1. Summer Pruning Tips for 3 Fruit Trees Planted in 1 Hole, or High Density Planting

    Watch as Ed Laivo, one of America's top fruit tree experts, checks the growth on his latest high density planting of Burgundy Plum, Santa Rosa Plum and Emerald Butte Plum. During this video, you'll learn how how he makes summer pruning decisions to keep his fruit trees around 6 feet tall.

    Growing 3 Trees in 1 Hole Delivers Great Fruit Set in a Small Space

    Successfully planting 3 partner fruit trees together in 1 hole has a lot of benefits, including cross-pollination and enjoying an extended season of fruit. Keeping your high density plantings at a small size makes for easy homegrown fruit picking.

    Summer is the best time to prune your high density planting. Ed says "The goal is to get good sunlight in the center of the three tree canopy. Pruning the aggressive spring flush of growth keeps your fruit trees to a manageable size."

    Call us to talk about which partner fruit trees are right for your garden: 888-864-7663

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  2. All Things Cedar

    Nature Hills grows many different kinds of Cedar trees, one that should work in your area.  Traditionally, wood from some Cedar trees is very fragrant and resists decay and it gets used for fence posts, shingles and siding for buildings.  It seems that all grandmas had a cedar chest and kept things in that chest that would be protected from bugs getting into it as well.

    Wide Selection of Cedar Tree Varieties For Your Garden

    Deodar Cedar is a large grower that has arching branches so very graceful in appearance and many times in warmer climates it is used for a living Christmas tree.  An elegant evergreen, great in natural groups for screening, or even a specimen as a focal point in your yard or perhaps a potted plant on your patio.  Beautiful fine textured silvery gray evergreen foliage makes this one a winner.  A favorite for the warmer regions in the country.  Deodar Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica 'PIICJ-I') can get 50 feet+ tall and 30 feet wide so give it some room to spread its wings.  A large scale plant for growing in zones 7-11.

    We also offer Japanese Cedar called Chapel View that is smaller plant getting only to 10 feet or so tall and 6-8 feet wide and grows beautifully in warmer zones of 6-9.  A gorgeous soft and natural looking evergreen with deep dark green colored needles with a bluish cast.  The hold that green color all winter long unlike the species.  The perfect way to screen out unsightly views and nosey neighbors.  The bulky pyramidal form is dense and fills in quickly with the plants planted next to it.  Check out Chapel View Japanese Cedar for your next screening project.

    How about a dwarf Japanese Cedar?  Cryptomeria japonica 'Globosa Nana' is a soft green, irregular shaped, mounding spreading plant can be used sheared for a more formal use or allowed to grow naturally and used as a foundation plant.  This little guy gets 4-5 feet high and wide or maybe a bit larger with age and works in zones 5-9.  It makes a friendly fence or killer backdrop to your favorite perennial garden. Slow grower, like well drained soils, full sun or part shade and drought tolerant means easy to grow and little maintenance required.

    Cedar Tree Screens for Privacy

    We also grow Western Arborvitae, classic upright screening plant that is fast growing and excellent used in groups.  Western Arborvitae is Thuja plicata and is sometimes called Western Red Cedar.  We currently have the selection called ‘Green Giant’ which stays a nice soft green all year round.  Left unpruned, and planted in a staggered row, they make fantastic natural looking screen or windbreak or the perfect backdrop to your back or side yard.  Once they get a few feet tall the deer seem to leave them alone.  Western Arborvitae can also be trimmed to make a more formal hedge.   Fast and adaptable and hardy in zones 5-8.  Green Giant will get maybe 40 feet or so and about half that wide when mature.  Watch for other selections as our production facilities finish them for sale.

    How about White Cedar?  Typically we have several different varieties including the smaller globe shaped Arborvitae great for foundation plantings.  Thuja occidentalis is used across a very wide range in many climates and they are very adaptable.  White Cedar is also called Northern White Cedar, or Eastern White Cedar.  A commonly used upright selection is called Emerald Green.  All of the upright forms make nice screening plants, narrow hedges, and can be sheared more formal or allowed to grow naturally and both options work tremendously well.  This group of Arborvitae tolerate moist soils well, yet once established quite tolerant of most situations.  If you have a lot of deer in your area do be careful with this species.  Heights and widths vary depending upon the selection so be sure to keep checking our availability as it changes frequently.  Great green year round evergreen with nice color, very adaptable, and so versatile. 

