Certain ornamental garden shrubs, planted closely, will make an informal hedge that doesn’t need constant trimming (and so will have flowers), providing a pleasant background for your garden – and privacy.
Hedges with flowers
A hedge is a living fence that can give effective screening from the street or between neighbors, can mask utility areas, or enclose part of the garden for outdoor living.
There are plants from 1 to 3 feet high which can be used in place of low fences for demarcation of boundaries or to divide sections of the garden.
With informal hedges, you have flowers that otherwise would be lost through trimming. You could add interest by alternating two different types of plants.
For example, the acute pyramid shape and soft, creamy foliage of variegated pittosporum makes an attractive contrast when alternated with bronze-green, softly arching Abelia Grandiflora.
On a larger scale, for a country-property hedge and windbreak there are combinations such as silvery-grey Cootamundra wattle and purple-foliaged, spring-flowering prunus.
Even for a tiny hedge or divider, a similar effect could be achieved in miniature by alternating such as rich-pink, dwarf-growing China Doll roses with English lavender.
Coming up the scale a little, there are possibilities like the rounded, compact, gold-foliaged Euonymus variegata with soft, grey westringia, punctuated after every fifth or sixth plant with purple flax.
These are some plants that are useful for tall hedges:
1. Callistemon citrinus (Crimson bottlebrush)
Callistemon citrinus, red bottlebrush. To about 8 feet, eventually 6 feet wide. Red, silky spring flowers, dull green, rigid foliage. Plant 5 or 6 feet apart.
2. Camellia japonica
Compact, upright growth. Slow, but eventually makes a dense wall of glossy foliage. Semi-double types would be safest in the morning sun, as some doubles in this position don’t open their flowers properly.
Also consider self-grooming types such as soft pink Cho Cho San, deep red Czar, silvery-rose Edith Linton, white and pink Jean Lyne, or salmon-red Constance.
These drop their flowers before petals shrivel, instead of dying on the bush.
3. Camellia sasanqua
Camellia sasanqua is also slow to make size but makes gracefully arching canes with small, dark foliage and self-grooming, dainty autumn flowers. For a graceful effect, set two plants 2 feet apart at 6 to 8 feet intervals.
Have them make single stems by pruning off all but the most vigorous, upright canes. Then, when tall enough, each pair is crisscrossed and tied into arching formation with the more distant plant in each neighboring pair.
Let occasional lower canes fill in below the arches, otherwise, keep most growth well back by clipping after spring growth. Frequent trimming is not needed.
4. Hakea salicifolia
Hakea salicifolia is a quick-growing, adaptable tree with dense, dark blue-green foliage and bronze new growth. It grows to about 15 feet but can be topped to encourage lower, more spreading growth, or even trimmed down to 6 or 8 feet. Plant 6 feet apart for quick, dense cover.
5. Hakea laurina (Pincushion Hakea)
Hakea laurina, with its spectacular red and cream flowers, is sometimes considered similar in growth but is less robust, inclined to become top-heavy and die out suddenly.
6. Lemon-scented tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii)
Lemon-scented tea tree soon provides a soft veil of bright green, fragrant foliage to 10 or 12 feet. Long-lived, adaptable, stands heavy cutting.
7. Pittosporum eugenoides variegata
Pittosporum eugenoides variegata makes naturally an inverted-cone shape of 10 to 12 feet, or larger in some cool, moist districts with deep soil. The dense, slender foliage is glossy, grey-green, heavily margined with creamy-white.
It is only long-lived in well-drained situations. For a continuous hedge, plant about 5 feet apart, or, when alternated with abelia as suggested earlier, space the pittosporum about 9 feet apart. This gives complete privacy to the height of the abelia.
These are some plants that are useful for medium hedges (5 to 8 feet)
8. Abelia Grandiflora
A clump of gracefully arching canes clad in small, glossy, bronze-green foliage. Pendant clusters of whitish mauve flowers cover the plant all summer, followed by greenish – bronze bracts in winter.
Grows 6 to 7 feet in practically any soil, partly shaded or fully exposed. Improved by cutting out old twiggy canes in winter and shortening others back slightly. Keep compact by pinching tips from new canes at the desired height.
9. Aucuba or gold dust shrub
Large, oval, glossy foliage heavily splashed gold. Grows well in full shade, or almost full sun if the water is not lacking. Stands quite heavy frost. It may take several years to reach 5 feet. Plant 3 feet apart.
10. Brachysema lanceolata, red pea bush
Fairly loose-growing Western Australian shrub 5 to 6 feet. Long foliage is dull, deep green above, grayish beneath; clusters of long, red, pea flowers, winter and spring. Trim after flowering to keep compact. Plant 4 feet apart.
11. Flowering quince (Chaenomeles, also known as Cydonia or Japonica)
Deciduous in winter, but most of that time is covered with waxy blossoms in red, pink, or white. Grows 6 to 8 feet, but can be cut back after flowering. Most twigs terminate in a needle-like thorn. Plant about 5 feet apart.
12. Grevillea rosmarinifolia (Rosemary Grevillea)
Fine, dark green foliage; red and yellow flowers in spring. Soft, spreading growth, 5 to 6 feet.
13. Spirea cantonensis
Decorative, with thin branches weighted down by spring flower. About 6 feet high, nearly as wide. For a close hedge, set about 5 feet apart. Prune as for abelia but after flowering.
These are some plants that are useful for small hedges (3 to 4 feet)
14. Berberís thunbergii purpurea
Rounded plant, 3 to 4 feet. Bronze-purple foliage turns richer in autumn. Thorny, deciduous. It can grow taller in cool climates.
15. Diosma (Coleonema pulchrum)
Soft, green growth covered with tiny pink stars in spring. Cutting back after flowering keeps the plant 3 to 4 feet round. All but coldest climates. Plant 4 feet apart.
16. Euonymus Ovatus Aureus
Rounded, glossy, gold-and-green foliage, 3 to 4 feet dome. Needs occasional tip prune to keep compact. Plant 3 feet apart.
17. Grevillea Alpina
Several varieties. Compact, 3 feet spreading, a light green-foliaged shrub with pink and cream flowers, late winter/early summer. Plant 3 feet apart.
18. Lantana Camara ‘Drap d’Or’
Compact 4 feet dome covered with golden yellow flower, late spring into winter. Keep compact by cutting back in winter. Plant 4 feet apart.
19. Raphiolepis ovata
Compact dome of dark green, rounded foliage; heads of white flower in spring. With age, reaches 5 feet, but 3 feet more usual in exposed positions. Excellent salt tolerance.
20. Spiraea japonica Anthony Waterer (Japanese Spirea)
Deciduous, 3 to 4 feet dome of soft green foliage; rounded heads of bright rose flower, spring and summer. Plant 3 to 4 feet apart.