Plants that Screen for Privacy and a Sense of Seclusion

By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Now through Thanksgiving is the best time to plant privacy screens for the maximum growth necessary to have seclusion next year. Without strategically placed evergreens in the yard, it can feel like prying eyes are looking right into your home. Not only does your privacy seemingly disappear, but that neighbor’s debris pile comes into clear view!

As plants drop the last of their autumn-colored leaves, our gardens can feel naked, but evergreen plants “clothe” a winter landscape.

The solution to both of these unwanted invasions of privacy is not rocket science. Simply plant a wall of living trees and shrubs to block an undesirable view and to create needed privacy! Enable enjoyable hot tub sessions without prying eyes from that too-close-for-comfort neighbor.

Pictured is an excellent example from a local hedge plant that looks it’s best year round; it’s  Golden Euonymus. Again, planting the shrubs now for maximum autumn rooting is critical for a lush, leafy wall next spring.

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 shovelfuls of native earth to pack around each plant’s roots. Feed new trees with Watters formulated 7-4-4 “All Purpose Plant Food”. The cottonseed meal in this naturally local plant food promotes robust root formation while maintaining good foliage color. Lastly, water your newly planted trees with a solution of ‘Root & Grow’. This water additive encourages the roots of a plant to form a deep, healthy system.

When you’re ready to choose the trees for your living wall of green, read through the list that follows. This is the ‘Go-To’ list when starting a living wall in and around Prescott.

Very cold-hardy, this spruce is the perfectly symmetrical Christmas-tree-shape. It’s an excellent choice as a holiday tree or as a semi-formal accent in a large yard. It makes a stunning evergreen background for contrasting foliage colors and flowering shrubs.  It dramatically highlights autumn leaves from other trees and shrubs in the yard. Line up several as a windbreak or to quickly diffuse lights and sounds along busy streets.

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′ tall, it makes the perfect windbreak and an effective shield from prying eyes.

This is the largest of the screening plants, growing to over 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide. It is one of the fastest-growing screen plants with a growth of 2-3 feet every year! 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, with its long, swooping branches of Arizona Blue foliage, this tree will need it!

Finally, let’s look at the juniper family. Hillspire, blue point, and Wichita are on the extensive list of plant-in-autumn junipers available at Watters Garden Center. Juniper forests surround us, so it’s a no-brainer that junipers are naturals to add to our landscapes. Pick the color and height you like; all grow well in this part of the world.

MY favorite native evergreen is the Arizona cypress. This specimen tree grows just like an alligator bark juniper in size and color but grows faster and fills in better than other evergreens. 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. There are more screener choices, such as the larger evergreen shrubs and deciduous trees, like aspens. We’ll discuss those varieties another time.

Book just Published! The Secret Garden: Plants as a Natural Screen is an all-local gardening book where I’ve presented more in-depth detail about screening plants. Free copies are available for download at under ‘LEARN’.

Until next issue, I’ll be at Watters Garden Center helping local gardeners plan living screens for their yards.

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