A living fence is a perfect way to both enjoy your privacy and be in tune with the natural world. Perhaps the best choice for creating a green wall are shrubs. Gardeners of both the amateur and expert variety can go hog wild with the infinite choices of shrubs. Unfortunately, meticulous pruning is a misguided stereotype of shrubs. While this may be true for hedges adorning the Biltmore House, a lot of shrubs maintain a natural shape without a shear. Your biggest task will be deciding if you want an evergreen shrub or if you want a shrub bedazzled in a carpet of flowers, etc.
Ready for the wonderful world of hedges?
Here are some of the popular varieties of shrubs along with a favorite from each group.
The boxwood’s population in the world (although there’s no official count) rivals that of humans (or maybe even ants). Its evergreen and sculpted look adorns places from simple cottage yards to the grand lawn of the White House. It’s an easy choice for landscapers due to its simple care. Boxwoods look great for sprucing up the new business on the block, or as a front piece for high reaching flowering trees. You can virtually set a boxwood anywhere, and it will add a simple natural touch.
A Boxwood Favorite: Green Velvet Boxwood
The Green Velvet Boxwood proves that not all boxwoods are created equal. This evergreen shrub is stubborn with appearances, preferring to maintain a rounded shape without any pruning. The Green Velvet is unique among boxwoods in that it is actually fragrant, thanks to tiny white blossoms in the spring. Its mature height at 6 ft. makes it a perfect candidate for your next hedge display. Pests prefer to chew elsewhere. Deer steer clear. It even resists pollution, making it perfect for the urban environment. Finally, its cold hardy status (growing zones 4-9) will green up even the drabbest of winters.
This goliath of the flowering shrub world can grow to 20 feet. They are widely popular as hedges or even a large privacy screen. The viburnum loves to be a show off, from its grand foliage to its big fragrant flowers. Pruning is rarely necessary unless you want to shape it to a particular size.
A Viburnum Favorite: Snowball Viburnum Bush
Cheerleaders may flock to your yard, mistaking this bush’s giant flowers for pompoms. And it loves to produce high populations of blooms (hundreds in fact) from mid spring into summer. The Snowball Viburnum Bush can reach heights of 20 feet, making it the perfect hedge for your neighbors to gawk at. Your house will be bustling with cut viburnum arrangements, and bird lovers will grab their binoculars as numerous songbirds dine on the berries in the fall. Best of all, the viburnum asks very little, except for full sun, well-drained soil, and an all-purpose fertilizer twice a year.
The gorgeous hydrangea is a plant fit for a mad scientist. The blooms can actually change colors depending on the type of soil.. Alkaline can lend a pinkish color, while acidic can transform flowers to stunning blues. Flowers can amass sizes bigger than a hefty bowling ball. For all its beauty, the hydrangea prefers to be free of fuss. It has no enemies in the pest and disease world. Pruning is rare except for removing dead or diseased branches. It can even reside happily in a container or in the ground. Neglect is truly the hydrangea’s best friend.
A Hydrangea Favorite: Nikko Blue Hydrangea
Of all the colors in the garden, blue is possibly the most unique. The Nikko Blue Hydrangea’s burst of indigo blooms will make every other shrub look grey in comparison. It virtually scoffs at the heat by busting out blooms from early summer all the way into early fall. The six inch blossoms nestle against the emerald, tooth edged leaves. Plant in the sun or leave it in the shade, the Nikko couldn’t care less, except in its ongoing mission as a flower factory. Residents north of growing zone 6 can grow Nikko in a container and move it inside in the winter.
This hardy deciduous shrub numbers over 400 species in its family. The barberry is a popular hedge choice for homeowners andlandscapers due to its uniform growth pattern. It hates to be fussed over, and it can adapt to almost any growing environment. Pruning? Nope. Drought? Handles with ease. Pests and disease? They don’t care to congregate. Better put, the barberry is perfect for those gardeners who don’t live in their lawns.
A Barberry Favorite: Crimson Pygmy Barberry
This is an excellent choice for smaller yards or to spruce up a drab driveway. The Crimson Pygmy Barberry’s red foliage will provide a perfect accent piece to evergreen shrubs. Small yellow flowers dot the bush in the spring before giving way to purple berries and then red berries by fall. You’ll need to make way for the songbirds when the berries ripen to its final crimson stage. The Pygmy is also quite cold hardy, living comfortably in growing zones 4-8.
Ask a gardener why they plant the weigela and there’s a good chance the reply will be, “it’s the blooms!” The weigela hates all the attention, preferring little or no maintenance. It’s highly prized as both a hedge and border plant, and it can turn your hedge design into a work of art.
A Weigela Favorite: Variegated Weigela
The reigning champ of the weigela world. Its light pink blooms (that lasts for months on end) with a deep pink center is merely one of its numerous attractions. The fragrance from the flowers lend an enticing citrusy scent that attracts every hummingbird and butterfly from miles around. The foliage is just as majestic. The leaves are dappled with a creamy border that almost outshines the blooms. The weigela is mature at four feet high, and it is perfect for a low row of flowering perfection. It’s cold hardy from growing zone 5-9. It can even handle shade and drought without batting a bloom.