Over the Hedge
Guest Article for the Tallahassee Democrat
Photo by Pam Sawyer: sweet viburnum
For Friday, May 3, 2013 release
By Pam Sawyer
It’s May and I’ve been thinking about hedges. Pretty soon it will be too hot to plant, so if you need one, now is the time. Fall is probably the best time, but sometimes when you get the urge for a hedge in spring, you just have to do it.
Formal, evergreen hedges are very popular and the Japanese boxwood (Buxusmicrophyllavar.japonica) is king or maybe queen of this group. It will grow in sun or part sun and good, well-drained soil. Another even easier evergreen shrub is Bordeaux dwarf yaupon holly (Ilexvomitoria’Bordeaux’). Sun, shade, sand, clay, dry, wet - it doesn’t much matter to yaupon. Its tiny new leaves come out deep burgundy and it has a reddish look in winter! Topping out at four feet tall and five feet wide, Bordeaux is shorter than Japanese boxwood which can easily be maintained at five to six feet tall and equally as wide. If your hedge needs to be higher, say six to eight feet, you may need sweet viburnum (Viburnumodoratissimum). Its leaves are larger than either boxwood or yaupon and planted five feet apart it will serve as well as any six feet tall privacy fence. It likes sun or part sun, and regular water.
Sometimes a stiff and formal hedge just will not do. You require something softer, flowery, more flowing, and less dense. A large azalea such as Formosa or George L. Tabor, Bridal wreath spiraea or glossy abelia may just do the trick. Large, evergreen azaleas grow easily in our acid soils, take regular pruning and only need occasional supplemental irrigation. Bridal wreath spiraea (Spiraeaprunifolia) and glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) are more airy and have graceful, arching shapes. Both are deciduous or semi-deciduous, take sun to light shade, and are not fussy about soil. Spiraea will tolerate drier conditions and a little more shade. Spiraea has white flowers and abelia has pinkish white flowers. Spiraea blooms in spring while glossy abelia has a longer bloom time beginning in summer. Bridal wreath spiraea will get five to seven feet tall while glossy abelia can reach eight feet.
No? What you crave is something evergreen with a fragrance? Citrus makes a dense, tall, fragrant hedge, reaching 15 feet, if left unpruned. Another possibility at five to six feet tall would be gardenias (Gardeniajasminoides). The leaves are dark green and shiny, like citrus, and the flower is large, beautiful and intensely fragrant. Gardenias are picky; they require good drainage and acid soil containing lots of organic matter. On the other hand, tea olives (Osmanthusfragrans) tolerate heavy or lean soil and little to regular watering. Though usually grown as small trees, they are easily maintained as a six to eight foot hedge. All three of these fragrant shrubs can be grown in full sun to light shade.
You can call your creation the Cutting Hedge or Over the Hedge or the Hedge of Reason. Get out the shovel. It’ll be fun.
Pam Sawyer is a Master Gardener volunteer and a member of the Leon County/UF IFAS Extension Urban Forestry/Horticulture Advisory Committee. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov