Hedging Along

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This garden is sort of wild. Some might think it was out of control, and it has grown way beyond any plans on paper or the initial vision of what it should be. That is a good thing.


But the wildness can be tamed by adding plantings that remain more rigid in their growth, more traditionally formal in habit. While the hedges here in the Fairegarden pale by comparison to the yews of Sissinghurst trimmed so expertly as to resemble geometric steel rather than living plant material seen above, experience has helped raise our trimming up a notch. To see more about Sissinghurst and our visit to England, click here.

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Evergreens fit the taming requirements nicely, adding interest and structure during the whole year but they are especially noticeable when the flowers have faded and the leaves have fallen. We have finally tamed the row of Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Mop’ that backs the Azalea Walk. Click here to find out why that taming was needed.

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Behind the Gold Mops and in front of the arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’ lies the veggie garden. Unsightly in its cage of plastic rabbit fencing to keep the critters out and the food crops safe, this sunny strip runs along the back of the property line. Privacy is provided by the arborvitae and the Chamaecyparis provides a golden screen for the produce growing area. Both get a yearly shearing to keep the pathways clear and to allow the sun to shine where needed.

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Evergreens trimmed into hedges have been a backbone of calm in the sea of surging energy provided by the waving grasses and unkempt wildlings.

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Trimming those hedges can be a daunting chore, especially when done in June when the temperatures can range from hot to magma. The cutting of the boxwood hedge, Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Wintergreen’ that surrounds the Knot Garden is particularly hard on my back due to the angle at which the whirring nine pound Stihl electric hedge trimmer must be held to get those points and curves just so. We are trying to allow the whole hedge to grow taller so I don’t have to bend over quite so much, while still keeping the overall shape. The progression of this shape can be followed by clicking here.


This week we decided to tackle the taxing task while the weather was more agreeable and there was no danger of accidentally cutting flowers or stepping on stems but before frost arrives. It went well, better than expected in fact. (Above frosty photo from December of 2011.)

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The season may change when the hedges are trimmed, the Knot Garden boxwood haircut is better done in the coolth of fall. It was almost enjoyable. A little more control of the chaos was exerted over the full blown pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, which was tied up with a bit of twine so I could work around it without fear of harm. I think the ponytail becomes you!

Frances

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10 Responses to Hedging Along

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I love the ponytailed grass. It reminds me of punk rock wheat sheaths tied up. :) I like the bit of calm green you have in your wild garden. It makes for a calm winter season. I think that trimming is best done when one can wear a long-sleeved shirt to keep the stickers from sticking and itchy evergreens from contact. Have a great week.

    Hi Lisa, thanks for the encouragement. The muhly does look sort of punk rock with the pink parts flying high, sort of like a mohawk. Your are right about trimming, long sleeves are a necessity. Have a great week yourself.
    Frances

  2. Nice to know that an evergreen boxwood can be pruned this time of year here in east TN.Your strategy to gradually let it gain some height so its maintenance will be more back friendly is wise. We gardeners have to be proactive in our thinking of ways to prolong the functionality of our own moving parts.
    I so smiled at your word combo “unkempt wildings”…it’s a fine line to keep the welcome mat out for attractive volunteers without losing control of the whole shebang. You are a master of the tightrope!

    Thanks Michaele, your words are so encouraging! I do love the look of the boxwood hedges, even more so after seeing them used in English gardens perfectly. But without the staff of well trained trimmers, keeping them looking just right has proven to be physically challenging. I am not sure that this timing of pruning is wise, we shall see with that sharp cold snap that is in our forecast.
    Frances

  3. Rose says:

    I like the way you have created the curves and waves in your boxwood hedge, Frances; it’s rather whimsical and fits your garden perfectly. I’m not sure I care for the stark, straight edges of Sissinghurst–it does look like stone from a distance! Leave it to Lisa to come up with such a creative image of the Muhly; I was thinking of My Little Pony instead:)

    Thanks, Rose. My Little Pony, good one! HA I like the curves of the boxwood hedge, for now. It does make trimming it more interesting. All of the hedges, mostly yews, that we saw in England were amazing. They were quite old and large and perfectly clipped. They enhanced the beauty of those gardens in a wonderful, classic way.
    Frances

  4. Barbara H. says:

    The size of that Muhly clump is quite impressive – actually a little daunting! I can see I might need to think about relocating my few puny clumps. I love the shape of your hedges. They are so lyrical.

    Thanks Barbara. One mature clump of the pink muhly is about 4 feet wide and tall when in full bloom. They will mold around any other closely planteds and not have the same full effect. It does take a few years for them to get that size, though.
    Frances

  5. cheryl says:

    I absolutely luv the boxwood hedge Frances! It flows so well inviting a hand to follow its curves. Of course I can’t say enough about the candy cotton grass :)

    Thanks Cheryl. I am happy with the shape of the boxwood, for now. They just need to be a bit taller so trimming them is less hard on my back. But trimming while the weather is cool is definitely easier. The pink muhly grass is having the best year in quite some time.
    Frances

  6. My Kids Mom says:

    I was just in your neck of the woods at the NC Arboretum and saw all their grasses tied up that way. Very attractive when they become droopy in the late season.

    Hi Jill, how fun that sounds. I do love the NC Arboretum, it is a gem. This is my first effort at tying the grasses. I might do some more, for there are plenty of large unwieldy grasses here. Thanks for sharing.
    Frances

  7. Contrasts give a garden drama and excitement. A vista of manicured hedges can get monotonous; a sea of wildlings can look unkempt, but wildlings contained by structured hedges make both more compelling. I am still figuring structure out for my own garden.

    Hi Kathy, thanks for your input. The combination of structured and unstructured really does make the garden more interesting and the evergreen hedges add so much winter interest. I feel confident you will figure out how to use some in your cold climate garden.
    Frances

  8. Layanee says:

    I do love your undulating hedges around the knot garden. I think you need a strong son to help you. The grasses are shining.

    Hi Layanee, thanks for visiting. Some help with the trimming would be useful, yes. But I have found no one can do the task to my satisfaction except me. Sort of like loading the dishwasher! HA
    Frances

  9. bittster says:

    Love the hedges! I think one of my favorite looks is that of a wild and wooly garden framed with a meticulously neat hedge. Mine will never compare with Sissinghurst geometrics but I love them all the same.
    Funny that it never occurred to me to let the hedges get taller in order to save the back. What a brilliant idea! I was going to keep mine short, but now I think tall and narrow is the way to go, thanks!
    It always annoys me when people criticize hedges as being too much work. I think they’re worth it, and honestly you’re going to have to break a sweat somewhere along the line if your a gardener :)

    Hi Bittster, thanks for adding in here. I couldn’t agree more. Gardening is work and there is no way around it. The hedges add so much interest, I won’t ever be without some sort of evergreen hedge. I once read that a hedge should be waist high, the better to hold the trimmers, manual or machine, evenly and with ease. The curves and dips are not difficult to cut, really, it is the lower height and bending that get to my back. I am working on that.
    Frances

  10. gail says:

    Frances, my dear friend, I do remember those hedges at Sissinghurst and geometric steel is the perfect description. I like yours much better, but both examples are perfect for balancing the delightful and exuberant wildness with order. Your pony-tailed muhly is a beauty~maybe she needs just a fancier band, one with rhinestones!! xoxoxogail

    The trip of a lifetime,eh Gail? How could we ever forget merry olde England? Thanks for the kind words. The boxwood hedge has evolved over the years into something much more than the original vision, thanks in part to seeing those magnificent hedges in person. The secured muhly is fun. I love it.
    xoxoxo
    Frances

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