Many different kinds of shrubs (and trees) can be used for hedges,
depending on the effect you are after. There are low hedges and tall, evergreen and
deciduous, clipped and informally natural. Hedges may be used to guide traffic, to
delineate, to screen an undesirable view, or to lessen that nagging afternoon wind that
cools our Humboldt gardens.
The main requirements for selecting shrubs are good-looking, dense,
healthy foliage and, if they are to be pruned to a certain height or shape, a toleration
of continued clipping.
The easiest hedges to maintain are those allowed to keep their normal
shape. In other words, you should choose shrubs which, when mature, have the desired
height, width, and appearance, with almost no pruning. Of course, they have a rather
billowy look instead of being rigidly trim, but in many situations this is preferable, or
at least desirably attractive.
Sometimes a flowering hedge is desirable. Such plants may be pruned
periodically, perhaps once a year, but allowed to grow in their natural informal
shape rather than in a sheared unnatural form.
Deciduous hedges generally provide screening only during the growing season.
However some types, if pruned severely over a period of time, will form a dense
tangle of twigs which provide a fair winter screen.
Evergreens, both broad and narrow-leaved types, are effective year-round hedges
since they remain beautiful even in winter. Planting time is the same as
for shrubs used for other purposes.
When shopping, remember that you do not need the biggest, most shapely,
and thus the most expensive specimens. Since hedge plants are grown to become interlocking
masses of foliage, you can start with small-size plants. Often in mail-order catalogues,
and also in magazine ads, you will find hedge plants marketed in units of 12, 25 or 50.
The bigger their root systems, the better; and while husky small plants grow rapidly and
vigorously, those slightly larger and bushier with more roots will give quicker results.
The number of plants to buy is figured on the basis of the size the
shrubs attain when mature. But since your goal is not specimen bushes but dense,
overlapping growth, multiply your count by 2. Plan to space the plants accordingly.
Typical hedges, such as privet and barberry, are usually spaced 12 to 18 inches apart.
Keep in mind the size of the full grown plant, remember that they will be several feet wide at
maturity. You will also need ventilation and maintenance space between a hedge
and a building. You may be questioned why you are planting those cute little
six or eight feet from the house, but you will thank yourself later that you did.
Before beginning to plant, put stakes at either end of the place where
the hedge will be, and run a string between them to indicate the center line. Do not dig
individual holes for the bushes unless they are the types that will grow very large and
therefore must be widely spaced. For small, bare-root deciduous shrubs, open a long trench
with one side directly beneath the string marking the center line. Make the trench wider
and deeper than the size of the root systems, and loosen the soil in the bottom. The
plants can be lined up single-file against the center-line side, or they can be placed in
a staggered arrangement along both sides. They should be set the same depth as in the
pot. If your hedge is to be used as a barrier, consider placing a hog wire fence inside it to
Whether you should prune at planting time depends upon whether your
material is evergreen or deciduous. Evergreens from containers
do not need pruning. Spring-set deciduous shrubs do, and fall-planted ones should be
pruned early the following spring. This holds true even though the plants are several feet
tall, because your goal is dense branching that begins near the ground. To produce such
growth you must cut the bushes back to within six inches of the soil line.
More pruning information.
Feeding during future years should be done once or twice a year,
especially just before the main spring growth. Water whenever rainfall is scant. Remember
that these plants are growing in exceptionally crowded conditions and need all the
encouragement you can give them.
There are available dozens of shrubs and trees that will make fine
hedges. Check with your favorite nursery for appropriate varieties.
Pruning the hedge.
Renovating and Existing Hedge