Column: Plant a wall of evergreen trees for privacy
Mother's Day in our mountain area usually means the last frost of the season. Guess that's why so many of us celebrate this special holiday with festivities on our decks or patios. We enjoy being out of doors to honor Mom and to relish family togetherness. Most of us want to do this with a sense of privacy in the lovely surroundings we've created. Privacy that can be violated by prying eyes, and views spoiled by a neighbor's pile of trashy belongings.
The solution to both of these unwanted invasions of outdoor living is not rocket science. Plant a wall of living evergreen trees to block the messy view and to create the privacy you desire.
To successfully add evergreens to a landscape, there are several essential steps that are worth your time and energy. The most important requirement for evergreen trees to thrive is drainage. Blend one shovelful of composted mulch into every three shovels full of native earth to pack around your plant's roots. Feed new trees with my specially formulated "All Purpose Plant Food," 7-4-4; the cottonseed meal in this natural food promotes better root formation while maintaining good foliage color. Evergreens love it. Lastly, water your newly planted trees with a solution of 'Root & Grow'. This water additive tickles the roots of a plant and helps to form a deep root system before summer heat.
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 over the years have performed well for my clients and for me.
Green mountain pine: This dense pine is easy to care for and as cold hardy as 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 sessions.
Deodar cedar: This is the largest of the screening plants, growing to over 50 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!
Giant sequoia: Few folks know that the largest tree growing on the Prescott courthouse lawns is a Sequoia; it proudly towers over the American Elms that populate the square. Many local golf courses use this evergreen in their landscapes. This stately, pyramidal tree is heavily covered in Arizona gray-green foliage, and is well suited for larger estates, home sites and ranches. It is so deeply rooted that it naturalizes with ease in mountain landscapes.
Fat Albert spruce: Spruce are the slowest growers, but few other evergreens produce color so blue they can look almost silver. Like other evergreen trees, this mountain classic Colorado spruce 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 more completely than other screen plants. Growing to over 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: Finally, let's look at the juniper family. 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 junipers are naturals to plant locally. Whichever color and height you like, all grow well here.
There are more choices, such as the larger evergreen shrubs and deciduous trees like aspens, but we'll save those landscape tips for another time. Ask for my handout, "High-Country Top 10 Plants." It's free and includes a list of my top 10 privacy plants.
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: Even if our cold-weather casualties did make comebacks, it would be years before they reached their former glory. So break out the chainsaw and shovel! Replace your evergreen hawthorn with a hardier plant like Oregon grape, boxwood or "low-grow" pyracantha.
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.
Throughout the week, Ken Lain can be found at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, or reach him through www.wattersgardencenter.com.