    Let’s finish here with Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana).  This tough old goat is widely distributed across many states.  Many times you see it growing along roadsides in the sunny, dry and well drained areas.  They tolerate drought, road salt, and deer do not seem to like them as much.  There is a lot of variation with this plant as they seed themselves and can take many forms.  The small berries that can be produced are actually soft cones and the cedar waxwings and other birds absolutely love them!  Eastern Red Cedar is great cover for plenty of wildlife in those open areas where they like to grow.  They are not only good for native plantings, but also work well in poor soils where it can be hot and dry in urban areas too.  In the fall and winter months, the needle color changes from a green or silvery green to a purplish plum color which can be an interesting attribute as well.  Eastern Red Cedar are upright growing and can get 40 or 50 feet and variable width of 12 or 18 feet wide.  A hard working Juniper for open windy areas that take the heat and drier soils. 

    When it comes to Cedar trees, Nature Hills has plenty to choose from.  Having trouble deciding? Let us help you - just call (888) 864-7663




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  3. Boxwood Offer Beauty, Versatility in Any Landscape


    Boxwood - sometimes known as Box - has been around for a long time. They were introduced to North America from Europe in the 1600s. There are almost 100 different species and almost 400 different selections that have been made over the years, and the popularity of Boxwood continues today.

    Boxwood (Buxus) is a broadleaved evergreen. The small, round green leaves remain on the plant year round.  Different Boxwood species can be grown from zones 4 to 9, so when selecting Boxwood for your home, be sure to select the type that will grow where you live.

    This fine textured, green-leaved plant is equally attractive year round as it really does not change throughout the seasons.  For that reason, they have remained extremely popular in the landscape.  They are easy to maintain and can be maintained in the landscape for long periods time.

    How to Use Boxwood

    The classic use for Boxwood is as a hedge and they take pruning beautifully.  They typically put on two flushes of growth, so pruning is not as frequent as many other plants.  Low, sheared hedges are the best for edging a garden bed - adding structure to any garden space.  Imagine a long, rectangular bed edged with a sheared Boxwood hedge and filled with roses, grasses or maybe a mixed perennial border! Brilliant.

    Taller hedges are great for screening or creating garden walls. Outdoor rooms have been done using boxwood for centuries – and that is because they work so well. Deer do not prefer to browse on Boxwood, so no need to fence or use repellents.

    Sheared Boxwood hedges define the space, create pathways, and provide opportunities to include an ornate garden gate in your yard.

    Sometimes leaving a bit of space between plants and planting them in a formal row makes an interesting divider.  Some selections spread out more and can be sheared into rounded forms.  Other cultivars are more upright and can be sheared into a row of pyramidal formed plants as an excellent divider.

    A classic use of Boxwood is at your front entrance.  Perhaps place a container on either side of your door with a sheared rounded or upright form. So elegant and formal! They look great all year round and can be glammed up at holiday time with some tiny LED lights to add interest and whimsy in the winter. 

    Maybe your foundation is slightly exposed and needs some softening?  Boxwood is an awesome solution along your foundation either with sheared formal plants or spreading forms that are allowed to grow with a more natural form (that does not get sheared). 

    Don’t forget about using a specimen plant mixed in with your container plants as topiary, pom pom, or even trained as a bonsai plant.  Boxwood are also a welcome addition to window boxes for year round interest!

    Choosing A Boxwood

    Selecting the right Boxwood for your site is quite simple.  First, know the zone you are growing in.  On our Nature Hills website you can type in your zip code and it will tell you the hardiness zone you’re in. Select a cultivar that works in your zone. Are you looking for an upright form, or a more rounded spreading form?  Use an upright from for taller hedges and either type for shorter sheared hedges.  It’s that easy! 

    Boxwood Pruning

    Pruning is a simple and minimal process from the start. If you are growing your Boxwood as a hedge, spacing can be varied.  It all depends upon how quickly you want your hedge to be a solid mass instead of individual plants.  Smaller plants installed closer together will make an awesome hedge sooner.  Just one important thing to keep in mind with all hedge plants when it comes to pruning: Always try and keep the bottoms of your hedge plants a bit wider than the tops of the hedge plants. If you look at the side of your hedge it should look like this – wider at the bottom and a bit narrower at the top of the hedge. 





