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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2006 Issue


Uncommon Hedges
Look beyond the ordinary to create a spectacular hedge that’s more than a green wall.

By Marty Wingate

Uncommon Hedges 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.

Single-Species Hedges

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 sheared effect.”

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