Mixed Hedges for the Santa Cruz Mtns

I hear it all too often, "My new neighbor just cut down all the trees and shrubs between our properties and now they can see right into out house. What can I plant? "   Sometimes, the problem is a road or water tank that needs screening.  Maybe you want a well-planned hedge that will also offer needed food and shelter for wildlife and of course, you’d like it to be super low maintenance. Whatever your goal, hedgerows, as the English call them, are endlessly variable. If you’re planning a living fence of contrasting colors and textures, consider these factors.

Many people only think of plants that remain evergreen when they need screening. However, if you use one-third deciduous plants to two-thirds evergreens they will weave together and you won’t be able to tell where one leaves off and another begins. This makes mature hedges secure borders, especially if you throw a few barberries or other prickly plant into the mix.  You’ll also get seasonal interest with fall color and berries for wildlife. 

Pittosporum, photinia and English laurel make great screens and hedges but what other plants can you use that would be beautiful, productive and practical in all seasons?

Many times a screen may start in the sun but end up in mostly shade. For your sunnier spots why not mix in a few dwarf fruit tree for you to enjoy,  ceanothus and Pacific wax myrtle for the birds, barberry for beautiful foliage and fall color, spirea, rockrose, escallonia and quince for their bright flowers and fragrant lilacs for cutting in the spring?  The shadier side can include Oregon grape for fragrant, yellow winter flowers, snowberry for those striking white berries in the fall,  bush anemone, oak-leaf hydrangea, viburnum and native mock orange or philadelphus lewisii for blossoms in the spring.

To keep down maintenance, mulch around your plants and install drip irrigation. there won’t be any pruning to do if you choose plants that grow to the height you want. Mixed hedges appeal to bees, butterflies and songbirds while also providing flowers, berries and color throughout the year for you to enjoy.

How close should you plant a mixed hedge? If you want a quick, thick screen space plane 2-4 feet apart. This gives them room to breathe and develop their own shapes. Fast growing plants can be space 4-5 feet apart and will usually full in within 5 years.

Provide the for the fastest results. By this I mean amending the soil at planting time, mulching, fertilizing several times a year and watering deeply when needed especially during the first three years after planting when young plants put on a lot of growth. Formal hedges are fine for some gardens but think of all the added benefits you’ll get planting a mixed hedge.

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