Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 8, Issue 1
   January 2013
   Hedges: Not Just a Boundary
Hedge mazeHedge maze
A spiral-shaped hedge maze is striking viewed from above. (Photo by Elena Bowell)

There are many reasons to plant a hedge beyond just the practical. A hedge can add a sense of formality, maturity and order to the garden. It can also serve a transitional function, connecting the residential architecture with the surrounding landscape. Planted along a border pathway or entrance walkway, a hedge helps direct movement through the garden and reinforces perspective.

Design Functions
A hedge can be planted to create distinct geometric patterns on the ground, which adds strong form, interest and even whimsy to the garden. In a city yard, a boxwood-edged parterre containing a topiary or clipped tree makes a striking focal point. For added interest and imagery, the parterre's shape can mimic the outline of the house, or the pattern of a stained-glass window or even a Persian rug.

An evergreen hedge of cedar, spruce, hemlock or holly makes a good backdrop for a colorful perennial border. Its uniform greenery intensifies the vibrant colors of the border plants. The hedge also acts as a useful windbreak. Leave a buffer strip to allow for maintenance access and to enable the roots of the hedge plants to thrive without invading the border.

Combine a hedge with a fence or garden wall as a way to soften it. In such a case, it's usually planted on the garden side. (Check building codes and bylaws regarding such enclosures.) When planting a hedge with an ornate iron fence, leave space between the two, so that you can appreciate the fine ironwork. This also facilitates pruning.

A hedge can be used to define garden rooms and to frame views. To create pleasing proportions, use taller plants to delineate a larger garden room and low plants for a smaller room. Consider mounting a recycled window or door on a frame hidden in the hedge to add mystery and surprise. Such viewing portals allow glimpses into other garden rooms or the neighbor's inspiring garden.

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