A living wall of green
As we enjoy more time out of doors, many of us realize that our landscapes could provide us with more privacy. This is a good time of year to plant the large evergreens typically used not only for privacy, but to create wind breaks or to screen out neighbors' ugly yards.
To successfully add evergreens to any landscape, there are certain steps that are worth the time and money. The most important requirement for thriving evergreen tree growth is drainage; the soil must be able to "percolate." Next in importance are the three soil additives crucial to properly plant evergreens are mulch, food, and "Root & Grow." Blend one shovelful of mulch for every three shovels full of native earth to pack around each plant's root ball. Feed new trees with "All Purpose Plant Food 7-4-4"; the cottonseed meal in this natural food promotes better root formation while maintaining good foliage color. Lastly, add "Root & Grow" rooting solution from a watering can to thoroughly saturate the planting hole and root ball.
I created a planting guide with diagrams that's free for the asking, so get it the next time you visit our garden center. At the same time ask for the free landscape irrigation guide; too much water on evergreens is the number one cause of plant death.
When you're ready to choose the trees for your living wall of green, read through the list that follows. It is comprised of screeners that do well in our area. The list contains the names of evergreens that have performed well for my clients and me over the years.
Green mountain pine: This dense pine is easy to care for, and is cold-hardy like native pines. Its rich green needles are sturdy and more numerous than those of other pines, with less needle drop in summer. Thick right to the ground and 18' tall, it makes the perfect windbreak while preventing prying eyes from looking in on your private hot tub occasions.
Deodar cedar: Many refer to this tree as the Christmas tree because of its tall cone shape. It is by far the largest of the screening plants, growing to over 80 feet tall and 18 feet wide with long swooping branches of Arizona blue foliage. Growing some 2-3 feet per year, it is one of the fastest-growing of the screeners. As with most upright evergreens, this cedar can thrive on low water use, drought conditions and drip irrigation. Make sure to give it plenty of growing space because this tree is going to need it.
Nordman fir: The next-fastest-growing evergreen tree is the fir, which grows wild throughout the mountains of Arizona. Its deep forest-green needles are so soft that you just want to give this tree a big hug. It grows to more than 70 feet tall and 12-15 feet wide and naturalizes when large enough.
Colorado spruce: Spruce are the slowest growers, but few other evergreens produce color so blue they can look almost silver. The mountain classic Colorado spruce, like other evergreen trees, doesn't like to be over-watered, so it's important that the planting holes drain well.
Arizona cypress: My favorite native evergreen screener is the Arizona cypress. It is like a large alligator juniper in size and color, but grows faster and fills in better. Growing to more than 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide in just a few years, you can see why this is the number one choice for a planted screen. If you prefer a cypress in rich green instead of an Arizona blue, go for the Leyland cypress. Both trees grow to the same size and have the same water and soil needs.
Juniper: Hillspire, blue point and Wichita are on the extensive list of junipers available at garden centers now. Juniper forests surround us, so you know that they are naturals to grow locally. Whichever color and height you like, they all grow well here.
Garden tip of the week: It's time for our cool-loving plants to be transitioned over to heat-lovers. Because pansies look good right now, it will be hard to pull them out of the ground, but they have only a few days of bloom time left, so do it. It hurt, but this week I uprooted the last of my pansies, kale and johnny-jump-ups, replacing them with fresh new heat-loving plants. For some, I used floral replacements, and two of my container gardens now house tomatoes and peppers. Pulling the old winter bloomers out of the ground now gives their summer replacements additional time to root and put forth better blooms. So out with the old, in with the new; go ahead and plant some fresh heat-loving flowers now.
Facebook question of the week: "Is there still hope for my hawthorn? I have a 5-year-old shrub that just won't wake up; it looks half dead. What should I do?"-Arlene, Prescott Valley
Answer: Time to break out the chainsaw or shovel for those plants that didn't survive another winter. Even if these cold-weather casualties did come back, it would be years before they reached their former glory. Replace your evergreen hawthorn with a hardier plant like Oregon grape, boxwood or "low-grow" pyracantha.
My summer gardening class series begins today. Join me 9:30 a.m. Saturdays at the garden center for informal, informative garden classes that are fun and entertaining. I like to get up close and personal, so I will teach today's class, "Proper Water Use to Increase Plant Health." On June 18, learn how to "Maximize the Harvest of Veggies & Herbs." Classes are an hour long and free of charge.
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through www.wattersonline.com. Ken says: "My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes."