 86305, or by logging onto my web site at www.wattersonline.com. You'll find the "ask a question" link on the left of your screen. Whether you choose electronic or snail mail, I look forward to those comments from your desktop to mine.

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I have to give a big shout out for RYLA, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. Last weekend high school students from around the world took over Prescott's own Camp Pinerock to learn how to be better leaders. I had the privilege of coordinating all the High Ropes Course volunteers. We guided more than 130 students as they stretched their physical and mental skills through the intensely demanding obstacles set 40 feet above the ground. I love working with high school students and, as I've said many times, I love being out of doors, but being outdoors all weekend helping our youth become better students, better citizens, and ultimately better leaders of the next generation made for an unbeatable experience.

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If you saw the photo in the paper this week of my grower, general manager, wife and myself accepting the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce Business of the Month award, you may have wondered how a Prescott business could receive a Chino Valley award. Well, because of our growing operation in Chino Valley we are very involved in that community. I love Chino Valley and its rural lifestyle. Its small-town feeling reminds me of my days growing up in Prescott. I have a lot of interest in contributing to the business vitality of Chino Valley, just as I do in Prescott and Prescott Valley, because I believe that we all win when our communities thrive. My congratulations to the team at Watters Garden Center for our award as business of the month in Chino Valley.

Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.

Ken Lain, the owner of Watters Garden Center in Prescott, is a certified nursery professional and master gardener who has gardened extensively throughout Yavapai County.

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