Home Improvement on Hedges

To many, when the word “hedge” is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is a green wall.  Hedges are generally used for privacy to define a person’s boundary but they are also effective to buffer the sound of the traffic or your neighbour’s kids playing in the pool.

In Bermuda there are so many choices to use as a hedge:  The fastest growing green hedge is Casuarina, and the fastest floral is Oleander.  Casuarinas make an excellent showy hedge while Oleander makes a better screen/privacy barrier for the back of your property.  I personally feel that both Oleander and Hibiscus are poor choices for a sheared hedge.  If you want a sheared, manicured or formal look choose the following: Murraya Exotica (mock orange) Privet, Surinam Cherry, Eugenia.  The most salt-tolerant green hedge is Pittosporum, and spruce is okay as a buffer but difficult to shear.

I personally do not like to mix hedge species as the old timers did with Surinam Cherry, Match-Me-If-You-Can, Hibiscus etc., and the reason being is that they grow at different rates which make it difficult when it comes to pruning.

When starting a hedge from scratch, the most important thing is the preparatory work.  To start, make sure you bring your hedge line as far as you need to on your property so it will not grow into your neighbour’s yard, that way you can control the way it is pruned.  Then dig a trench at least two feet down to plant the hedge and make a point to incorporate peat moss.  I would also add slow release fertilizer and soil moist crystals (these will help retain moisture in the hot summer months). 

In most cases you will be purchasing one-gallon plants from your local nursery.  The type of plant you have chosen, will determine the spacing in between plants.  When making this decision, determine how you want your hedge to grow - do you want flowers, does it need to be salt tolerant, is it a full sun or shady location?

Once you have planted the hedge it is a good idea to put down shredded mulch from your local nursery.

You can get black, red, brown, or cypress mulch, and you should put it down two to four inches deep.  Always water your hedge often after it is first installed. When it comes to maintaining the hedge this is critical to long term success.

One pet peeve I have is the use of machetes!  This is barbarian for many reasons.  When using a machete you are actually chopping at the plant, breaking branches which will later offer itself to disease, etc.  Also when chopping your hedge, you cannot obtain the proper batter you want with the hedge being narrower on the top and wider at the base.   When hedges are cut with a machete they become top heavy and topple over in hurricanes. This practice has become socially accepted in Bermuda but it is entirely wrong.  Also, when a hedge has heavy top growth this shades the lower growth leaving the blank spots you see.

The proper tools to use are either garden shears for finer hedges, loppers or hard pruners for Oleander, and gas-powered hedge pruners.  All of these tools will enable you to get the correct batter.

I find that so often, especially in Bermuda, people will construct a wall or some obstructive barrier to give additional privacy, when the use of a hedge or plants as a screen would look so much nicer.  I personally believe this is because many Bermudians have worked in the masonry field and constructing a wall comes easy for them.  I would suggest if you do not have horticultural knowledge or a “green thumb”, you should consult a professional at your local garden centre.

This would be a great month to get the preparatory work done for that hedge you’ve always wanted to plant.  You can plant it this month or, one of my favorite months is October when it’s not hot.  The only thing to consider is that it is hurricane season until the end of November.

A few additional maintenance suggestions are:

• Deep water your new hedge in the morning versus in the evening (which will only encourage pest & disease).

• Put down snail bait at the base of the hedge.

• Put down ant granular around the hedge.

• Keep the base of the hedge mulched and edged so as to not let grass from the lawn, or any weeds, compete for nutrients.

• SHEAR your hedge! Do not CHOP it!

• Turn your machete into the Police!

If you have any questions or concerns, I can be contacted at Sousa’s Gardens at 238-1797 or emailed at Jeff@slm.bm.

Sousa’s Gardens are open 7 days a week for your convenience.

September 4, 2007

Jefferson C. Sousa

Sousa's Landscape Management Co. Ltd.

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