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Top 10 Privacy Trees in the Pacific Northwest

                                                                                                                                                                                        By:  Michael S. Gillie

 

“My neighbor and I would both like a natural screen between our bedroom windows.”

"I'm tired of looking at the junkyard next door."

“Help!!  My neighbors have placed skulls on posts looking at my property!”

 

When we are contacted by people wanting more privacy in their yard—and all of the above statements are true--we work with them to determine what their privacy tree options are.  Using trees as a natural screen is a specialized area of landscaping, one where it is very clear that a “one-tree-fits-all” approach just doesn’t work.  Instead, each project must be analyzed based on answers to the following questions:

What needs to be screened?  There is a significant difference between screening a roadway and screening a two-story house.  How tall do the trees need to be?  How thick and bushy?

What are the growing conditions?  Growing conditions often affect what tree(s) can be used.  How much sunlight will the new trees receive?  What is the quality and drainage of the soil?  How much room in the yard is there to work with?; and

Budget vs “Instant Privacy”  As with other purchases, “you get what you pay for”.  If you don’t mind waiting for full screening, smaller trees are less expensive to install.  Naturally, some people will simply want to start with larger trees to accomplish more now.  And some privacy tree situations are very emotional, unlike most other landscaping projects, and in these situations people will want "instant privacy":

     “I’ve lived with this greenbelt behind me for 20 years and now it’s been torn down and new houses are going up.  They’ll be staring right into my yard and house.  Help; I can’t think about anything else and NEED SCREENING NOW!!!”

With these questions in mind, we turn to what I consider to be the “Top Ten” privacy trees in Western Washington.

 

Please Note:  We have a beautiful 8 minute drone video of our nursery tree farm that shows all of the trees mentioned below, growing in our fields.  We suggest you watch that video at some point: Click here to go to the NurseryTrees.com's YouTube video.  The trees are labeled in the video, and we’ve also given you the time on the video when each tree appears.

 

 

#1 "Emerald Green" Arborvitae

 

Before & After

          Yes, they are somewhat boring and everyone has them, but there’s a reason Emerald Green Arborvitae are the most popular privacy trees—they make a great screen.  Pronounced “Ar-bor-vite-eee" (hard “i” & “e”), if you have the right growing conditions and need a narrow, full screen up to 14’ tall, you’ll want to consider these.

Advantages:  They create a solid, low-maintenance wall which takes up only 3-4’ in your yard.  They can be planted right along the border without fear of encroaching on the neighbors.  They have small root systems and so can be planted closed to driveways, patios & sidewalks.  Their “narrowness” preserves as much of your yard as possible.

Disadvantages:  Their mature height is only approximately 14’ so they won’t block off a two story house next door.  They also need a lot of sunlight and well-drained soil to do well, and even in optimum conditions are slow-growing.  Deer love to eat them. 

Mature Height:    14-15 ft.                 

Mature Width:     Usually determined by the spacing between trees in the row--, usually 2-3'.  Left on their own these trees can get to 3-4' wide after many years. 

Sunlight:  Full sun, partial sun; doesn't like shade.

Soil:.  Likes well-drained soil, but must be kept well watered when first planted.      

Growth Rate:  Slow, 6-9" a year once established, depending on growing conditions.  

 

Webpage Link:  Our Emerald Green Arborvitae webpage  has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see Emerald Green Arborvitae growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": :38, :52, 1:55, 2:06.   “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

 

#2 Excelsa Cedar

                                                                http://www.nurserytrees.com/Excels28.jpg  http://www.nurserytrees.com/Excels29.jpg

Before & After

This variety of our native Western Red Cedar is often used when the Emerald Green Arborvitae isn’t tall enough or a more natural look is desired.  Yet they aren’t so large as to overwhelm many planting areas. 

Advantages:  They look great and smell good—a nice, natural cedar.  They are full and bushy for screening (fuller than the standard Western Red Cedar) and can be left to grow naturally or “hedged”.  They do well in a variety of soil & sunlight conditions, as you would expect for a native tree.  Medium-fast growing.

