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When you begin to trim your cedar hedge, aim for a slightly tapered shape, narrower at the top than the base. If the shape is reversed, wider at the top, the base of the hedge will be shaded and eventually lose its leaves. The tapered shape also helps shed snow in winter. A flat topped hedge will tend to open under the weight of snow unless you go out and shake it off after every snowstorm.
Preparing your site for planting a hedge can be hard work. When you have cleared the site for your hedge, dig a 30 to 40 centimeter trench for the entire length of the hedge. Backfill the trench with a combination of 60 percent topsoil and 20 percent peat moss and well composted manure. This is the key to a vigorous and quickly established hedge…you can spread this job over a couple of weekends but, whatever you do, make sure the bed is complete and ready for planting the hedging shrubs that you will purchase.
A hedge trimmer can be very helpful in maintaining your shrubs. You can choose from gas, corded electric and rechargeable battery powered models. Gas types are the most powerful, while electric and battery operated trimmers are much quieter and easier to use. Remember, that with an electric model, you are limited by the length of your extension cord and with a rechargeable, you are limited by the duration of its' charge. ( approx. 25 minutes)
The stately blue columns of upright juniper, regularly spaced or used at the corners make great visual anchors for loose and billowy hedges of roses, weigela or viburnums. If you would like color in your hedge all summer long, try planting a low flowery hedge of yellow or white potentilla, deep pink spirea, and golden-leafed privet.
Once you have determined the location of your hedge, you should remove all vegetation from a 30 to 40 centimeter wide strip to make way for the new bed. It is important to do this thoroughly, since any plant matter, especially grass can become a major nuisance if it regenerates into the new hedge.
To plant a hedge, use stakes and string, lay out two parallel lines, approximating the mature spread of the proposed hedge. A third string down the center marks the actual planting row. For a denser hedge, a second or even third row can be added, with the plants staggered along the lines.
A formal hedge may take several weekends a summer season to maintain. Shear the hedges from the first season they are planted so that a dense growth habit is established from the start. Shape so that the base is a bit wider than the top. This allows the hedge to remain well branched to the ground.
If you would like a hedge that can be taken care of in a narrow space, like a formal hedge but still offer the casual appearance and flowering of the informal hedge, try planting vines. Vines can be trained over a wire fence or you can install upright wooden posts and horizontal wire at one foot intervals for a fence. If the vines are properly selected, the support structure should be invisible during the growing season. A good choice would be Silver lace vine or clematis
If you would like to plant a hedge with the intention of keeping people and small animals, like dogs, out of a particular area (no hedge will keep out cats, rabbits or groundhogs), the hedge must be both physically and visually dense enough to deter any attempt to get through it. Try plants with prickly or thick growth such as holly, barberry, hawthorn, pyracantha or roses.
New cedar hedges may require a little more demand in care…they should be clipped twice a year for the first few years to encourage the growth of side shoots. This is usually done with the first shearing in early summer or once the spring growth is over. After clipping feed with a fertilizer made for cedars to encourage a second growth that should be lightly sheared in Sept.
You can fertilize your hedge at planting time with a high phosphorous fertilizer
(5-5-5) and follow with regular applications throughout the spring until mid summer. A thick 2-3 inch layer of shredded bark mulch will keep the weeds out and keep the hedge evenly moist.
A common hedge seen in many regions is the cedar. This is not a true cedar and most gardening books call it “arborvitae”. It has the advantage of being inexpensive and difficult to kill and could be the only evergreen that will stand being dug from the wild, left barefoot for several days in the hot sun and still grow when planted!
An established cedar hedge needs little maintenance, just clipping once a year during the summer months.
If you prefer an informal hedge that is big and sprawling, try shrubs like lilac, forsythia, bridalwreath spirea, mock orange, or roses…If you have the space, informal hedges can make a spectacular and effective “fence'” especially if flowering shrubs are used. Because they grow in a natural unmanicured way, an informal hedge requires more room than a sheared type hedge, so be sure to take their “mature” size into account when planting.
A mix-and-match approach to a hedge will add functional beauty to your landscape by giving you a great way to have interesting colors, textures, flowers and fruits all year long. A mixed hedge of crimson barberry and yew, for example will look good all year and magnificent in the fall when the brilliant berries and flame-colored foliage of the barberry contrasts with the deep green of the yew.
Before planting any hedge along the borders of your property, check zoning laws. Some municipalities have limits on size, set back and even plant selection. Talk with your neighbors, too before setting a hedge between properties, and ask about any preferences or reservations they may have.
(and if you're lucky, they may offer to share the cost and help with maintenance!)
If there is snow in your zone, remember that hedges block the wind and may also affect the way snow settles. A dense evergreen hedge, like cedar causes snow to pile up close to it, whereas a more open deciduous hedge will make the snow settle further out. This is worth keeping in mind if you are planting a hedge for wind protection on the side of a driveway.
With flowering shrub hedges, prune shrubs early in the season after they bloom. Early spring is usually the best time to “shape” shrubs that flower in the last part of the summer.
Evergreen hedges should be pruned in spring and again early summer – evergreens should be shaped in late spring.
Deciduous hedges should be pruned every two weeks during the spring growth period and usually every three to four weeks in the summer.
An informal hedge should need only a once or twice a year trimming.
With a trained vine hedge you should get specific pruning instructions for each variety. Pruning will encourage greater flowering.
Deciduous shrubs used for hedging can have the bonus of flowers. Consider an informal hedge of mixed flowering shrubs such as quince, weigela or rugosa roses. Small shrubs such as pink spirea and potentillas make excellent informal hedges. Because they are not clipped, they can flower profusely and bloom a long time. Shrubs such as the burning bush (Euonymus) will also give you a brilliant display of fall color.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|