Friday, October 16, 2015

Foliage Follow-up: Hedges

I've got hedges on my mind, in part because the Strelitzia nicolai (giant bird of paradise) that formed a visual barrier between us and a neighbor on our north side was recently cut to the ground and in part because the Ceanothus hedges on our property are slowly dying.  When I considered topics for today's Foliage Follow-up, the post-Bloom Day celebration of foliage sponsored by Pam at Digging, hedges seemed the obvious topic.

We inherited a LOT of hedges with the house and garden we acquired almost 5 years ago.  In fact, I hired a garden service for the first time in my life after we moved into our current home mainly because I realized it was going to be difficult to maintain all the hedges on our property (with or without my husband's help).  By my count, 6 different types of hedges surrounded us: Auranticarpa rhombifolia (aka diamond leaf pittosporum), Ceanothus (no ID), Laurus nobilis (aka sweet bay or Grecian laurel), Prunus caroliniana (aka cherry laurel), Xylosma congestum, and Yucca elephantipes.  We even have hedges next to hedges.

This view from the backyard shows the Ceanothus hedge running alongside the Xylosma hedge.  There's a path approximately 1 foot wide in between, which gives the gardener (or landscape service) space to maneuver in maintaining both.  In the distance you can see another sort of hedge consisting of some kind of manicured shrub belonging to a homeowner in a neighborhood below us.

Another set of hedges (Ceanothus on the left and Xylosma on the right) runs along the front of the property on the south side of the driveway


Some hedges have held up better than others.  The Yucca at the bottom of our backyard slope may have been intended serve as a tree but it had turned into an impenetrable multi-trunk mass long before we moved in.  Fearing that it had become almost uncontrollable, my husband had it removed, leaving a gap I'm currently trying to fill with Pittosporum tenuifolium.  I cut into the Auranticarpa hedge along the street on the southwest side myself in an effort to rejuvenate it but lost several of the component shrubs leaving gaps in the screen these plants once provided.  However, I subsequently planted a succulent bed in this area so I'm not inclined to restore or replace this hedge, especially as the Auranticarpa tends to suffer from a permanent case of chlorosis.

The best of the hedges are those comprised of Xylosma congestum, a plant that seems to have no common name.  It forms a relatively dense boundary but air and light easily pass through it.  It takes regular trimming in stride without developing a thicket of dead interior twigs.  It also has glossy leaves with orange-tinged new growth.

Close-up of the new growth on Xylosma congestum


A hedge made up of Xylosma lines the main backyard border, providing a frame for our view of the Los Angeles harbor.

View looking southeast toward Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Los Angeles harbor

View looking northeast


The hedge neatly blocks our view of the neighbor's property from the backyard.

This taller portion of the Xylosma hedge, which divides my dry garden from the steps leading down to the back slope, also blocks my view of the neighbor's property

This is the view that lies beyond the Xylosma hedge.  The hedge in the foreground is comprised of Laurus nobilis, which lines our side of the neighbor's metal fence.


 A Xylosma hedge also lines the front of the property, giving us some privacy from the street.

In addition to shielding us from the street, this section of hedge currently hides one of the 2 areas recently stripped of lawn


The worst of the hedge materials used on our property is Ceanothus.  While I love Ceanothus in virtually all its incarnations, I don't think it should be used for hedges, at least not of the type created here.  When combined with plants that are regularly irrigated as these shrubs were, they struggle.  Worse yet, the regular trimming they're subjected to to keep them tidy and low creates and mass of dead growth below the surface and appears to undermine the plants' overall health.  Or that's my theory anyway.

The Ceanothus hedge after a recent shearing to allow passage along the path between it and the Xylosma hedge in the front garden


One by one, within the last year, the Ceanothus shrubs making up the hedges in my front and back gardens have been dying.  Their removal leaves large gaps.

The death of one section of the Ceanothus hedge here left a gap of more than 12 feet.  With no particular plan in mind, I filled in the space with Aeonium and Pelargonium tomentosum cuttings.  Although there's still a lot of soil showing, I'm rather pleased with how the space is filling in.

However, the next section of Ceanothus hedge is about ready for removal.  The photo on the left shows its best side but it looks sad when viewed straight on as in the photo on the right.


Rather than try to recreate the Ceanothus hedge behind the Xylosma hedge at the front of the house, I think I'm going to fill the area in with other plant material.  I like the look of the Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' with Pelargonium tomentosum  (peppermint geranium) and Aeoniums below and may continue that approach but I'm open to other suggestions!

What I'm going to do in the backyard is an open question.  Although I've lost one section of Ceanothus there, overall those shrubs are doing better than the ones in the front so I have some time to formulate a plan.

There was a Ceanothus shrub adjoining 3 others here to form a hedge directly behind the Xylosma hedge at the top of the slope.  I'd like to plant something to fill in the space but I need to leave room to move behind the Xylosma for maintenance purposes.


Got any ideas?

Fortunately, the Laurus nobilis along the eastern border with the neighbor on one side and the Prunus caroliniana on the southern border with the neighbor on the other side are holding up just fine.

For other views on foliage of all kinds, visit Pam at Digging.


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

19 comments:

  1. I have no ideas to offer since our climates are so different. But dang, that's a lot of hedges! The only thing I have close to a hedge is a row of viburnum's I've let grow to 15 ft tall along the side of my house. But they're limbed up so the bottom trunks are exposed. I think that disqualifies them as a hedge. ;o) I wonder if a 'hedge' of tall grasses might be really cool. It would be like watching crashing waves of grass during the Santa Ana's.

