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The Secret Garden: Using Plants as a Natural Screen

As the autumn colors drop the last of their leaves, the gardens can feel naked. Without strategically placed evergreens in the yard, it easily feels like prying eyes look right through your home. Not only does your privacy seem to disappear, but that neighbor’s debris pile can be witnessed through winter.

The solution to both of these unwanted invasions of privacy is not rocket science. November is an ideal time to plant a wall of living trees to block the messy view and to create the privacy you desire. Enjoy that hot tub once again. 

To successfully add evergreens to a landscape, there are several essential steps worth your time and energy. The most important requirement for evergreen trees to thrive is drainage. Blend one shovelful of Watters Premium 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. Finally, 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.

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 locally. The list contains the names of evergreens that have performed well over the years.

Austrian Mountain Pine

This dense pine is easy to care for and is 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 25 feet 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 more than 50 feet tall and 18 feet wide with long swooping branches of Arizona blue foliage. Growing some two to three 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!

Norway Spruce

Very cold-hardy, this spruce is the perfect symmetrically-
shaped Christmas tree. It is an excellent choice for a front holiday tree or as a semi-formal accent in large yards. It also makes a pretty evergreen background for contrasting foliage colors, flowering shrubs or to highlight an autumn leaf show in trees and shrubs. Line them up into a windbreak and they will easily hide lights and create a sound barrier along busy streets.

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 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.


Finally, let’s look at the juniper family. Hillspire, blue point and Wichita are on the extensive list of junipers available at the garden center 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.

Book Just Published!   

The Secret Garden: Plants as a Natural Screen” is an all-local garden book where I go into deep detail. Free copies are available for download at under tips.

  Until next issue, I’ll see you in the garden center. QCBN

By Ken Lain

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


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