Disadvantages:  They are a medium-sized tree, 30-35’ tall, 15’ at the base.  This is too big for many urban areas.  They can be “hedged” into a beautiful rectangular hedge, but that requires yearly maintenance.

Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    30-35 ft.                 

Mature Width:     Approximately 15 ft. 

Sunlight:  Full sun, partial sun.

Soil:.  Moist/wet soil tolerant.      

Growth Rate:  Medium/fast, 2-3' a year once established, depending on growing conditions.       

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Often used when an Arborvitae is too small but a height-controlled screening tree is called for. 

 

Webpage Link:  Our Excelsa Cedar Webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see Excelsa Cedars growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": 2:25, 3:35, 4:10.   “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

 

#3 Leyland Cypress

 

    

Before & After--"Instant Privacy" tm

"Hedged" Leyland Cypress 

This tree has a well-known (and accurate) reputation as being the fastest-growing privacy tree.

Advantages:  Fast-growing.  We’re not even sure that they stop growing in the wintertime.  If you wish to keep control of their size they should be hedged.

Disadvantages:  They keep growing.  People often plant these trees, excited about how fast they grow and then realize the trees are going to get much too big for the area.  These trees also need good sunlight and well-drained soil and, because they are shallow-rooted, can be prone to blow over in windy areas.  If they are “hedged”, the trees require significant pruning time but make a fabulously-beautiful hedge.

Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    To 60 ft.                 

Mature Width:     25 ft. 

Sunlight:  Prefers full sun; likes hot weather.

Soil:.  Must be well-drained; won't tolerate "wet feet".  OK in acid soil, alkaline soil.      

Growth Rate:  Fast, up to 4' a year after established, depending on growing conditions.       

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Fast-growing, larger barrier.  Avoid power lines, plan for growth.

 

Webpage Link:  Our Leyland Cypress Webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices.

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see Leyland Cypress growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": 1:20, 2:42, 3:57, and 5:14.    “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

 

#4 “Green Giant” Arborvitae 

 

     

Before, After & After. 

A very difficult project--3 storys to block on a slope.  We're getting there.

        Another fast-grower, these trees are taller than the Emerald Green Arborvitae, and not as wide as the Excelsa Cedar and Leyland Cypress.

Advantages:  Fast-growing hybrid cedar that can handle a wide-range of growing conditions.

Disadvantages:  They are still somewhat wide for many yards.  Like many cedars they can be sparse on top with most of the foliage on the lower half, which just moves up as it grows.

 Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    40-50  ft.                 

Mature Width:     Approximately 12 ft.; can be hedged much narrower.

Sunlight:  full sun; sun/partial shade

Soil:.  Widely adaptable, including wet soil.     

Growth Rate:  Rapid, up to 2-3' a year after established, depending on growing conditions.       

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Fast-growing, larger barrier.  Avoid power lines, plan for growth.

 

 

Webpage Link:  Our Green Giant Webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see Green Giants growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": 4:47.    “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

 

#5 “Emerald Tower”tm Arborvitae

 

         This is a privacy tree we've spent years looking for and then developing:  a tree taller than the Emerald Green Arborvitae (13-15') but not as wide as the Excelsa Cedars (15') or Green Giants (12').  Introducing the "Emerald Tower tm" .  You won’t find these anywhere else—we are the only nursery tree farm offering the "Emerald Tower  tm" Arborvitae.  This is our first crop of this exciting new privacy tree, and we are now comfortable that we know the trees well enough to sell them.

 

Advantages:  This tree fills the gap in the “sweet-spot” of privacy trees—significantly taller than the Emerald Green Arborvitae but narrower than other trees.  Plus they are full, bushy, and fast-growing.

Disadvantages:  Still not as narrow as an Emerald Green Arborvitae at 8’ wide (but getting there).  This is our first crop of these and no one else has them—we are estimating height and width but are comfortable stating that these are columnar trees with a narrow growth habit.

