I am a relatively new homeowner and I don't have a ton of gardening experience. I live in Seattle, WA.
I planted several Portuguese laurels about 16 to 18 months ago. They've grown a bit since then, but I really want to encourage fast vertical growth. I don't really care about width at this point. I have a narrow back yard with a large house behind it that I need to block ASAP (we're talking about a three story dilapidated monster of a house that starts at a significantly higher elevation than my backyard).
If I prune the lower branches, will that encourage faster vertical growth? Or, will that just cause even more branches to grow in the future from where I made my cuts? Long term, I'd like to have the bottom three feet or so of the tree bare of branches so that I can continue to plant flowers, and other smaller plants, etc below the tree. I assume I should make my cuts where the lower branches meet the trunk?
Any other tips to encourage fast vertical growth? I've used fertilizer 2 to 3 times in the 16 to 18 months since planting.