    Keeping your hedges wider at the bottom keeps the foliage dense and healthy all the way to the ground-- which is what you want.  This becomes more important as the hedges are taller.  

    Most Boxwood will produce a flush of growth in spring and a lighter flush of growth will develop later in summer.  Formal hedges, topiaries, and formal specimen plants will need shearing after those flushes of growth.  More natural forms of Boxwood will benefit from light pruning.  Just trim off the longest branch tips to keep it “in check” as needed.

    Growing Boxwood is pretty darn easy.  Full sun or part shade, and well drained soil is best.  If you are growing them in pots be sure the soil mix drains well, and the pots have drainage holes in the bottom.  Medium moisture is best - adding water as needed during the dry spells. 

    Boxwood is an elegant plant that is as beautiful in summer as it is in winter, with a wide variety of uses in your landscape.  Check out the many varieties we offer by clicking here.

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  4. Learn More About Arborvitae, the Tree of Life

    Nature Hills grows two different species of Arborvitae:

    1. Thuja occidentalis selections
    2. Thuja plicata selections

    Why Arborvitae? 

    Arborvitae are super-fast growing, make the perfect screening plant, and have plenty of surface area to absorb sound.  You have no better way to eliminate ugly views, block some wind, catch some snow, and give you the perfect green backdrop to design around. 

    Most upright forms of Arborvitae can grow two feet or so each year.  There are some globe selections that are rounded and some that have yellow colored foliage.  Today we are focusing on the upright forms that are many times used for hedging or screening plants. 

    The fine textured foliage is born in a flat plane, but the plants are soft and dense, and they make beautiful hedges. 

    Expert Tips for Pruning Arborvitae

    If you trim back the tops of the plants, you will encourage the plants to become wider.  It is an extremely useful tip if something were to damage the bottoms of your Arborvitae.  It is one of the only evergreens that are able to generate new growth near the bottoms of the plants…good to know.

    Most all Arborvitae can be trimmed or sheared into formal hedges, but you can also just allow your Arborvitae plants grow naturally too.  Whatever landscape they are being used in (formal or more informal) you can choose how you would like your plants to be used.

    Garden Design Ideas for Using Arborvitae in the Landscape

    Natural grown Arborvitae provide a soft, elegant, fine textured look as they gain in size each year.  Classic use of Arborvitae is for screening out unsightly views, and for blocking winter winds on the north and west sides of your home. 

    Both Emerald Green and North Pole Arborvitaes are of the same species (known as Eastern White Cedar or Northern White Cedar) that grows fast, tall and they both stay quite narrow without pruning.  If you plant them closer together, they make a solid screen sooner.  Both of these varieties can be planted every three or four feet and just allow them to grow and touch each other.  There is no need to keep the plants trimmed to prevent them from touching but you want them to mesh together and make a nice solid green screen. 

    And Spring Grove, Green Giant, and Sugar and Spice are all the species plicata (known as Western Arborvitae).  The interesting thing about these three varieties, the deer find them less desirable once they get up a few feet tall.  These three selections look fantastic if you use them in a more natural untrimmed form.  A somewhat staggered informal planting in groups of three of fives is wildly desirable.  These western Arborvitae selections are also incredible windbreaks and screening plants in smaller and larger numbers. 

    Establishing Your Arborvitae, Tree of Life

    All Arborvitae are simply grown with few problems in areas that have sufficient moisture.  Watch the hardiness zones in which they grow within as they are for zones 3-9, but each one is specific to a range of northern zones. 

    The container plants that Nature Hills sells are the perfect sizes to establish new plantings of both species of Arborvitae.  Water carefully at the start making sure not to allow them to dry out.  Once established, they will appreciate a drink during dry spells and it’s always a great idea to water before winter cold freezes up the soil. 

