Look beyond the ordinary to create a spectacular hedge that’s
more than a green wall.
By Marty Wingate
Susan A. Roth
One of the most useful plantings in the garden is the one
that divides us from something else. Hedges are plantings with a purpose; they
work for us. They delineate property boundaries, provide enclosure, and divide
large spaces into smaller, distinct areas. And they hide things, such as the
neighbors, the bus stop across the street, or the garbage bins.
But when it comes to selecting plants for hedges, we seem to
be stuck in arborvitae mode. When a hedge of some sort is needed, we throw up a
row of Thuja occidentalis—most likely
‘Smaragd’ or ‘Pyramidalis’—and call it good. While the solid line of green has
its place, it isn’t the only option for a hedge, and if we limit ourselves to
that concept we are missing an exceptional opportunity to add interest to our
gardens. Other evergreens, both coniferous and broadleaf, along with a host of
deciduous plants, are ready to assume the hedge billet, adding much more to the
landscape than just a green wall.
Formal hedges—plantings of a single species that are sheared
to maintain their size and shape—certainly have their place, although they may
appear incongruous with the informal landscape styles popular today. But many
single-species hedges adopt a more adaptable, relaxed attitude when the plants
are allowed to develop their natural form.
Landscape designer and author Judy Mielke says that her
favorite hedges “are more like loose masses of plants rather than sheared
shapes.” With respect to pruning, she advises gardeners to “leave the shears in
the tool shed. If any trimming needs to be done, it should be with individual
cuts to branches at varying lengths, to maintain a naturalistic rather than
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