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Thu, Feb. 27

Ultimate guide to planting a privacy screen

Juniper Spartan. (Watters/Courtesy)

Juniper Spartan. (Watters/Courtesy)

June is an ideal time to plant a new living wall. With the building boom currently in full swing, privacy is a hot topic. Without strategically placed evergreens in the yard it can feel as if prying eyes are looking right into your home. Not only does your privacy seemingly disappear, but that neighbor’s debris pile can be in full view!

The solution to both of these unwanted invasions of privacy is not rocket science. Simply plant a wall of living trees or shrubs to block an undesirable view and to create some privacy.

Don’t have time to read this entire article? Skim the highlights:

• For faster growth, plant large trees and long hedgerows;

• Silverberry, Euonymus, Cotoneaster are super-fast-growing hedges;

• 3-steps to planting success: Mulch, 7-4-4 Food, Root & Grow; and,

• Top performing trees for screens: Arizona Cypress, Austrian Pine, Bamboo, Colorado, Spruce, Juniper, Pinyon Pine.

The current spring weather is perfect for planting a new hedge for maximum growth.

To successfully add evergreens to a landscape, there are three essential steps


Colorado Spruce

worth your time and energy. The most important requirement for evergreen trees to thrive is drainage. (1.) To create proper drainage blend one shovelful of mulch into every three shovels full of native earth to pack around each plant’s roots. (2.) Feed new trees with “7-4-4 All Purpose Plant Food.” The cottonseed meal in this natural food promotes robust root formation while maintaining good foliage color. Lastly, (3.) water your newly planted trees with a solution of “Root & Grow.” It’s a water additive that encourages the roots of a plant to form a deep, healthy system.


Arizona Cypress

After two back surgeries I am unwilling to do the actual planting of large trees anymore. Anything larger than a 15 gallon plant I will pay a crew to come out and plant trees for me. Consider hiring a service to do this.

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 over the years have performed well in local landscapes:

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 screening plants. Growing to over 20 feet high and 12 feet wide in just a few years, you can see why this is the No. 1 choice for a planted screen.

Austrian Pine — A long-needled pine, much like a Ponderosa, but it holds its foliage all the way to ground level, and is less prone to bark beetle. Austrian Pines are well-known for their superior appearance. They have a fibrous root system and a cultured top which gives a nice, full appearance with no empty spaces. The dense, stout, pyramidal growth habit is topped with a uniform crown. Branches are in regular whorls, with dark green, stiff needles. Very hardy, it’s adaptable to winter cold and wind. It’s a tree of strong character that will serve well as either a landscape specimen or as part of a privacy screen.

Bissett Bamboo — One of the hardier bamboos! Used to soften corners of buildings, and as dense, tall screens on property lines or when adjacent to commercial land. Makes a beautiful background for water features and


Bissett Bamboo

garden art, with a bonus of unlimited bamboo poles for staking other plants! Golden Groove Bamboo is another popular variety for local landscaping.

Colorado Spruce — Very cold-hardy, this spruce is the perfectly symmetrical Christmas Tree shape. Excellent choice for a front yard holiday tree or as a semi-formal accent in a large yard. It makes a pretty evergreen background for contrasting foliage colors, flowering shrubs, or to highlight autumn colors of deciduous trees and shrubs. Line up several to create a windbreak or to effectively diffuse lights and sounds along busy streets.

Juniper — An Arizona Cypress was too large for the Lain Casa yard, so we strategically used junipers because of their manageable size. Hillspire, Blue Point, Spartan and Wichita are new varieties that have little-to-no pollen, so they are thankfully less prone to aggravate allergy sufferers. Whichever color and height you like, all grow well in this part of the world. Juniper forests surround us, so it’s a no-brainer that junipers are naturals to add to our landscapes.

Pinyon Pine — This dense pine is easy to care for and as cold hardy as any native can be. Its thick green needles are sturdy and more numerous than those of other pines, with less needle drop in summer. Thick and 25-feet tall, it makes the perfect windbreak and an effective shield from prying eyes.

There are more screener choices, such as the larger evergreen shrubs and deciduous trees like aspens, but we’ll discuss those varieties another time.

Until next time, I’ll be here at Watters Garden Center helping local gardeners plan living screens for landscaped privacy.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or through his website at or

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