Homegrown: Try junipers, small trees for privacy hedge

What is a fast growing privacy hedge that grows well in this area?

— Mike

The first decision to make is if you want the screen to be evergreen.

Do you need screening year-round or just during the growing season?

Most of the time, growing season is enough. Most folks are trying to create some privacy in the yard or simply screen out an ugly view while they’re outside. If this is the case, deciduous plants will fit the bill wonderfully.

They’re faster growing (in general) than conifers plus they give an added bonus of color, variety and texture that conifers often simply can’t provide.

If you need to screen something year-round, my first choice in evergreens would be the junipers. They are easy to take care of, moderately pest free, moderately fast growing — 8–18 inches per year — and most are quite drought tolerant.

Within that group are spreading junipers and upright junipers. We usually use uprights since they’ll get taller faster, but there are some “spreading” types that will grow to 6- or 8-feet tall if that would work for you.

The other advantage with junipers is that they can be sheared to just about any size or shape, which is handy if your space is limited.

Other evergreen choices include plants such as pine, arborvitae and spruce. But I usually start with junipers since these other evergreens sometimes can have issues with size and density and can cause maintenance headaches.

In deciduous plants, there are dozens of choices.

One question to consider is how tall does the screen need to be? If it needs to be higher than 8 feet, then I’d consider a tree.

Smaller trees such as hawthorn, crab apple and aspen are often used in this role. They will provide a screen more quickly than waiting for a shrub to grow up to that height, and you could even use them in combination with some shrubs to provide screening at the lower levels if that’s needed.

With shrubs, the question becomes, will you need to be able to trim this plant to keep it in a narrow area?

If the answer is “yes,” then consider privet or caragana.

If you have the room for it to grow and spread, then you could use shrubs such as the shrubby dogwoods, lilacs, ninebark, cistena plum, rose of Sharon, snowball or viburnums.

Another choice to consider that is pretty fast growing is golden elder. The drawback to this plant is that it can start to get bare and woody down at the base after several years and will need to be cut down hard occasionally to renew the plant.

I would like your input on 5-year-old redwood sawdust and shavings in garden or compost. We have a lot and would like to put it to good use.

— Joy

The only thing I like to see before mixing something such as this into the soil is that it is pretty well decomposed first.

If it is not, the microorganisms that do the composting can rob the soil of nitrogen, adversely affecting the plants you have growing there for a period of time.

After five years, I’d expect that process to have started, but since redwood naturally resists rotting, it may not be there, yet.

If it hasn’t started composting, you could still use it as a mulch layer on top of the soil. This will help conserve water, retard weeds and moderate soil temperatures for your plants. All are very good things.

It sounds like it is pretty fine so you may need to top dress the sawdust with some larger wood or bark chips to keep it from blowing.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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