It was Robert Frost that said, “Good fences make good neighbors”.  In today’s fast-paced, noisy world we all need our privacy. Without it, we become moody, perhaps even grumpy neighbors.

Sometimes it is enough just to define a line of demarcation along the boundary, so it’s always clear where your land ends and your neighbor’s begin. If that’s the objective, some plants effectively discourage trespassers.

Fast Growing Shrubs for Privacy – Most gardeners who landscape to achieve privacy are in a hurry for that screen. This often is the case if next-door construction just broke ground, or the neighbor just parked that Class-A motorhome right at the property’s edge.  Either way, you need to screen fast, right? There is a local Top 10 Plant List that will be of help.  Free for the asking the next time you visit us here at Watters Garden Center.

More than Greens – Evergreen shrubs play a critical role at a landscape’s property lines. Evergreens provide foliage to admire all year long.  They also provide year-round privacy.  Evergreen doesn’t mean you are limited to the color green.  Many trees are available in shades of gold, silver, cream, yellow, and blue.  Our native Arizona cypress is a good example of a fast-growing native that grows in colors of blue that border on hues of silver, and it is hardy!

Mix and Match Evergreens with Bloomers – For a more natural look I encourage planting evergreens and tall bloomers together.  The combination creates the feel of a ‘Secret Garden’.  The trick is to grow enough evergreen trees to block prying eyes while injecting enough flowering shrubs to keep your own eyes always stimulated. An underplanting of blooming perennials really creates a feast for the senses with a lot of WOW!

Garden Elegance through Tall Grasses – Grasses are often overlooked as a privacy screen.  Throughout the mountains of Arizona, there are several kinds of grass that grow very well.   Pampas grass is the first to come to mind, but there are many other choices.  Consider our native bear grass, maiden grass, deer grass, and zebra grass.  Each grows fast and fills in quickly with beautiful plumes from autumn through winter.  Also look closely at native rabbit brush, staghorn sumac, and Apache plume as companion plants to grasses.  They look great, are easy to grow, animal resistive, and all are carefree once they have fully rooted into the landscape.

Clumping Bamboo is also a member of the grass family, several varieties of which grow well in the mountains of Arizona.

Deter Trespassers – A hedge of Oregon Grape Holly isn’t likely to keep a serious robber off your property. But the barbed leaves on this chest high native aren’t exactly comfortable to brush against. The discomfort level should be sufficient to turn away all but the most determined would-be trespassers.

Taller roses and old fashioned pyracantha are two plants that also discourage unwanted visitors.  The blooms are beautiful, but the stems are covered in vicious thorns.  Birds will love you for either of these choices, as they offer safe nesting sites and food sources.

Plant a Hedge –  Technically, hedges are plants grown tightly together and trimmed into a living fence.    Properly manicured, they form a partition that is as close to being a “wall” as plants possibly can be.

We curated a block of tall evergreens here at Watters that grow into head high fences and like to be trimmed and pruned.  In fact, the more you trim these plants, the thicker they become.  Visit us and ask for a personal tour of good fence plants and more details on the best plants for your hedge needs.

How to Measure –  It’s a simple task to determine the number of plants required to create a hedge.  Look on the grower’s tag for the mature width of the plant. Divide that number by 2 for the recommended spacing between each plant.  This formula ensures fast growth with an overlapping branch structure that is thick, secure, and perfect for hedging.

Deflect Annoying Wind –  Trees are used at a property’s edge for many reasons.  Not only can trees offer privacy, but they also break the assault of high winds to make living on the back patio bearable.  Large evergreens like Colorado spruce, Deador cedar, and Arizona cypress are first to be considered, but this is also the place to plant a single row orchard with grape arbors between each tree.  This design will give you grapes to enjoy, define your property lines, reduce prying eyes, and cut pesky wind.

Until next month, I’ll be helping gardeners design private property lines here at Watters Garden Center.

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 .