Hedging in the Now

The widespread use of both formal and informal hedges in American landscapes can be traced back through colonial times and beyond. Formal hedges of boxwood, holly, and yew originate often with the well-known French and English castle gardens. Informal hedges of willow, Rose of Sharon, and lilac were used in colonial days of early America to surround kitchen gardens to protect vegetables from wind and animals. 


Today, many hedges are planted with different ideas in mind. Very few are used to surround a kitchen garden for protection; most of us have our vegetable gardens out in the open, surrounded with a strand of electric fence wire. Hedges in town are used to screen an ugly view of our neighbor’s yard, hide the house from the street, or reduce traffic noise. 

An informal barberry hedge separates landscape from lawn and reduces visibility from the street

Formal hedges are often tightly clipped, and used often along sidewalks and borders to separate spaces or create an illusion of prosperity. Since many of the formal hedges of the past were used around richly decorated lawns and homes, the very idea of a neatly maintained hedge illuminates wealth. Here in the center of the country, it is common to use barberry, boxwood, yew, holly, and spirea for these tightly trimmed hedges. They are pruned with shears as often as every week in some cases, to keep them orderly and maintained. 

A formal privet hedge separates the street from the landscape of a historical home in Atchison, KS

Informal hedges along sidewalks, foundations, and occasionally around gardens in this part of the country can be a large assortment of plant species. Rose of Sharon, spirea, ninebark, lilac, sweetspire, arborvitae, and many others are commonly used for this purpose. Pruning on these hedges is done a few times of year, instead of weekly or bi-weekly. 

An informal hedge of Yew in Sabetha, KS

Maintenance on hedges is limited to pruning, insect and disease management, and leaf/litter removal. Pruning is done with shears, either electric/gas or hand powered, or with pruners. Our maintenance crews use either options, depending on the size of the hedge and the species of plants. For example, a tightly clipped juniper hedge would be sheared with hand shears, whereas a loosely pruned forsythia would be done with gas powered shears. Leaf litter removal is done in early spring or late fall, removing the leaves with a gas powered leaf vac/blower. 


Insect and diseases in hedges can become a problem quickly. Because hedges are generally a single species of plant, pest outbreaks are common. Bagworms, aphids, and blister beetles can grow quickly and devour plants if not monitored closely and treated quickly. Diseases like powdery mildew, anthracnose, and wilt can devastate hedge plantings due to the closeness of plants and the reduced air circulation around them.


If planning on planting a hedge, come to Grimm’s and ask for one of our designers. We can help design any planting you desire!


Happy planting!

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