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Saturday, July 13, 2024
Growing Together: Hedge your bet with these helpful tips
Decide what ultimate height you need the screen to be and choose plants that will not outgrow the space or take too long to reach the required height, writes Joanne Young JOANNE YOUNG

It may be true that nothing makes a good neighbour like a good fence, but a living wall or green screen of sorts is much more pleasing on the eyes. 

There are several reasons why you may want to consider planting a hedge of some type.

Hedges can be used to define property boundaries and provide you with privacy in lieu of a fence. 

Maybe your property is in an open space, and you need shelter from strong prevailing winds. 

Then, there are those neighbours with unsightly views that need to be blocked. If you don’t have one of those neighbours, it could be that you are that neighbour. 

Hedges can also provide architectural interest and serve as a backdrop to your landscape. Some hedges can also muffle noises from surrounding areas.

Choosing plants for a hedge can be made easier by giving some thought to the following:

Identify any specific requirements, such as the height to be achieved and what width do you have available.

This is the most important thing that you will need to decide on. Landscaping is all about spatial organization. 

Decide what ultimate height you need the screen to be and choose plants that will not outgrow the space or take too long to reach the required height. 

Do you need something to block the view to a neighbour’s second storey deck or just something tall enough to offer some privacy? Or, do you want to create a visual break to divide garden rooms?

You do not want to wait six to eight years to get that needed privacy or sound block.

Not only is the height important, but the width that you have available is also a major consideration. 

It is important to research how wide your chosen plant will grow to be.

Do not fall for the common misconception that you can keep a plant that wants to spread to be ten feet wide and keep it pruned to three feet wide. Chances are that it will quickly get out of hand on you. 

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “Oh, I will just keep it trimmed.”  

So often I have heard people request a plant that will grow very quicky to the height and width that they want and then just stop growing when it reaches that goal. 

Unfortunately, that is not how it works.

If something is fast growing when it is younger, it will continue to be a faster-growing plant.

A bit of careful research to see how big a plant will grow before planting it will save you a lot of work, money and trouble down the road.

There is a rule of thumb to follow when looking at defining the perimeter of your garden and it is known as the “law of significant enclosure.”

This law states that we feel enclosed when the vertical edge of a space is at least one-third the length of the horizontal space we’re inhabiting — therefore, if your property is 60 feet wide, you will feel enclosed when your perimeter plantings are a minimum of 20 feet high.  

Decide on the type of hedge: evergreen vs. deciduous.  

Another decision that you need to make when considering what type of plants to use for a living wall or hedge is do you need something evergreen or is a deciduous tree or shrub more of what you are looking for.  

Needless to say, evergreens will provide you with all year-round privacy and protection.  Cedars and yews have long been popular choices for hedges. 

The one thing to remember is that most evergreens will need to be pruned regularly to maintain its shape over time. 

Neglected or overgrown coniferous plants are difficult or next to impossible to restore the shape and maintain its health.   

Deciduous plants will also make fine hedges. The main drawback is that they do not provide you with winter interest.

However, they are much more forgiving with pruning. If you miss a year or two of pruning, they still are relatively easy to restore back into shape. 

Deciduous hedges can also provide you with changing seasonal interest such as flowers, berries and fall colour.

Decide on the desired look that you want to achieve: formal vs. informal.

The desired look should blend in with surrounding environment and landscape. For example, a more contemporary look would have very strong, simple, straight lines. 

Formal hedges will require more maintenance to achieve the desired goal.  

An informal hedge would be a great looks for more of a country or cottage garden look.

A wider selection of plants that can be used to achieve this look such as bridal wreath spirea, lilacs, red-twig dogwoods, ninebarks, dense yews, etc. 

A natural look means less pruning required to keep the look that you are after.

Take in to account the soil conditions and situation.  

Choose plants that will tolerate your site. Make sure the plant that you are choosing will be able to grow in your soil type, soil moisture, and in your sun conditions.

Consider the amount of annual maintenance involved for that particular plant to keep the look that you want. 

The timing and frequency of pruning depends on the plant that you choose and the general effect that you want.

If you are not one to keep up with the care required, it may not be the plant for you.

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca

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