Plants - Trees and Shrubs

Shrub subs

Larry Hodgson
Photography by
Aleksandra Szywala

Once considered old-fashioned, flowering hedge perennials look new again

The perennial flowering hedges of peonies or daylilies that were popular from the late 1800s to the 1940s are making a comeback, and some bold, new perennials have been added to the list. They look more natural and are easier to maintain than the tailored privet hedges that replaced them, which require meticulous pruning, often several times per season.

Flowering hedges do what all good hedges are designed to do: highlight boundaries and create privacy; but they only require pruning once every three or four years. Northern gardeners know how hard it is to maintain a shrub hedge, especially beside a road where it gets sprayed with salt from passing cars and buried under mounds of snow from the plow. By contrast, a hedge perennial dies down to the ground in fall, so salt spray simply breezes over it and snow plows can't harm its vital organs, dormant below the ground. Admittedly, hedge perennials offer no winter privacy, but they reappear in spring to provide a fresh screen for outdoor activities.

Growing a hedge perennial
Young hedge perennials in small pots are often cheaper to buy than more mature plants. Many nurseries offer a discount, though, if you order a large number of the perennials in late winter for delivery the following spring. If you're willing to wait a few years for results, consider planting half a dozen hedge perennials in the flower bed, letting them grow, then dividing them into uniform, smaller plants to use as stock for your hedge.

Before selecting a hedging plant, however, consider your growing conditions. Some hedge perennials need full sun; others tolerate deep shade or poor or dry soils; still others need rich soil and constant moisture. You'll save hours of maintenance if you choose a plant that adapts to your conditions, rather than vice versa.

Two to avoid:
Burning bush
(Bassia scoparia forma trichophylla), an annual used as a hedge plant, grows quickly from seed sown directly in the garden to form a light green hedge densely packed with narrow leaves that turn bright red in fall. Do not plant burning bush on the Prairies, where dry conditions are so much to its liking that it will self-sow and become a weed.

Japanese knotweed
Also known as Quebec or Mexican bamboo (Fallopia japonica, syn.Polygonum cuspidatum), quickly reaches 120 to 180 centimetres and forms a dense, arching silhouette with tiny, pink to white flowers. But it is incredibly invasive-the thick, wandering rhizomes are unstoppable -- and should never be planted in a garden setting.


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