    Arborvitae are green screens in which many are quite narrow not using up lots of space in your yard.  Blocking out ugly views, creating amazing backdrops to your favorite shrub and perennial borders, or even used to reduce your energy bills from blocking those cold winter winds if they are planted on the north and west sides of your home.  Left natural, they work beautiful with natives and a freeform style.  Formal gardens use Arborvitae trimmed in formal hedges and in living sheared walls that are easy to maintain. 

    Let the tree of life breath some life into your landscape!

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  5. How to Thin Fruit - Video Tutorial

    Watch the video below to learn the art of fruit thinning by one of America's premier fruit experts, Ed Laivo.

    Benefits of Thinning Fruit

    • Avoid diseases by thinning
    • Increase fruit size
    • Improve color in your fruit
    • Increase sugar content in your fruit

    Here's what you'll learn:

    1. How to space the fruit on the limb
    2. How to properly pull immature fruit during thinning

    Thinning is an art form that helps your apple, peaches and nectarine crops. Homesteaders, urban agriculturalists, and homeowners - enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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  6. Your Plants Need Water, But Not Too Much!

    Did you know that you can kill some plants just as easily from too much water as not enough water?

    The confusing thing is that a plant that is being overwatered even looks like a plant that does not have enough water – wilting, brown leaf tips, yellow leaves, and leaves that fall off the plant. 

    Factors that can cause overwatering

    Soil type makes a huge difference in the frequency that additional water may need to be added. 

    • In sandier soils, you will need to water your plants more frequently, as the rain or irrigation drains away from the soil quickly. 
    • Heavier clay soils will not allow the water to percolate as quickly and will hold the water in place for a longer time.  Adding water to clay soils too frequently can cause big problems. 
    • Plants grown in containers depend upon you to supply the proper amount of water.  Make sure the pots you use have holes in the bottom, so excess water can drain away from the soil if too much water has been applied. 

    Why don’t plants like lots of water? 

    Well, some plants will grow in water or at the water’s edge. However, most of the plants you are using around your home are not water plants. 

    Roots are not dumb - they will grow to wherever they find food, oxygen, and water. Roots do not always just grow out in all directions all the same distance from the plant like you might think. 

    If the roots are waterlogged, they will not have enough oxygen. This can lead to stress or root rot, which will weaken the plant, or cause it to die. The plant roots may respond by growing closer to the surface and away from the areas that remain wet. 

    Ironically, if roots grow close to the surface to escape negative effects of overwatering, your plant will be more vulnerable to times of drought. You want your plants to firmly establish themselves in your garden with deeper root systems.

    New plants versus established plants

    Newly planted plant materials need you! Don’t install new plants and go on vacation. You need to be there for them. Newly planted bare root or container grown plants will need extra water the day you plant, and more frequent watering’s to keep the plant moist enough to start making new roots into YOUR soil they were planted into. That is the key! 

    Plants all respond a bit differently, and timing will depend upon the temperature and weather at planting time – but being attentive to the water needs is crucial for the first couple of weeks. 

    How do you know if your newly planted plants need water?

    Use your finger by sticking it into the soil up to the 2nd knuckle at the roots.  Feel the soil.  If moist – skip watering that day.  If dry – then give a good drink that day. 

    After a couple of weeks, you will notice that your newly planted plants are needing less frequent watering. That’s because the plants have established some by growing new roots into your soil finding their own food, oxygen, and water on their own. Yay!  After they have established, your plants become less dependent upon you to supply any additional water. 

    How often do you water older and established plants in your yards? 

    It is almost impossible to make a blanket statement about watering with so many variables like soil types climate, and temperatures. Most older and established trees will not need you for a lot of help. With that in mind, watch your weather patterns and if you are not seeing rainfall for longer periods of time that is normal for your area – it would be worth your while for dropping a hose under your Birch tree or other Genus of plant that might needs some additional soil moisture in your area.

    Use the finger method for feeling the soil at the roots to feel if plants are needing water. Use mulch over the top of the roots around your plants without mounding any mulch up against the plant stems or the trunks of your trees. Mulch will help to maintain and hold better moisture where it is needed. 

    It’s better to water your established plants longer and less frequently, rather than for short, frequent “sprinkles.” Again, you don’t want your roots to grow shallowly near the surface where they can dry out quicker.  A larger volume of water applied to the roots will allow more roots to continue to grow down deep into the soil, where moisture may be more readily available.

