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Divide and Conquer - Garden Notes

Screening and hedging has become increasingly important as blocks become smaller and houses become bigger. You don't want to look into your neighbour's yard any more than they want to be able to peer into yours! The most natural, cost effective and aesthetically pleasing way I believe is with some form of greenery (hedging or screening).

  The characteristics which make a good hedge, along with your personal taste will ultimately help make your decision relatively simple. A plant which is well suited to your local climate and soil type is crucial. A plant which responds well to pruning, is long lived, requires minimal additional water, and is relatively pest and disease free.

Don't get swayed on the path of choosing a plant which may appeal in its pot however be less than 99.9% reliable.  You want every single plant to grow.

Consider the growth rate you hope to achieve.  If you choose a fast growing plant (e.g. pittosporum) you may get a very quick screen, however consider the regular maintenance required to keep the plant in check, especially once they reach your desired height. If untrimmed fast growing plants can become difficult to reshape, they can become brittle, short lived and ultimately fail in meeting your needs. A fast growing hedge might need pruning 4 times per year or even more.  Regular clipping of small amounts is far better than one large cut back per year.

If you choose a screening plant which grows slow, you will need patience however up keep can be relatively low.  One or two trims per year will be sufficient. Years down the track you will pat yourself on the back for your willingness to wait for the perfect foil.

Whatever speed your hedge grows, always look for plants which are bushy in their pot and not tall and sparse. A good hedge should be trimmed several times before it reaches its desired height. In fact start the day you plant by evening up your hedge row after planting.  Failing to prune will have your plants sparse below so get them bushy first and height second.

If you are trying to create a screen remember the plant does not need to be spectacular and it may not need to draw the eye.  A plant with few features may prove more purposeful than an attention grabbing plant with striking flowers or foliage. Save plants like this for other areas of the garden where the deliberate intention is to impress!

It's a good idea to discuss screening with your neighbours, especially on smaller blocks. You may not need to plant a screen inside your boundary if they already have on their side of the fence. Your screen might only need to cover the fence itself changing the variety you might choose.

Be patient if your local nursery does not have the amount you are looking for.  Don't settle for something else, wait for them to chase them up for you, a week or two delay in planting pales into insignificance in comparison to putting in the wrong plant.

I must also make a clear distinction between screening and hedging.  For me a screening plant covers a fence or building and generally a hedge divides two areas meaning it is more exposed to wind, sun and evaporation.   Hedging plants therefore often perform the role of a fence and therefore need an extra level of toughness to not only survive but prosper. Hedging plants are usually also clipped to a more formal of structured shape whereas screening plants do not necessarily need be.

 Plants worthy of consideration for this purpose in our shire include, but are far from restricted to, the following list:

Under 1m: English Box(Buxus sempervirens), Tom Thumb( Euonymus microphyllus),

Approx 1m: Rosemary(Rosmarinus officinalis), Germander(Teucrium), Native Rosemary( Westringia Jervis Gem and Smokey, Callistemon dwarf hybrids, Corokia cotoneastifolia

Approx.1.5m - 2m: Westringia fruticosa and Wynparra Gem, Fiejoa(Guava), Bay tree( Laurus nobilis), Pittosporum Green Pillar, Grevillea Big Red or Wynparra Gem, Privet ( Ligustrum vulgare), Escallonia iveyii, 

Approx 2m - 4m: Cherry Laurel, Bottlebrush, Bay tree, Portuguese Laurel(Prunus lusitanica), Pitttosporum Screen Master and Green Glow, Photinia Red Robin and Robusta, Olives, small leaved Lily Pilly ( Acmena smithii minor), Butterfly Bush ( Buddliea salviifolia + sp.)

4m plus: Conifer Leightons Green and Castlewellan Gold, Naïve Pine( Callitris rhomboidea), Olives (Olea sp.)

Planting distances will vary between each variety and the overall height you want your plants to reach.  Conditions are currently ideal, so if considering a hedge or screen, get on down to your local nursery and get planting!

Cheers,   Chris Hose