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Hedges may be formal or informal.
A formal hedge is one that is pruned with hedge shears to keep it
to the desired form and size, while an informal hedge is allowed
to grow more or less naturally with just enough pruning with one-hand
shears or lopping shears to keep it within bounds.
One important thing to remember with
hedge plants is to prevent them from growing up too fast. This can
be accomplished by cutting them back moderately as soon as they
are planted and by nipping the tips of the shoots whenever they
attain the length of 8 to 10 inches. This is heartbreaking to the
owner of the hedge, but he will be repaid in later years by having
a hedge furnished from top to bottom, whereas, if left unpruned,
the growth toward the bottom of the hedge would be sparse and spotty.
Also, the trimming should be done in such a way that the hedge is
narrower at the top than at the bottom.
It may sometimes be necessary to cut a hedge
almost to the ground if it has grown too large for the position it occupies.
But do not do this unless there is a reasonable certainty that it is a
species that is amenable to such cutting back. The following are known
to break from old wood even when they are cut back severely: Boxwood,
Euonymus, Ilex aquifolium, opaca, and, among the deciduous ones, Acanthopanax,
Crataegus, and the ubiquitous California Privet.
Among the plants which make satisfactory
hedges are the following:
- Berberis julianae, B. verruculosa. These
need very little pruning. Merely cut back any shoots that spoil their
symmetry. Set them about two feet apart.
- Euonymus fortunei vegetus and the new
Corliss varieties which have been distinguished by the prefix "Emerald"
are excellent hedge material. Noteworthy varieties are Emerald Charm
and Emerald Leader. Emerald Charm should be set from 1 to 2 feet apart.
Emerald Leader can be set 2 to 3 feet apart. Shorten new shoots to make
the hedge more compact.
- Chamaecyparis obtusa compacta. Plant
2 to 3 feet apart. Not much pruning is necessary. Merely cut off shoots
which are exceeding the bounds.
- Poncirus (Citrus) trifoliata. This is
really a deciduous species, but its stems are green throughout the year
and thus it is, in effect, an evergreen. It is not reliably hardy in
regions that have -winters more rugged than Long Island, New York. It
makes an impenetrable spiny hedge, especially if given a light over-all
shearing during July. Space 3 or 4 feet apart.
Ilex crenata. Shear to shorten the new growth in July. If the shoots
have been injured by winter they should be cut off in the spring. Use
crenata for a large hedge of 8 feet or more. If a 2- to 3-foot hedge
is desired use one of the dwarf varieties, helleri, convexa, or globosa.
- Ilex opaca (American Holly), I. aquifolium
(English Holly), I. cornuta (Chinese Holly) and its variety I. c. burfordi
excel as hedges in regions where they are hardy. Set them from 2 to
4 feet apart. They may be expected to reach a height of 10 or more feet
if required or they may be kept to 3 to 5 feet, shearing them twice,
once in the spring when new growth is starting and again in July to
shorten new shoots.
- Ilex glabra (Inkberry) has the merit
of being perfectly hardy. The fly in the ointment is its tendency toward
legginess. But this can be controlled by pruning when young.
- Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) and I. cassine
(Dahoon) are suitable for planting in the mild winter climates of Virginia
and southward. Space them 2 to 3 feet apart.
- Abies species (Fir), Picea species (Spruce).
These two may be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart according to the size of the
plants. They should be pruned by trimming the young shoots, usually
in July when they have attained their full growth.
- Pinus strobus (White Pine) is good for
use when a tall-growing (up to 10 feet or more) hedge is required. Pinus
mugo (Swiss Mountain Pine) is excellent for a low-growing hedge. Pinus
sylvestris (Scots Pine) is a good choice when the soil is poor and sandy.
All of these pines can be pruned by shortening the "candles"
in the spring; also by cutting them back to a first whorl or, when the
objective is to reduce the size, to the second whorl.
- Taxus (Yew) is probably the most satisfactory
of all evergreen hedges. It seems to be indifferent to soil conditions,
is easily transplanted, will grow in the shade, and breaks well from
old wood. All Yews should be pruned by shearing in July and again in
the spring before growth starts.
- Taxus baccata (English Yew) is a species
with many garden forms. Except for the variety repandens, which seems
to be as hardy as the Japanese Yew, it is not reliable in climates more
severe than that of Long Island, New York.
- Taxus cuspidata ( Japanese Yew) is the
one that is most commonly used for hedgemaking.
