Using Trees to Create an Outdoor Screen

By Nancy Penrose

Many property owners buy big trees to beautify their landscape, but they can also be used as natural screens to create privacy, minimize wind, decrease sunlight and reduce noise.

A living wall is a great way to create seclusion, especially if you are concerned about being observed or disturbed by neighbors, pedestrians and drivers. You can also use trees to hide objects both on and off the property.

Do you live in a windy area? When used as a windbreak, trees can reduce the wind’s speed by a distance of up to 30 times the tree’s height. They can also minimize the wind chill around your home or building, which can lower your heating bill.

When trees are planted on the east, west and northwest sides of your home, they can provide enough shade to decrease summer air conditioning expenses by up to 35%. If there’s too much outside noise where you live, a tree screen can also help reduce noise levels.

You can create tree screens in many different locations, including between homes, buildings and alongside of highways.

Before buying trees for a screen, decide how high and wide you want it to be. Also decide if you want an evergreen screen or one made of deciduous trees that will lose their foliage in the fall. And don’t forget to take into consideration the growing environment, including the soil type.

One of the most popular trees used for screens is the Excelsa Cedar. A fast growing privacy tree, it grows 2-3’ a year, but tops out around 25-30’ tall and 15’ wide. It is very low maintenance.

You might also want to consider Emerald Green Arborvitae trees, which grows between 15 to 18 feet in height. It has thick foliage and will keep its color all year long. The emerald green is good for narrow planting areas.

Nancy Penrose is owner of Big Trees Inc. (, (tree nursery Snohomish, WA), one of the largest Seattle tree nurserys (visit Big Trees Sales and Inventory page at, specializing in large trees for sale and transplanting trees. For more tips on tree landscaping go to See our video at and connect with us on Facebook at