Flowering hedge brightens up border

Evergreens do the job, but shrubs that bloom give yard a new look

In The Garden

September 12, 2004|By Nancy Taylor Robson | Nancy Taylor Robson,Special to the Sun

At first glance, it looks like a host of white-robed fairies are fluttering along a hedge. Then, you realize it's hundreds of crepe- paper blooms on the hedge itself.

"I wanted a hedge, but I didn't want evergreen [shrubs]," says Allison Ditmars, a landscape designer in Still Pond. The property was already planted with plenty of yew, a common evergreen hedge. Ditmars wanted something different, something deciduous. "We use the side yard in summer, but not in winter, so privacy was not an issue," she explains.

But Ditmars hadn't decided exactly what to use until a local nursery offered her a load of hardy, white-flowered Hibiscus syriacus 'Diana' at a price she couldn't refuse. Decision made.

"People thought we were crazy at first, but it's beautiful," she says. "And it's very long-blooming: it starts in mid-July and goes into September. People stop and peer through the entryway into the side yard just because they've been attracted by the blooming hedge."

Hedges have a variety of uses: blockade, boundary marker, partition, screen, garden frame and border backdrop. Almost any shrub can become a hedge but until recently, most were unbroken lines of evergreens shorn to a fare-thee-well. Tidy, but about as inspiring as a bowl of oatmeal. A blooming hedge, especially one whose leaves change with the season, then drop to reveal etched branches in winter, offers plenty of visual variety.

"With something deciduous that blooms, you'll have different looks and interest at different times of the year," says Ditmars.

Choosing plants

Among the blooming shrubs, there is a broad range of hedge possibilities that include short and tall, shade and sun-lovers, fragrant and unscented.

There's blocky weigela, a nearly scentless shrub laden with thick clumps of red, pink, or lavender trumpets in late spring through late summer. There's tall sun-or-shade privet, whose clustered creamy blooms waft fragrance for weeks in mid-spring. There's sun-loving forsythia and lilac; shade-loving rhododendron and azalea; and semi-shade-loving, fragrant summersweet (Clethra), which blooms late summer to fall.

"Clethra 'Ruby Spice,' is a beautiful rose-bloomed native that grows 4-6 feet tall," says Anne Hedgepeth, retail manager at Speakman Nursery in Still Pond. "And Clethra 'Sixteen Candles' is tighter-growing and more compact."

As with Clethra, there are choices in color and height within the same species depending on variety. For example, Spiraea japonica 'Anthony Waterer,' has a hottish pink bloom and grows 3-5 feet tall, while Van Houtte spirea blooms white and can reach 10 feet. And S. 'Neon Flash' blooms more than once a season.

"You can get two to three bloomings out of it if you trim off the ends after the first bloom," says Hedgepeth.

In addition to a beautiful range of bloom color, flowering quince (Chaenomeles) has dark branches, reminiscent of a Japanese screen print, that are spiked. This makes it a great barrier against roaming neighborhood dogs.

While most blooming hedges are deciduous, some are evergreen or, more accurately, ever-leaved. The leaves of nandina, which has big panicles of white blooms in early summer and bright berries all winter, turn gorgeous colors in the fall, but they never drop. Viburnum has both evergreen and deciduous varieties.

"V. 'Doublefile' [V. Plicatum] is deciduous, and leatherleaf viburnum [V. rhytidophyllum] is evergreen," says Cheryl Nehls, manager at Stadler Nursery in Mount Zion. "But both bloom in late spring, and the flowers are usually white with pink tinges."

And there are shrub roses. One recent introduction, the Knockout Rose, is a great choice for a blooming hedge.

"They're beautiful, grow 3 to 4 feet tall, bloom May to November, have healthy dark green foliage, and are truly easy care," says Hedgepeth. "They're disease resistant, and if you feed them every five weeks with a systemic fertilizer, they resist even Japanese beetles."

Planning a hedge

Late summer and early fall are great times to plant. But first, decide what you want to accomplish -- obscure the neighbors' barbecue? Keep their pooch out of your yard? Visually partition the space?

"You can use taller blooming hedges to screen out undesirable views or create garden rooms while providing a lot of color," says Nehls. "You can use some of the shorter ones to surround a patio and give you color and scent."

Second, will it be in sun, shade or a mix? For reliable bloom, put sun lovers in sun and shade-lovers in shade.

"You also need to consider bloom time and color," advises Ditmars. "And with bloom, there can be the issue of seeds. You need to be sure it won't self-seed everywhere."

Ditmars notes that with blooms come insects, including bees. "That's not necessarily a good or bad thing, but something you need to think about," she says.


Stadler Nurseries

6815 Olney-Laytonsville Rd.

Laytonsville, MD 20882

301-840-2044 and

5504 Mount Zion Rd.

Frederick, MD 21702


www.stadlergarden centers.com

Carroll Gardens

444 East Main St.

P.O. Box 310

Westminster, MD 21157



Behnke Nurseries

11300 Baltimore Ave.

Beltsville, MD 20705



Speakman Nursery

12474 Still Pond Rd.

P.O. Box 95

Still Pond, MD 21668


(No Web site yet)

Simonds Nursery

1141 Berrymans Lane

Reisterstown, MD 21136


www.simondsnursery. com

Wakefield Valley Nursery

1690 Wakefield Valley Rd.

New Windsor, MD 21776


www.wakefieldvalley nursery.com

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