    Also, water the roots of your plants, and not the leaves or flowers. You’ll keep your plants cleaner and less susceptible to foliage problems. 

    The finger test…don’t forget!  It works on house plants too. It’s so simple. 

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  7. Tips and Tricks to Establish your New Plants in Spring and Fall

    Nature Hills offers plants two ways, container grown plants and dormant bare root plants.  Let’s take a look at tips and tricks to ensure success.

    Establishing Bare Root Plants

    Bare root plants are shipped dormant and without any leaves and no soil on the roots! They are dug in fall after they have been exposed to frost and the plants have started to go dormant. Garden experts shake off all of the soil from the rootsBare root plants remain dormant until they are shipped to you.

    How? They are stored in a cooler with no soil on the roots (at a controlled very high humidity) just above freezing. So bare root plants can be shipped from November through the winter (in milder climates) all the way into June.  All bare root plants will be carefully wrapped to keep the roots covered and moist at all times during shipment.

    Soaking your bare root plants in a tub of water overnight before planting really improves success to near perfect.  

    Fall Planting of Bare Root Plants

    Establishing a bare root plant in the fall is simple.  Soak, plant, water to settle the soil in around those roots, and keep an eye on soil moisture.  Remember that fall planted plants will not grow until the following spring, but the big secret is those fall planted bare root plants will produce new roots in the fall before winter comes. 

    Initial watering at fall planting, then a good soaking the next day, and then using the finger test to feel if the soil needs additional moisture at the roots is the BEST WAY to know if the roots are kept moist. 

    Plants that dry out after transplanting will actually cause some of the smallest roots to die which reduces the chances for the plants to take up the water needed to support the top of the plant.  Keeping even moisture at the roots is the key to a successful transplant.

    Don’t Overwater Plants – Use the Finger Test

    If you just add water every day to your plants, it could cause those roots to rot which can kill the plant too.  Even soil moisture is best achieved by what we call the finger test – stick your finger up to the 2nd knuckle into the soil and feel.  If it feels moist – skip water that day and if it feels dry then give a good drink. 

    Fall and winter bare root transplanted plants will need much less water than spring and early summer bare root plantings.

    Establishing Container Grown Plants

    Plants that have been grown in pots can be shipped to you dormant or actively growing, depending upon the time of the year they are shipped and the region they are grown in.  Container grown plants can be shipped anytime as long as we are shipping to your area. 

    Container grown plants are easily slid from the pots they were grown in and can be carefully planted in the ground.  Dig the hole no deeper than the pot it was growing in – but twice as wide or even more.  Loosening the soil wider than the size of the pot allows the new roots to easily develop as they spread and re-establish the plant in its new home. 

    Getting your newly planted container plants established as quickly as possible is to your advantage: 

    • Upon arrival at any time of the year – completely submerge your plant into a tub of water until it stops bubbling. 
    • Then take the plant out and allow to drain while you plant.  Gently loosen the soil on the bottom of the root ball to separate circling roots. 
    • As you backfill around the root ball with the soil that was excavated from the hole be sure to again completely saturate your plants right away. 
    • Then, use the finger test to know if your plant needs watering or not. 
    • Know that your container plants will need much more water (attention to frequency) when the temperatures are warm and sunny in spring and summer compared to fall shipments. 

    Soil type, temperature, and time of the year all makes a big difference as to how much water a plant will take up.  But it is not just about how much water the plant will take up – it is about keeping the roots of your newly planted plants just moist without over watering or mistakenly letting the plant dry out too much – so that your plants can start making new roots. 

    Roots eventually will grow to find food and water on their own.  Once they start to do so, your plants become less dependent upon you for additional water when needed.  It can happen in a little as a week or sometimes as much as a month or more.

    New roots are most easily initiated with you being highly attentive to the soil moisture at the roots of your newly planted plants.  That does not mean you just water it every day or once a week.  It means you use the finger test to feel the soil daily at the start, so YOU KNOW WHEN your plans are needing additional water.  As new roots form you will notice the plants will need you less frequently and that is the key. 

    Happy planting!



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  8. Small Plants, Color are trending…

    Are you are out looking for a new home?  New construction or perhaps an existing home?  What do you notice about the older homes?  In many cases, the older homes have big, overgrown plants in their landscapes. 

