These easy-to-maintain hedgerows offer privacy and beauty

By Lisa Watters-Lain, Arizona’s Garden Gal

Privacy and hedgerows are not top-of-mind until that neighbor dumps his leftover construction material for all to enjoy at the next backyard BBQ. Or, what about that super-sized motor home parked within feet of the property line that is now a chrome-covered albatross sitting between yards? Arizonans spend a lot of time outdoors, making privacy essential.

Certain plants can provide both privacy and a pleasing aesthetic. An unfortunate mistake so many homeowners make is planting a hedge that becomes massive within several years, overgrowing its space, obscuring walkways and the front of the house, and even obliterating vistas and sunsets.

This issue is dedicated to those plants that are easily maintained at head height with a little manicuring.

Here is my list of the top seven performers that make great scenes (and add privacy) in local landscapes:

Gilted Edge Silverberry is a new hedge plant with a native twist that rivals manzanita and grows equally tall. Bright gold edges highlight every blue leaf for a truly striking plant. Space at four-foot intervals to create a head-high privacy screen so thick and bright no one would dare enter. Investment property owners use this plant because it classes up a property’s value, yet is hardy enough to keep up with a landscape’s deadliest tenant.
Red Tip Photinia is the most common plant used as a tall hedge. The new growth of spring emerges red then matures to a waxy green leaf. This aggressive 12-foot evergreen requires more maintenance, and a ladder may be necessary to prune it if it’s left to itself. This hedge is very long and too broad for most properties.

Glossy Privet is a better choice than Red Tip Photinia, with the same look.  Growing to only head-high, the broad green leaves form a thick hedge. The waxy leaves hold moisture within the plant’s structure creating a low-water, low-maintenance hedge with fewer bug problems than its red-tipped counterpart.

Mint Julep Juniper is another super hardy plant previous generations used as a hedge, but with much better color.  Of course, northern Arizona is famous for its juniper forest, so a juniper hedge fits and is equally hardy. The signature sea foam green foliage proliferates to head-high, needing little help and even less water. This plant forms a very thick hedge that requires infrequent hedge trimming to keep it perfectly manicured.

Victory Pyracanthia is another Victorian plant ideally suited to an eight-foot hedgerow. White flowers in spring form orange berries the birds dearly love. Thick glossy green leaves are small, surprisingly hardy, and the fastest growing of the tall hedge plants.  This plant has all the seasons covered for an exciting landscape. Long thorns prevent a visitor’s escape through this hedge, and are equally adept at keeping the unwanted out.

Golden Euonymous is the most popular of the hedge plants. Bright gold foliage appears festive and fun for year-round class. An ideal hedge, it can be sheared or left to grow into a natural form dense enough to make an excellent visual and sound barrier.  It’s as tough as they come, too! Look to the Silver King Euonymus for the same design element only in a silver cream color that is equally striking.  Feel free to mix and match the two for long hedgerows.  

Grape Holly is a natural alternative. Several varieties grow wild in the mountains of Arizona.  This plant snowballs to six feet with minimal care. Once it’s up to size, this hedge requires almost no care, except very scarce water during the heat of summer.  Fun gold flowers cover this plant in early spring, followed by a grape-like berry; the birds will love this hedge. The leaves resemble English holly, but are well adapted to Arizona’s wind and bright sun. Grape Holly makes an excellent fence along driveways, entrances, and property lines.

Spacing is critical for a fast-filling hedge. Use the plant’s ultimate height as the spacing recommendations for a thick hedge.  If the plant tag says, your plant will grow 5-7 feet tall use the smaller of the two numbers.  Our arid Arizona climate seems to dwarf plants, or at least force them to grow on the small size of natural.

Until next issue; I’ll be helping locals screen prying eyes at Watters Garden Center.

Lisa Watters-Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd. in Prescott, or contacted through her website at or .