Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Green Fences -- Boxwood Hedges to Hydrangea Hedgerows

evergreen boxwood hedge zone 5 or 6
There's nothing nearly as elegant as a clipped boxwood hedge.  Try one along the pathway, or in an "L" shape around a patio or deck.  Ours curves along the driveway, partially circling an antique iron fountain which doubles as a two tiered planter.  Hedges aren't just for foundation plantings any more.

evergreen boxwood hedge
There's some work, but a good clipping in  mid June followed by a clean up trim  in late September is all that's needed.  And there's nothing like the cake icing look of a hedgerow after a light snow.  If the holiday lights are in place underneath--its magic. 

When our privet was first planted, the fledgling hedglings didn't touch.  A few years later it's not possible to tell where one bush begins and the other ends. When it came time for the first haircut, I insisted  I wished to mimic a "hedge" nearby where each individual boxwood had been cut into a perfect globe, like a procession of green bowling balls. Mike, who'd installed the hedge, patiently explained to me how much excess work I was inviting with those green meatballs--once I committed to carving up the shrubs, there was no going back. I'm thankful for his advice.  Life's busy enough.

Hedges provide an outline of structure to the garden. 

Consider the location when chosing the shrub.  Boxwoods do best with morning sunlight but they'll become sparse in full shade and grow pale in full sun..  Boxwoods are prized for their shiny flat broad leaves which stay green through winter, the color deeping into a blue green tone in cold weather.  Clippings inserted in flower arrangements last for weeks.  Wintergreen boxwood are well suited for zones five to eight.  Emerald Jewel Boxwood is more diminutive, but stays fuller at the bottom. 

Junipers can be restrained into hedge formation and  thrive in locations with lots of direct sunlight. 

rhododendron hedge
For a less traditional hedge, a line of hydrangea create a bilious effect, or rhododendrons give a smart pop of color each spring. 

The key to maintaining hedge fullness--thin out thick areas by hand, and taper the top of the shrub a few inches.  Be sure to "bevel" the top edges when trimming to allow sunlight to reach the bottom branches, avoiding the "crewcut" look. Sharpen handshears with the Shark to avoid bruising leaves which could cause brown edges for a few weeks.  Brush the plant lightly afterwards to evict chopped foliage.  Don't panic if one section looks a bit lower than it should, or the van doesn't quite stop in time. Minor indentations fill in quickly.  Shrubbery flubbery is rarely permanent. 

Hydrangea Hedge Zone 5
Still, always have back up.  For a time, dog Ralph took a liking to one specific area of the hedge.  We weren't aware until the damage became apparent.  Good thing there was a Plan B.  When planting a hedge, buy one or two extra shrubs and plant them in a nearby location.  If one of the original privets dies back, there's a replacement of suitable maturity as back up. 

Best of all, green fences require no painting, permits or padlocks.

More Articles of Interest:

Shrubbery Flubbery -- The Effect of Ice and Snow on Evergreens

No More Bad Haircuts -- How to Trim Shrubs

Rockery and Roll -- Xeriscape Gardening