Monday, 25 February 2019


                                                      GARDEN  HEDGES

Italian Garden at Glamis Castle
Garden hedges are still as popular as ever, but most folk fall into the love them or loath them category. They and their problems come into Gardeners Question Time events constantly. Way back in the mists of time when John was a boy doing his apprenticeship, many winters were spent cutting council hedges and massed areas of shrubs trimmed precisely at chest level, though some ended up as cubes
or neat round balls. It was a criminal act to suggest to the foreman that some shrubs liked to flower and correct pruning could encourage this. However it kept us employed all winter and we got numerous offers of spare time gardening jobs from Joe Public and his wife to come and sort out their garden hedge that had run riot over the garden. These experiences had a huge affect on my gardening life and I resolved that my garden would never have a problem hedge.
Hedges provide many benefits in the garden, but need careful consideration in plant material. Privet is not the only plant available. Hedges provide
Kerria japonica
shelter from winds, screening for privacy, screening around eyesores, compost heaps and they keep animals in, neighbours dogs out, and separate vegetable patch from ornamental garden areas. They are also an excellent place for nesting birds.
Plants selected will depend on use, as some can grow very tall such as beech and Leyland cypress, but lavender and box are quite dwarf but very attractive. Beech has the advantage of retaining its leaves in winter. Consideration for neighbours is very important, especially when Leyland cypress is chosen. It is a high maintenance hedge but needs constant clipping. It can be allowed to grow very tall, but depending on what and who are next to it. It would never be on my list of good plants for a hedge. For the lovers of privet, it may be better to choose the more attractive golden privet as it is a slow grower. Another slow growing hedge is Lonicera nitida, but even more attractive is the form with yellow foliage, Lonicera Baggesons Gold. This hedge is very dense and is a favourite for nesting
birds. I use it around parts of my garden, but allow it to grow naturally with just the minimum of pruning in winter. However for something that is functional as a hedge and attractive there are plenty flowering shrubs to add to the list. Some climbing plants can form hedges with practically no maintenance when allowed to clamber up fences, such as Clematis, Honeysuckle and winter flowering Jasmine.
Good shrubs for tall hedges include Escallonia with pink and red flowers, Camellia in pink, white and red flowers, Berberis darwinii which is a mass of orange flowers in spring followed by black berries to feed the birds well into winter. These are also evergreen, but a few tall deciduous shrubs include the Forsythia and Philadelphus with white scented flowers in early summer, and Kerria japonica with yellow flowers in late spring. Some plants can be both ornamental, function as a hedge and also provide a fruit crop. Both Saskatoons and Aronias fit this need and can grow quite tall if there is room to leave them alone. However the birds will feast on the saskatoons unless they are netted, but they leave the Aronia berries (chokeberries) alone. Another low growing shrub, Fuchsia Mrs Popple is very attractive with flowers well into winter and has edible fruits. However every so often it gets cut back to ground level if the winter does not suit it, though mine always recover in spring.
Where ornamental shrubs function as a hedge select those that only need the minimum of pruning to enjoy them in flower as well as getting the shelter and screening value.

Wee jobs to do this week

John fixing too large steps
We seem to be getting another mild winter in these parts with just a few nights of light frost. It was early February before we saw the first snow but it only lasted one day. It has also been remarkably dry, so outdoor gardening work continued with very little hold ups except for a wee coffee break. My garden steps were installed by a younger John Stoa nearly twenty years ago when twelve inch risers were no problem. Visitors were none too happy, especially as many of us now in the older generation have a wee bit of arthritis, so I decided to reconstruct them with a more manageable step to access steep parts of the garden and a fence with rail is also in the plans.


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