    It is pretty amazing how you can change the look of an older home by updating or renovating the landscape.  Many older homes have landscapes that “date” them.  Like clothes, or hairstyles or eyewear…landscapes are designed differently today than they were even a short while ago.  Not only an older landscape design, but older plant selections that have really outworn their stay.  After a while, pruning may not be the answer.  Maybe it is time cut off or tear out those outdated shrubs and start over with a fresh new look. 

    What do you notice about new homes that have been newly landscaped?  Not only are the plants smaller but you might notice more color, ornamental grasses and perennials have been included in the design. Color is huge, and smaller plants that rebloom are the landscape architect’s dream!

    Plants that put on less growth in a season are so popular the plant breeders are always looking for plants that remain smaller as they mature.  Plants that don’t grow as tall or wide need less pruning which is huge for those of you who have better things to do with your time than to be to be out pruning.  If you have someone maintain your property, dwarf plants can cost less to maintain. 

    Smaller flowering shrubs can still put out tons of flowers and fruit just like their larger parents.  Some shrubs produce flowers that are showy for an extended time.  Hydrangeas for instance bloom fresh flowers, age a bit to another color, and actually can remain on the plant well into fall.  Hydrangea flowers can be showy all winter long as they remain on the plant and dry. 

    Some shrubs rebloom so you not only get that one round of flowers, you get subsequent sets of flowers that are produced.  Invincibelle Wee White or Invincibelle Limetta are two fine examples in the Invincibelle series of dwarf Hydrangea selections that continue to produce new flowers once blooming begins.  Some other Dwarf and Reblooming Hydrangeas include the Let’s Dance® series, Tuff Stuff® series, some of the Endless Summer® series, and the Forever & Ever® series all are worth checking out for your new foundation planting. 

    Have you seen or read about the reblooming Azaleas series of plants?  Bloom-A-Thon® and Encore® series of include some incredible smaller versions of Rhododendrons that flower not only for weeks in spring, but most again summer and fall with weeks and weeks of bloom!  Many color options and check the mature sizes to pick the right one for the right place.  These Azaleas are game changers, photobombing your landscape with color throughout the season.

    Another group of plants that have been bred to be smaller, produce massive amounts of flowers in June, and then continue to bloom throughout the season right into the fall season is Weigela!  As a bonus many of these newer selections have some pretty incredible leaf color.  Then the plant breeders not only included longer bloom, more rebloom, great foliage but all wrapped up in a smaller overall size.  Brilliant!

    The same breeding is going on in perennials and grasses for smaller overall size without sacrificing the bang.  Sterile plants are hugely important too.  Plants that will not reseed or become invasive is also priority.  Many times sterile plants are so dumb, they keep making flowers because they are trying to make seed, so you become the beneficiary with a huge flower display!

    Finally, let’s not forget that edibles have worked their way into today’s landscapes – and why not? Newer dwarf selections of Blueberry plants are wildly ornamental sporting flowers, fruit, incredible summer foliage and don’t forget that great fall color too.  But we are also seeing raspberry, goji, honeyberry, rhubarb and even grape vines all being utilized in today’s design.

    Smaller plants with more color, and less pruning maintenance is all the rage.  Check out the many options from Nature Hills online nursery!

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  9. Crabapple used as a screening plant?

    You bet! Larger or smaller growing deciduous ornamental trees like Crabapples, Ornamental Pears, Ornamental Cherry trees all would work to do something like this. Pick something like this disease-resistant Red Jewel Crabapple shown here for an unbelievable pink bud-white flower cloud of bloom, followed by green and disease-free foliage all summer.

    Let’s not forget the jewel like red fruits that are showy from late summer and persists all winter long. Show-stopping red fruit then feeds the migrating robins, cedar waxwings and a whole lot more in late winter and in the spring.

    Beautiful backdrop to anyone’s backyard with plenty of privacy and a beautiful way to create an incredible outdoor room.

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  10. White Pine Windbreak

    Soft, feathery needles are born on a fast-growing Pine tree that will grow large in a short period of time.

    Trying to cut down on that wind? A quick solution to reducing wind and snowdrifts would be the addition of a natural, elongated planting on the north and/or west side of your property.


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