 

Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    25-30’                 

Mature Width:     Approximately 8' 

Sunlight:  Full sun; partial sun

Soil: Likes well-drained soil.     

Growth Rate:  Fast—up to 3’ a year.

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Often used when an Arborvitae is too small but there is a limited amount of space available for privacy trees' width.  

Comments:  We are still learning about these trees and have not  seen a full-grown one.  We have noticed that in the fall/winter their coloring changes to a dark, dark green, and they can also produce noticeable quantities of brown cones.    

 

Webpage Link:  Our Emerald Tower webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see Emerald Towers growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": 1:10.    “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

#6 English Laurel

 

    

English Laurel at our river growing fields; English Laurel hedge at our Nursery Office

        English laurel is an evergreen shrub/tree that is dense enough to make an excellent screen.   It has shiny green leaves and can be shaped beautifully.  It is one of two “shady area” options on my list (the other is the H.M. Eddie Yew). 

Advantages:  Fast-growing evergreen that can be pruned into a beautiful hedge or left to grow naturally (if you have room).  Shiny light/medium green leaves.  English Laurel can grow in shadier areas than most other privacy trees.

Disadvantages:  If it is hedged, English Laurel needs to be pruned at least a couple of times a year; more if a finished look is desired.  Also, it often reacts negatively to being transplanted—dropping leaves, yellowing foliage, and generally not looking happy.  It can take some time to recover, but is a tough tree that almost always does.

Foliage:   Evergreen, with some discoloring of the leaves in winter.               

Mature Height:    20  ft.                 

Mature Width:     20 ft. 

Sunlight:  Full sun, partial sun, shade.

Soil:.  Acid soil; don't like wet soil.    

Growth Rate:  Fast, up to 3' a year both height and width after established, depending on growing conditions.       

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Fast-growing, larger barrier. 

 

Webpage Link:  Our English Laurel webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see English Laurel growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": 1:30, 3:00.    “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

 

#7 Schipka Laurel

 

   

Shipka Laurel at our river growing fields and "Hedged" Schipka Laurel at our farm office.

 

Schipka Laurel is smaller and slower-growing than the English Laurel--which can be good—but still creates a lovely, full hedge.  Its growth habit is more columnar than English Laurel .

Advantages:  A smaller laurel that is more suitable than English Laurel for most urban settings.  Can be pruned into a beautiful hedge.  Often used in place of the Emerald Green Arborvitae, sometimes because of lower sunlight.

Disadvantages:  None, as long as 12’ tall and 6’ wide is sufficient for screening.

Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    To 12-15ft.

Mature Width:     To  6-8 ft.

Sunlight:  Full sun, partial sun.

Soil:.  Moist/well-drained.

Growth Rate:  Moderate        

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Schipka Laurel makes a very attractive and elegant hedge, and may be sheared to 6’ tall and 4’ wide.

 

Webpage Link:  Our Schipka Laurel webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see Schipka Laurel growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": 3:16, 4:24.   “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

 

#8  H.M. Eddie Yews

      

H.M. Eddie Yews at our farm.

 

         "H.M. Eddie” Yews are a great alternative to “Emerald Green” Arborvitae for shady planting locations. They have the same, columnar growth habit as the Emerald Green" Arborvitae, but they are much more shade tolerant. 

 

Advantages:  A low-sunlight alternative to the Emerald Green Arborvitae.  Like the Arborvitae they don’t take up much space in the yard yet will create a solid wall.

Disadvantages:  Upward branching structure and flat top makes the susceptible to snow damage.  This can be lessened by tying them periodically. 

Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    18-20 ft.                 

Mature Width:     3-5’ - Usually determined by the spacing between trees in the row—2.5-3' (see highlighted text below) 

Sunlight:  Full shade, partial shade, full sun.

Soil:  Likes well-drained soil, but must be kept well watered when first planted. Tolerant of dry shade once established.      