- Taxus media—a hybrid between T.
cuspidata and T. baccataincludes two varieties, T. hatfieldi and T.
hicksi, which because of their columnar growth habit are particularly
valuable where a tall, narrow hedge is required.
- Thuja occidentalis (American Arborvitae)
is excellent as an evergreen hedge for planting in an exposed location.
It may be sheared in spring when growth is about to begin and again,
if necessary, during midsummer.
- Thuja orientalis (Oriental Arborvitae)
because of its habit of growth is not so successful as the native species.
With many shoots starting from the base it is likely to be injured by
snow. When it is grown as a specimen it is advisable to tie the branches
together by fastening a piece of tape to a strong branch near the ground
line, winding it around and around in a spiral, and fastening the end
to a strong branch in the upper part of the plant. This should be done
in late fall or early winter. If grown as a hedge it can be protected
by putting stakes alongside of the hedge and connecting them with strong
- Tsuga canadensis (Hemlock) is probably
the most satisfactory of all evergreen hedges when the cost of planting
is considered. Plants may be set 2 to 3 feet apart in the spring and
given an over-all shearing at once. Subsequent pruning is carried out
during June or July to shorten the new growth.
- Acanthopanax pentaphyllus (Five-leaved
Aralia) is valuable chiefly because it will grow almost anywhere in
full shade or in sun. When used as a hedge it should be clipped when
the new growth has been made in the spring. The flowers are inconspicuous
and can be ignored.
- Berberis thunbergi ( Japanese Barberry)
and its varieties B. t. minor, B. t. compacta, and B. t. pluriflora
(Columnberry) are, for the most part, excellent for informal hedges,
especially when a thorny, impervious barrier is required. Very little
pruning is necessary, except that the variety minor needs to be sheared
at least once a year when it is used as an edging. The straight species
B. thunbergi is capable of growing to 8 feet tall and as much or more
in diameter, so if you are limited for space you should concentrate
on variety compacta or variety pluriflora.
- Berberis mentorensis (Mentor Barberry),
a hybrid between B. thunbergi and B. julianae, is magnificent in the
fall, when its foliage changes to a very strong red (Nickerson Colorfan).
It is a good choice where an informal hedge 6 feet high is required.
Although it is said to be evergreen in mild climates, here in the mid-Hudson
Valley it is deciduous. Prune by cutting back wayward shoots.
- Chaenomeles lagenaria ( Japanese Quince)
and varieties. The one known as C. 1. Spitfire is an upright-grower
suitable where a narrow hedge is required. When it is used for formal
accent it is advisable to tie it to a stake. Pruning consists of shortening
the shoots during the growing season. This can be done by thumb and
finger or, if a hedge is concerned, by using hedge shears. Set the plants
about 2 or 3 feet apart.
- Euonymus alatus and E. a. compactus.
Neither of these requires any pruning except when it becomes necessary
to keep their height down. To do this it is advisable to cut them back
in July and if necessary, they can be cut back again into the old wood
the following spring. They are subject to attack by a black aphid which
causes the topmost leaves to curl. Because of the difficulty of reaching
them by contact spray, the most satisfactory way of fighting this pest
is to cut off the affected tips as soon as they are visible. The variety
compactus is better fitted for a small hedge than alatus.
- Rosa rugosa (Ramanas Rose), R. hugonis
(Father Hugo's Rose), and R. multiflora ( Japanese Rose) are perhaps
the most popular species used in hedgemaking. They are best used in
an informal way by limiting the pruning to cutting out, annually, a
few of the older stems during the late winter. Sometimes it becomes
desirable to prune drastically by cutting the entire bush almost to
the ground line. Rosa multiflora is not a good plant for a hedge where
space is limited, because it grows much too large.
- Vaccinium corymbosum (High-bush Blueberry).
If soil conditions are right—moist and acid—a Blueberry
hedge can double in brass in being useful as well as ornamental. See
under "Fruits" for pruning methods. At least two varieties
should be used to insure cross-pollination.
- Other plants which can be used for hedges
include Lonicera fragrantissima (Bush Honeysuckle), L. morrowi (Morrow
Honeysuckle), L. tatarica (Tartarian Honeysuckle), Malus atrosanguinea
(Carmine Crabapple), M. floribunda (Showy Crabapple), M. ioensis (Prairie
Crabapple), many other Crabapples, and Crataegus (Hawthorn or Thornapple).
For the first year or so after they are planted the side shoots should
be checked by heading them back. Once this has been done, an over-all
shearing when the new growth is almost finished, usually in June or
July, is sufficient.