Gardening with Deb Babcock: Privacy amid the development

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Now that things seem to be getting back on track with the economy locally, more development is occurring in neighborhoods throughout the county. And more development often means less space and privacy in our yards and outdoor spaces. Trees and shrubs in your yard and garden can help you achieve a sense of privacy and personal space.

For a natural privacy barrier against the views and noise of neighboring homes and structures, there are some wonderfully thickly branched and leaved trees and shrubs that grow well here in our USDA Zone 4 environment.

Gardening in Steamboat

Gardening in Steamboat columns publish weekly in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

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Master Gardeners will be on hand Saturday at the Farmers Market with fact sheets and more information on trees that grow well here in Routt County. Be sure to stop by and pick up this free information, ask questions and meet the volunteers who help local gardeners with horticulture issues.

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is a fast-growing evergreen with soft needles. It grows in a pyramid shape and features some unique cones. Southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis) is another fast-growing evergreen featuring blue-green needles, five in a bundle, and large 6- to 9-inch cones. It’ll grow 50 to 80 feet tall.

White pine (Pinus strobes) grows quickly and makes a beautiful privacy screen with its pyramid shape and bluish needles.

Some Routt County homeowners have successfully created privacy between their home and neighboring ones with the Common privet (Liqustrum vulgare). One caution with this plant is the toxicity of its leaves and berries. It’s probably not a good plant to have near a children’s play area. It requires little water once established and produces a fruit that is attractive to birds.

Hedge Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus) is a wonderful privacy plant with great fall color that thrives in poor soil. It features dark glossy leaves that turn orange-red in the fall. It produces a black fruit that attracts birds.

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is another nice shrub that grows fast and can fill in a bare area. "Miss Kim" and the Preston hybrids from Canada are the best lilac varieties for this area. The flowers give off a heavenly aroma.

Another fast-growing shrub is Caragana (Caragana arborescens "Nana"). It’s a tall shrub, native to Siberia, that can handle cold and dry weather. It’s a popular species for windbreaks.

There are about a dozen species of willow (Salix spp) that can provide a fast-growing border between neighboring yards offering a variety of twig colors including yellow, purple, black, red and orange.

A popular willow is the Coyote willow (S. exigua), a native, that grows well in zones 4 to 6. It is a thicket forming suckering shrub with slender shoots and narrowly lance shaped tapered gray-green leaves. Gray-yellow catkins are borne in spring with the leaves. It grows well in sandy soils.

Corkscrew Willow (S. matsudana tortuosa), also called dragon's claw willow is another popular plant. The branches of this 20- to 30-foot tree twist and contort, making the tree attractive art in winter landscape.

Finally, the Chokecherry (Prunus melanocarpa) and the Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), both common native plants with pretty spring flowers and tasty fall fruit, make fast growing privacy plants between homes.

As Robert Frost wrote in his thoughtful poem, "Mending Wall", about two neighbors who walk their property line each spring to fix the rock border between their lands, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Call 8970-79-0825 or email csumgprogram@co.routt.co.us with questions.

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