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When you're deciding on the perfect plant that you can use to grow a hedge, you want to find something that's fast-growing with lustrous evergreen foliage. But you also want a tough plant that can handle harsh environmental conditions and still look beautiful without requiring a lot of maintenance from you. Skip Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus 'Schipkaensis') is that plant. It's a trouble-free plant that stands up to poor soil, heat, cold, and drought while remaining one of the prettiest evergreens you've ever seen! Luxuriant and Glossy Foliage The outstanding feature of any hedge is the appearance of its foliage. Skip Laurel is a type of cherry laurel, which isn't a true laurel at all. This common name hints at the resemblance of its foliage to laurel leaves, which are beautifully oblong and glossy green. Think of bay leaves that you use for cooking; they're from the "true" laurel tree '– the bay laurel. Skip Laurel leaves are similar, but they are more elongated and shiny. This is no dull evergreen plant; its leaves are so shiny that they'll look as if you polished them! But they're not delicate '– they're as durable as the plants themselves. And if you're wondering why it's called "Skip" Laurel, this cultivar was discovered growing in Bulgaria's Shipka Mountain Pass. Over the years, "Shipka" was simply shortened to a more-easily remembered nickname '– "Skip!" Top-Performing Hedge for Sun or Part Shade Shady landscape spots can't always support the healthy growth of many landscape plants that are used to form hedges. The consequences of shade include stunted growth (or leggy growth) and thinning or sparse foliage. Shady locations can also increase a plant's susceptibility to disease because the moist conditions that often accompany shaded areas provide the perfect breeding ground for plant diseases that actually need moisture to grow. But Skip Laurel overcomes both these challenges with ease '– it's a shade-tolerant plant that's also disease- and insect-resistant! A heads-up: Although Skip Laurel is shade-tolerant, it grows best when it receives some sun. Its growth in a shadier location will be more open than in a sunnier location. Grows Quickly and Fills in Thickly Given ideal growing conditions (sun, moist soil, and a site with good drainage), Skip Laurel can sprint up to 3 feet of growth per year! Even in a less-than-ideal environment, its height can increase by 2 feet each year. Its fast growth rate has endeared it to gardeners who don't want to wait many years before their slow-growing plants grow large enough to give them the privacy they want from a hedge. So if you want the added bonus of fast growth from a lush and lovely evergreen hedge, don't overlook this gem of a plant! A Hedge for Privacy The upper growth on Skip Laurels is thick and full, and the lower growth is a bit more open. If you want your privacy hedge to form a solid wall of greenery that hugs the ground, you can plant some shorter evergreens in front of the "bare ankles" on Skip Laurels to ensure complete privacy. Space the smaller plants far enough in front of your Skip Laurels so that the mature size of both types of plants doesn't overlap so much that the smaller evergreens get lost in Skip's foliage. An Excellent Green Screen You may need a smaller green screen instead of a long, continuous hedge. Living screens block undesirable views, shade sitting areas, and protect smaller plants in front of it from strong winds. You can plant a single Skip Laurel as an individual screen, or odd-numbered groupings, such as three or five plants, to form a triangular screen or a linear screen. A Batch of Aromatic White Blooms in Spring! If you want to add a hedge to your landscape design, you're primarily focused on the foliage of the plant you choose, which is its most important feature. But when you plant Skip Laurels, you'll enjoy a little bonus '– clusters of fragrant white flowers in springtime! Although individual blossoms are not large, they are showy because they're produced in masses. These Fruits are for the Birds When the flowers fade, small fruits aren't far behind. The "cherry" in "cherry laurel" is a true description because Skip Laurel is in the same genus as edible cherry trees. In fact, Skip Laurel does produce cherry fruits, but they're not what you may imagine. Instead of the bright-red fruits that you enjoy eating, Skip Laurel bears purplish-black cherries. Although you won't find them appetizing, your backyard birds will thank you! Many bird species relish these cherries, such as robins, cedar waxwings, and bluebirds. When you're considering what type of plant to purchase for an evergreen hedge, plant Skip Laurel and you'll also be growing a food source that feeds the birds! Pruning: If you prune your plants each year, you'll remove the flowers and/or cherries. So if you want to feed the birds, let your Skip Laurels grow naturally without pruning them! A Home for the Birds There's another wildlife benefit of Skip Laurels '– birds love to nest in them! The branch structure and thick foliage that you'll enjoy from this plant are the same features that appeal to birds as they seek a plant in which to build their nests. If you want to incorporate more plants that help sustain the birds, which also add other benefits to your landscape, Skip Laurel is an outstanding choice! Pruning: Birds make their nests in springtime, so you may want to check your plants for bird nests before you prune! Deer Don't Like It Gardeners who live in rural areas face a big challenge of growing plants that deer won't eat. Even though hungry deer will eat just about any plant when food sources are scarce, there are some plants that they typically leave alone in favor of others. If you want a hedge for privacy '– or just for aesthetics '– you certainly don't want to grow a plant that deer love to eat. Otherwise, your hedge will be left in tatters '– no more privacy! In deer-populated areas, Skip Laurels have a time-tested rating of being unattractive to deer; in fact, deer completely ignore them. This means that your plants will always retain their full form and dense foliage. Spacing for Your Hedge If you want more of an informal look for your hedge, which means that the individual plants are not too tightly spaced together, space Skip Laurels 5 feet apart. And if you want even more of an open look, so the individual plants stand alone but still form a row, space them 10 feet apart. But if you want a tightly growing hedge, space each plant only 3 feet from the next plant in the row. As the plants mature, their branches will overlap and they'll form a continuous hedge. Spacing tip: If you're planting Skip Laurels near a driveway, walkway, or patio, allow for their mature spread so they don't overhang these hardscapes. Pruning Options You have numerous options for pruning Skip Laurel. First of all, you never have to prune it if you prefer a natural shape of the plants in your landscape. Or you can shape a hedge of these plants in early spring into any shape or size you want. And you can even prune your plants almost to the ground if you want to rejuvenate their growth, and they'll re-sprout quickly. Bottom line ?… pruning is optional, but if you do prune, you just can't go wrong! It's a best practice not to prune plants during the heat of summer or during a season of drought because pruning can stress them at these times. The ideal time to prune Skip Laurel is in late spring to early summer. This way, the new growth will fill in rapidly. A Pruning Example As a cherry laurel plant, Skip Laurel shares a notable characteristic with the other plants in this species '– it has an ability to re-grow like a champ even after a hard pruning. Glendurgan Garden in Cornwall, England, has grown a cherry laurel maze since 1833. In recent years, this historic maze needed to be restored, so it was pruned back almost to the ground. After it was first planted more than 185 years ago, the cherry laurel re-sprouted beautifully and thickly again! So if you plant Skip Laurel, you'll be growing one tough plant! The Key to Watering Newly planted Skip Laurels depend on you to give them the water they need to develop a strong root system. If you "skip" this step, your plants may struggle to become established. Try to keep the soil moist but never soggy during their first growing season (spring through fall). Too much water that causes the soil to become waterlogged is just as harmful as too little water. Skip Laurel's roots are vulnerable to a fungal disease called root rot if the soil stays too wet for an extended time. Well-draining soil is essential to the long-term health of this plant. Water conservation tip: Applying a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around your plants will go a long way toward helping the soil stay moist.