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    1. Hedges seem to be used here more than wood or metal fences. However, I've never figured out the rationale (if there was one) for the double hedges. I could understand if one was on our side and another was on the neighbor's side - competing tastes could account for that but what I discovered here continues to mystify. The Ceanothus seems to be slowly taking itself out so, rather than mourn, I'm going to commit to something non-hedgey. That said, I am thinking of adding more Pennisetum 'Rubrum' in the front area. Perhaps grasses would work in the back too, when that Ceanothus hedge also gives up the ghost.

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  2. I'm bummed that your Ceanothus are dying. It's one of my favorite western native shrubs. Hedges right next to hedges was kind of a weird design decision on the part of the previous owners. I can see needing some for privacy, but two running only a few feet apart? I would be desperate to reclaim some of that space for planting perennials.

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    1. Maintaining two adjoining hedges, does sound like, a LOT of work.

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    2. I think the constant trimming is what's killing the Ceanothus. They were obviously planted at the same time and they're exiting on a similar schedule. Never fear! There will be Ceanothus elsewhere used as specimen plants. In fact, I planted a tree form Ceanothus on the back slope back in early spring. Now that the last of my lawn is gone, trimming the hedges is just about all the garden service has to do but, if I eliminate some of the hedges, perhaps I can terminate that arrangement too - or at least schedule service monthly rather than weekly.

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  3. Wow, it sounds (and looks) like you've got more garden devoted to hedges than I have garden! And I like Casa M's idea of grasses, that could be beautiful.

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    1. Hedges were used here mostly in lieu of fences, although there is one hedge (of Laurus nobilis) planted along the neighbor's metal fence. The goofiest hedge was the one of Auranticarpa. Apparently that originally lined the entire front area along the street but, when most of it died, it was replaced by Xylosma except for a section of about 20 feet. The remaining plants now look like crap and my attempt at rejuvenating them didn't work. Still, half a hedge in that area also looks funky.

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  4. Oooh - grasses! I think folks may be on to something there. I get that about shrubs planted where they can't be allowed to reach full size without constant trimming. Not everything takes to that well. Perhaps all you need for now is a wider path. You could take the dying bushes out, leave the space for now, and decide after the weather cools? (I'm great at suggesting work for OTHER people you'll notice!).

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    1. Grasses seem to have the vote! I plan to take at least 2 more of the Ceanothus up front out this fall/winter. However, I may let the others exit on their own schedule . I'm already going to be up to my eyeballs planting the denuded lawn areas during this cool season and, if El Nino is headed this way, I probably shouldn't leave sloped areas, like those currently occupied by the Ceanothus hedges up front, without coverage to hold the soil.

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  5. PS your neighbours have some catching up to do in the gardening stakes.

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    1. I've seen a couple of neighbors make some major changes recently. One planted her sloped side yard in succulents and the another replaced the Dymondia groundcover on his slope with an even more drought tolerant plant, prostrate rosemary.

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  6. What a fantastic view you have !!!
    I like hedges
    That highlight the view and hide what you do not want to see.
    Mariana

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    1. That's true, Mariana (at least in theory).

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  7. I hope to see your garden some day. I can't believe how many hedges you have.

    We had a very large Pittosporum tobira hedge that had the same problem as your ceanothus hedge; keeping the branches from overhanging the sidewalk required such drastic trimming that the ugly woody growth in the interior was visible. It was such an eye sore. I don't miss it at all.

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    1. I hope you'll visit when you're down this way, Gerhard. Right now, I'm in the middle of my post-lawn removal soil treatment process so the place is a bloody mess. I'm hoping to have at least the back area cleared and partially planted before El Nino arrives but that may be a pipe dream.

      Funny that you mention Pittosporum tobira. I inherited some of those too. They also get sheared regularly by the gardeners. I did a passable job rehabilitating one section and recently started chipping away at another. When I thought of hedges, they didn't even come to mind as mine were planted as foundation plants rather than dividers or living fences but I guess they really qualify as well. This place really does have a ridiculous amount of hedge material.

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  8. My, that was (and is) a lot of hedging to deal with! I'm surrounding my garden with a hedge of rosemary in an attempt to get a formal boundary and a pleasant background for the borders. All in all, though, I love to see shrubs in their native growth habits, and I think most of them are a lot more resistant to trouble that way (my theory/excuse, anyway!). I'm still trying to find out that I can plant Ceanothus here ;-) Your combination of Pelargonium and Aeonium is looking great - will be wonderful when it gets to blooming as well.

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    1. I think you're right, Amy. Just about anything that's continually sheared into an unnatural shape suffers eventually. Xylosma will actually grow in a tree shape is allowed to but, by comparison to the other hedge material used here, it looks far better than most.

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  9. Hedges can be a great blessing, and I am growing more fond of them as the years pass.
    ( Maybe because sometimes I wish I could control of my wild woods!) But hedges also require maintenance. I love to prune, so our boxwoods and yaupons do not present an onerous chore. I am not familiar with your Xylosma congestum, but I was immediately drawn to it.

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    1. I don't think I'd seen Xylosma before I moved in here but I've become very fond of it. I don't recall seeing it in my local garden centers so it may not be widely used.

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