Need privacy? Try evergreen such as some upright juniper
We are trying to get some privacy by screening our property from an old trailer used for storage on our neighbor’s property.
Something at least 8 to 9 feet tall that provides year-round screening would be great. We would like the privacy as quick as possible without sacrificing the health of the product.
Sounds to me like an evergreen would work best for you. The plant I recommend most often for situations such as yours are upright junipers.
They are moderately fast-growing, very dense and thick, tough, hardy, drought tolerant and pretty easy to grow. Left to themselves, in time, and depending on the variety, they’ll reach 18–25 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide.
If that is too big for you, you can easily shear the plant one to three times a year to keep it within bounds.
Juniper shears very readily, you just have to be a bit careful not to cut it too far back at one time. What I mean by that is that if you look deep inside an older plant, the branches are bare with no live foliage. This is normal.
If you cut back into the bare growth, it rarely resprouts and you’ll end up with a bare side. It’s for this reason that you want to prune the plant regularly right from the get-go, not letting it grow out of control for several years and then trying to whip it back into shape.
There are a whole bunch of different varieties of upright juniper. Blue Arrow, Taylor and Skyrocket are probably the narrowest and grow to 5 or 6 feet wide and 18–25 feet tall in time without pruning.
Spartan and Wichita Blue are intermediate in width, growing 6 to 9 feet wide and 18–25 feet tall while Cologreen is the widest, going 8 to 12 feet wide but only 15–18 feet tall.
One thing to keep in mind with these guys is that a variety that grows more narrowly will need to be planted closer together to get a solid screen in a reasonable amount of time. That means more plants and more initial expense.
Another possibility in a situation such as yours is an upright variety of arborvitae. Like the junipers, they have dense, evergreen foliage.
Though they are slower growing than a juniper, their foliage is softer, not causing you to break out into an itchy rash when you get a bit too “up close and personal” with them.
Emerald Cedar has become the most popular variety around the valley by far and makes an excellent screen. They’re fairly narrow and upright growing, reaching 15 feet tall and 5 or 6 feet wide.
They tend to grow a bit more narrowly than the junipers, especially when young, and they often develop a bit of “middle age spread” by widening at the base into a narrow upright pyramid shape.
The thing about arborvitae is that they’re much less forgiving of drought than a juniper. You’ll need to be pretty consistent with the watering the first year or two until they’re well-established.
Don’t keep them soggy but make sure that the soil and the rootball of the plant don’t dry out. Also, I don’t think that they take to shearing as well as the junipers.
You can practically keep a juniper to a particular size and shape indefinitely, but an arborvitae sometimes begins to develop a thin or bare side where you’re pruning. That doesn’t always happen, but it occurs frequently enough to mention.
Sometimes people decide that a deciduous plant will work for them.
They do drop their leaves in the fall so you don’t get great screening during the winter months (but then we’re not outdoors that much to really need the screening), but they offer generally faster growth as well as the potential of colorful flowers and/or berries.
If you’d like to go with a deciduous plant, here are three I’d recommend.
First, there are a number of lilac varieties that make a great informal screen that stays dense and provides wonderful color and fragrance in May.
Some of my favorites are Monge, Beauty of Moscow, Chinese and President Lincoln. These plants will get 6 to 10 feet tall with about an equal spread.
The second group are the viburnums that will grow to a similar size as the lilacs and make good screens. Two of my favorites are Mohican and Emerald Triumph.
These plants bear clusters of white flowers in late spring with are followed by red berries in late summer that turn blue-black in fall.
The last group of deciduous plants is Rose of Sharon. This is a species of hibiscus that forms a large woody shrub that blooms in mid- to late summer in shades of pink, white, magenta and lavender, depending on the variety.
There are varieties that set a profusion of smaller (2 inches wide), double flowers and others that have striking larger (4 to 5 inches) single flowers.