Growth Rate:  Moderate.  6" to 1' a year once established, possibly more depending on growing conditions.       

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Great for narrow, shady areas.   Columnar growth habit similar to Emerald Green Arborvitae.

 

Webpage Link:  Our H.M. Eddie Yew webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

 

#9 “Gold Rider” Leyland Cypress

"Gold Rider" Leyland Cypress at our farm office.

         ‘Gold Rider’ Leyland Cypress is a variety that will mature at about half the size of the "regular" Leyland Cypress and is not nearly as fast-growing.  ‘Gold Rider ‘ Cypress has beautiful golden foliage that makes a stunning hedge or stand-alone specimen tree. The yellow color is concentrated at the branch tips, that  gives a “two-toned” effect with the green interior foliage. 

 

Advantages:  Color, color, color; everything else on this Top 10 list is green.  Use as a colorful alternative to Emerald Green Arborvitae, Excelsa Cedars or Green Giants.

Disadvantages:  These trees need full sun or something close to it to fully bring out the gold color (and wherever they are planted they are more colorful in summer than in winter).  We are estimating the mature height of these trees because we haven’t seen a full-grown one and available information conflicts.

    

ATTRIBUTES      

Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    To 35 ft.          Please note that this is an estimate              

Mature Width:     To 15 ft.          Please note that this is an estimate 

Sunlight:   Full sun.  Anything less than full sun and the trees may not produce the yellow color.

Soil:  Must be well-drained; won't tolerate "wet feet".  Drought tolerant once established. OK in acid soil, alkaline soil.      

Growth Rate:  Moderate.

"Instant Privacy" Use:  A great alternative to a green privacy screen.

  

Webpage Link:  Our Gold Rider Cypress webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

Video Note:  On our beautiful video of the tree farm you will see Gold Rider Cypress growing in the ground, and labeled at the following "minutes:seconds": 1:05.    “Click Here” to be taken to that 8 minute video.

 

#10 Portugal Laurel

 

             

 

           Portugal Laurel is an easy to grow, densely branched shrub, with glossy green leaves that are reddish when young.

Advantages:  A medium-sized laurel that can make a good screen, hedged or natural.

Disadvantages:  It is just a matter of taste—Portugal Laural has a different look, with curved leaves that some people don’t like and other people really like.  We sell a lot more English Laurel and Schipka Laurel than we do Portugal.

Foliage:   Evergreen               

Mature Height:    To  15-18 ft.

Mature Width:     To  15ft.

Sunlight:  Full sun, partial sun.

Soil:.  Moist/well-drained.

Growth Rate:  Moderate        

"Instant Privacy" Use:  Portugal Laurel makes a beautiful hedge. It’s especially attractive in the spring  with its reddish new growth and reddish branches. It may be sheared to 6’ tall and 4-5’ wide.

 

Webpage Link:  Our Portugal Laurel webpage has more information about these trees, including Sizes & Prices. 

 

How to Start a Project with Us

         Besides growing these trees, we can deliver and plant them for you.  To begin the discussions with us we ask that you please fill-out our online Project Worksheet.  This basic information helps us to get things organized, assign your project a number, and we work with you from there to define your tree options and then give you a Price Quote(s).  We may send out one of our tree experts to take a look at your project with you.  Project Worksheets are handled on a first-come, first-served basis.  There is no cost or obligation for our free estimates.

 

Additional Website Resources

We have a “Privacy Tree Comparison Chart” that allows you to quickly compare basic information about the privacy trees mentioned abovce.

We can deliver & plant our privacy trees for you.  Click here for more information about these services.

You can also see more “Before & After” photos in our Photo Gallery.

 

 About the Author

        Michael S. Gillie is the Manager of NurseryTrees.com, LLC, a nursery tree farm in Snohomish County that he founded in 1995.  He and NurseryTrees.com staff have many years’ experience growing and planting privacy trees, including experimenting with new trees and special pruning.  For further information please see the  About Us section of our website.

