by Ross Latham

It isn’t till summer comes around that people begin to realize, incredibly enough, that they have neighbors. They go out for some much needed rest and relaxation only to find they are not alone and do not enjoy the same privacy they had in their dining room while eating breakfast. For some this comes as an unwelcome reminder to do to their yard what has been at the back of their minds: landscape their yard with privacy trees.

A privacy tree is one which serves as its main purpose providing shade and a measure of privacy to the yard it’s in. There are a large variety that are well suited to different environments, so pretty much anywhere you’re living “South of the Arctic Tree Line” has a tree that will work well in your yard as a privacy tree. Privacy trees customarily are planted near the edge of a property and form a natural barrier. They are also selected for their ability to withstand urban soil and air conditions and for the ornamentation they present to the yard.

Privacy is a main reason many seek out this type of tree. Another reason is the environment. In a recent study it was conclusively found that placing trees on the south and west sides of a home could cut the electric bill by as much as $25.00 a year. Shade trees cool and help cut back on AC use. So a homeowner can reduce their carbon footprint and reduce their house bills at the same time.

The best time to plant is undeniably spring. You’re going to want to give the tree enough time to grow to be ready for summer. If you remember and act when June comes around to give your home some shade you’re remembering too late, and you won’t have the real use of the trees you are planting till next year. The optimal time to plant anyway is spring, growing conditions for the new tree are optimal ensuring rapid growth and certain rooting. Consult a tree transplant specialist for specifics relating to planting the tree as each area is different.

One more thing that might be helpful is knowing a few trees that work well as privacy trees. As mentioned earlier different climates and conditions work better with different trees. It would be impossible to cover them all here, but here are a few of the ones that should work well in most yards and work very well as privacy trees.

Emerald Green Arborvitae

The Emerald Green Arborvitae is one of the most popular and dependable screening trees for the northwest.  They are often planted in rows to create a ‘Natural’ barrier.  The Emerald Green is a dense evergreen that maintains its deep green color all year.  Because of its columnar growth habit, and limited spread, the Emerald Green is an appropriate selection for small planting spaces.

Excelsa Cedar

Cultivars of our native tree, the Western Red Cedar, make excellent screening trees and hedges.  The excelsa cedar is known to maintain its density and symmetrical form without reaching such an enormous mature size.  Most cedar cultivars are also noted for their moderate to fast growth rates.  Cedars do tolerate hedging and shearing to maintain their growth and overall size.

Leyland Cypress

The Leyland Cypress is an excellent choice for a fast growing large screening tree.  Its growth rate and mature size is often underestimated when it is young as it can be thin in its early stages.  Growing up to three to four feet each year the Leyland Cypress fills in quickly.  The Leyland requires little maintenance as long as you have adequate space for the tree at maturity.  Leyland Cypress can also be used as a hedge as they do tolerate shearing to control growth and overall size.  Shearing to control growth will require long term and regular maintenance.