We used to have a home that was surrounded by bad neighbors. They were loud, they were hanging Rebel Flag banners from porches and in windows. We needed a privacy screen and we needed it fast. Financially, our only option was to plant one.
We discovered a fast growing evergreen tree called the Carolina Sapphire. And let me tell you, it grows like you wouldn’t believe!
The Carolina Sapphire is a type of cedar. The bluish evergreen foliage smells almost lemony. It can be sheared into formal shapes (it’s becoming a well known Christmas Tree) or left natural to form thick, impermeable barriers to traffic and noise pollution. It’s also deer resistant.
We bought several tiny trees in liners. These are the small plastic pots that are about 3 inches across. The trees themselves were about 10 – 12 inches tall.
We planted them 10 feet apart.
Now, this type of tree LOVES water. The more, the better. We have been under drought conditions for a long time so daily watering was not an option. We took cheap disposable diapers and soaked them in water. (Just fill up a wheel barrow or large bucket with water and drop the diapers in, 5 or 6 at a time.)
Then, in the same wheel barrow, we added 1/2 cup of Miracle Grow for evergreens and azaleas and enough peat moss to make a thick paste. (You may need to add a little more water at this point.)
In each planting hole we chucked in one cup of the fertilizer and peat moss mixture, dropped in one diaper, cut open a little along the water logged part, planted the little tree, covered with soil, a 2×2 feet section of landscaping fabric and about 3 inches of mulch. When the last tree was planted we set up soaker hoses and watered the trees for about two hours. The trees were watered with just the soaker hoses once a week for 3 weeks. And that’s all we ever did for them.
That spring and summer, the trees grew about 2 feet. I later discovered that a tree will only begin to grow well after it has been planted for as long as it is old. So the seedlings that we planted were, say 8 months old. It would take them 8 months to begin to really grow at the rate they are capable. This is true for any tree. (So, don’t pay too much for the larger landscaping trees. The small ones at a lower price will yield a tree that is the same height after the same amount of time.)
The next year, these same trees grew another 5 – 7 feet! Without any additional anything! At 3 years old, the trees had formed a great privacy screen, thick and tall and topped out at between 15 and 20 feet. No kidding!
The only downsides to this tree, as far as I know, is that they can grow so fast that they become top heavy. If you see one beginning to lean, just plant a couple of metal T posts near it and tie it up with wide, soft rope. This will stabalize it and make it grow straight as the roots have a chance to grow and anchor it. This may take a few years, so be patient and keep an eye on the rope to make sure it isn’t digging into the trunk of the tree. This happend to about 2% of the trees we planted.
The other dowside is something called “bud worms” that notoriously feed on cedar trees. They look almost like pinecones, hanging from the tips of branches. Pull them off by hand – they can’t hurt you and at that stage they’re still in the cocoon stage, anyway. You can try spraying the trees in very early spring with an insecticide but that wasn’t practical for us. The bud worms can kill a tree within days if not removed at the cocoon stage.
We noticed that the bud worms tend to congregate on one tree, like a colony. Makes sense, I guess, as one egg layer was probably responsible for most of them.
The bud worm season is short, though, so once you pull them off you can relax. We dropped the cocoons into a plastic milk jug, capped the top and left them in a sunny spot for several days. They have to be destroyed, not just dropped onto the ground when plucked from the tree.
Other than those two relatively minor nusances, the trees are so worth the time and energy in planting them. You can find them through reputable mail order companies by typing in Carolina Sapphire Wholesale into a search. The liners are usually $3 or less, each. As I recall, shipping for 25 trees was $12 or so.
Happy Privacy Screening!