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Hedges are important structures in the garden for a variety of reasons: they create privacy, screen sensitive plants from winds, offer a solid backdrop for an herbaceous border, and they can block out eyesores or, alternately, create dramatic view corridors.
Privacy is probably the main reason we plant a hedge. Walls or fences will do the job, but a hedge is living greenery that can become great architecture when it is pruned properly.
Yew makes the classiest hedge. It is slow growing, which means you have to be patient, but in the long run you end up with a solid and elegant hedge. There is also nothing like the yew's dark foliage as a dramatic backdrop for the beautiful flowers and shrubs.
The common English yew is Taxus baccata. Left undisturbed, this will eventually grow to 40 feet (12 m) or more. However, the best kind of yew for hedging in coastal gardens is Hick's yew, Taxus media 'Hicksii,' which is a cross between English (T. baccata) and Japanese (T. cuspidata) species.Hick's yew produces a narrow, upright bush with lovely dark green foliage that holds its colour and requires minimal maintenance. It is slow-growing and it can take 10 years or more for it to reach 8 or 10 feet (2.4 to 3 m).
The golden Irish yew, Taxus baccata 'Fastigata Aurea,' is another fine hedging plant withgolden yellow leaves on new growth, while 'Fastigate Aureomarginata' has more yellow than golden variegated leaves. They can grow 25 to 30 feet (8 to 9 m), but can be kept down through judicious pruning.
Here are some other great choices for hedges, big and small.
Thuja (cedar): With a cleanly defined, pyramidal shape, Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' has rich emerald-green foliage that holds its colour through winter. It can be used as a solitary pillar-shaped accent plant. Other top cultivars are 'Brandon,' 'Degroot's Spire,' 'Holmstrup,' 'Sherwood Forest' and 'Nigra.' Best choice for homes gardens in the country is 'Holmstrup' because of its resistance to deer.
Before 'Smaragd' captured landscapers' hearts, the western red cedar, Thuja plicata, was the choice for making affordable, durable, fast-growing hedges. Top cultivars are 'Excelsa,' 'Atrovirens' and 'Zebrinus Extra Gold,' which has green foliage with golden-yellow highlights.
Tsuga (hemlock): There are two kinds to consider - Tsuga heterophylla (Western hemlock) and Tsuga canadensis (Canada hemlock). The Western hemlock is suited to coastal gardens. Its loose, finely textured dark-green foliage has a fernlike quality that makes it a handsome backdrop. The Canada hemlock is more suitable for colder areas. Top cultivars are 'Jeddeloh' and 'Bennett.'
Chamaecyparis (false cypress): In boggy conditions, this is susceptible to fungal disease. Nevertheless, in the right spot it is a good conifer for the garden. Cultivars of C. lawsoniana, which is native to Northern California and Oregon, are still popular. Top names are 'Ellwoodii,' 'Ellwood's Gold,' 'Green Globe,' 'Ivonne' and 'Blue Surprise.'
The Nootka cypress (C. nootkatensis) is another handsome species, native to the Pacific Northwest. Look for the slender, pillar-shaped 'Jubilee,' 'Pendula' and the slow-growing dwarf form 'Nana.' The Hinoki cypress (C. obtusa) has attractive, short-growing cultivars. Especially striking is 'Nana Gracillis' and 'Kosteri.'
Prunus laurocerasus (cherry laurel). This has glossy, five-inch-long leaves and is capable of reaching 15 feet (4.5 m) in 10 years. Critics say it is too common and it grows far too quickly and requires too much maintenance. Nevertheless, it is still a popular hedge.
Ilex aquifolium (English holly): A prickly barrier to thwart burglars. It will bring birds into the garden and the red berries give colour in winter.
Photinia fraseri. Unfairly dismissed as too plain, it makes a first-rate hedge, being evergreen with cheerful red new growth. It can be kept as low as 3 feet (90 cm) or allowed to rise well over 10 feet (3 m). It can be espaliered against a wall or fence or used a feature in the shrub border.
Best of the deciduous hedges: Forsythia intermedia, one of the heralds of spring, it makes a stunning hedge with bright-yellow flowers in March; Viburnum plicatum 'Summer Snowflake,' bright white flowers in spring; Ligustrum amurense (privet) with soft, glossy leaves that can be sheared into a very tidy shape; Carpinus betulus (hornbeam) with great foliage, a good pick for pleaching; and Fagus sylvaticta (European beech) which wonderful bronze foliage colour.
Buxus (boxwood): There's nothing quite like a low, well-clipped boxwood hedge to give your garden a classical elegance. It immediately conjures up images of Elizabethan knot-gardens. Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa' (true dwarf boxwood) is a slower-growing variety. It can take 20 years to grow 4 feet (1 m). This is the best variety for edges, parterres, knot gardens and borders. It is ideal for enclosing a small formal rose or herb garden.
Korean small-leafed boxwood (Buxus microphylla koreana) is faster growing than the common English box, but it doesn't much like our wet winters. Top varieties are 'Winter Gem' and 'Morris Midget', 'Green Velvet,' 'Green Beauty,' 'Green Mound,' 'Green Mountain' and 'Winter Green.'
Ilex crenata (Japanese holly): A member of the holly family, it has tiny black berries in winter but has all the appearance of a box-type hedge and can be clipped into a formal looking waist-high barrier. It can grow to 6 feet (2 m). For an interesting accent plant, look for Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil,' an attractive column-shaped variety.
Pieris japonica 'Bisbee Dwarf': This dwarf form of the common pieris grows into a dense bush about 18 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm). New growth is mahogany-red. It can be used to make a short, formal hedge. Other dwarf cultivars are 'Bolero,' 'Cupido' and 'Compact Crimson.'
Berberis (Barberry): The dreaded "prickle bush" of English school yards in the 1950s, this is a tough character, capable of thriving in full sun or light shade in difficult, exposed sites with poor drainage and compact soil. It makes a solid deciduous hedge, tucked below a window as a deterrent to burglars. Popular cultivars are mostly varieties of B. thunbergii (Japanese barberry.) Look for 'Rose Glow', 'Atropurpurea,' 'Aurea' and 'Atropurpurea Nana.' Best evergreen barberry is 'Goldilocks,' which produces golden-orange flowers in spring.
Escallonia: Being hardy only in mild zone-8 areas, this is most suitable for protected, seaside coastal gardens. It is tolerant of salty air and seaspray. In an ideal location, it grows 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.5 m). Recommended varieties are 'Donard Star,' 'Newport Dwarf,' 'Lou Allen,' 'Pride of Donard' and 'Woodside.'
In gardens where space is not limited, shrub roses can be used to form relaxed barriers in areas where neat, compact formality is not required. Other possibilities to consider include lavender, santolina, spiraea and potentilla.
Please note that not all of the above mentioned cultivars are regularly available so please check with us when looking into putting in a hedge.
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› Poinsettia Care in the Home
› Fall Clean-up
› Fall Planting of Trees, Shrubs and Perennials
› Planting Perennials
› A Checklist of Things To Do in the December Garden
› January To Do List
› Fall Planting
› Growing Aloe Plants
› Pruning your Clematis
› Growing Jade Plants
› Planting and Growing Bulbs
› Pleione Formosana
› Caring for Sarracenia - North American Pitcher Plants
› Caring for the Venus Fly Trap - Dionaea muscipula
› Growing Winter Heather
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