 

Copyright 2017, NurseryTrees.com, LLC

 

 

Free Estimates

            Contact us for free, no-obligation estimates, often including a visit by one of our experts at your property.  For new projects we suggest that you start by using our online Project Worksheet (preferred for planting projects), or call/e-mail us:  info@NurseryTrees.com; (425) 343-2650.

 

Delivery & Planting Available

             We deliver and plant these trees.  Most of our planting projects are in Western Washington: Blaine, Bellingham, Everett, Seattle & the "East Side", Federal Way, Tacoma, south to Olympia and all points in between; plus Leavenworth & Wentachee.  Further away, people often come pick up the trees here at the nursery and arrange for local planting.   Please see the "Advantages" section below for more information about our planting services and our company.

 

 

OTHER  USEFUL RESOURCES:

 

Privacy Tree Comparison Chart

       

Click on Chart to Enlarge

Easily compare the mature sizes, growing conditions, etc.

of all of our privacy trees.

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See our Trees Growing in the Fields!

        We have a beautiful 8 minute drone video of our Snohomish tree farm

with many of the trees identified.   Click here.

 

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Article:

   

Discusses all of our privacy tree options, pros and cons,

with "Before & After" photos. 

Click here.

 

         -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                 

     

Free Estimates

            Contact us for free, no-obligation estimates, often including a visit by one of our experts at your property.  For new projects we suggest that you start by using our online Project Worksheet (preferred for planting projects), or call/e-mail us:  info@NurseryTrees.com; (425) 343-2650.

 

 

 

"I am really pleased with your work.  You saved me several thousand dollars, steered me away from trees that wouldn't work, provided healthy and beautiful trees, did a great job planting them, and did everything on time and on schedule.  You can quote me."                                                                          Jo, Vashon Island

"Our privacy bank of trees has done nothing but grow well into maturity.  Our back yard and deck area is totally private and the 10 trees your team planted [in 2005] are rich, leathery and dark green.  We remark on them every day it seems.  Please include me in any of your "Testimonials" as you would be hard pressed to find a more satisfied customer."                                                                                                                  Jim, Port Orchard

"For quality vs. value, your trees are the best landscape purchase I’ve ever made."    Jeff, Seattle

"I work in customer service so I know good service when I experience it and you have my top rating.  I would definitely recommend you to anyone who needs new landscaping.  Thanks again.”                    Carol, Camano Island

"By the way, the trees were a great privacy feature when we sold the last house!  We now have a much larger space . . . "                                                                                                  Katherine, Fall City

“My compliments to your crew.  We’ve had a lot of contractors working on our house recently and we’ve seen the entire range; and your guys were excellent. The trees make things look so much better—I started smiling as soon as I saw them going in."                                                                                    Holly, Queen Anne

"You guys are the best nursery I've ever done business with! And I have dealt with a few. You did what you said you would, on time with attention to detail rarely found. From the beginning of the quote process all the way through to the last detail you made it easy. And you work to ensure that the trees will thrive after planting with detailed advice, a complementary irrigation system, and a website filled with useful information. Most nurseries will just dump off the goods and tell you best of luck, put some water on them. You provide a quality product that sets you apart. Your crew was friendly, polite and operated as a well organized team. I would recommend you without hesitation! Thanks for doing a great job!”                                                                                                   Ryan, Buckley

"We can not believe how beautiful your trees are.  The privacy is unbelievable. If you ever need a testimonial let us know.   Our yard is perfect!  We sit there and say "my oh my”!               Suzanne, Tacoma 

"I don't think I've ever been as happy with something I've purchased."                           Sarah, Sammamish

Many More Testimonials (click here)

 

 

To Contact Us:

info@NurseryTrees.com  or  (425) 343-2650

 

 

For more information see our web pages: 

 

 

 

            NurseryTrees.com LLC, Nurseries - Plants, Trees, Snohomish, WA         

 

                              

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13510 Old Snohomish-Monroe Road

Snohomish, WA  98290

(425) 343-2650

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