Friday, March 30, 2012


All of us know some really poor examples of shrub shaping or attempts at hedges. But good hedges are a design classic. With so many in the San Francisco Bay Area, I documented more than a few good examples of hedges. But only a few here.

This one is over 10' high. I originally thought it was a Xylosma, until I got guess now is it is a European Prunus spp.

(got me - Abq has many Prunus caroliniana, but as neglected patio trees, rarely with ample room and never as a tall hedge)

I like the shape this hedge was pruned in, too. That takes thoughtful training, working with how a plant grows.

Boxwood / Buxus japonica (or B. koreana?):

That's a versatile plant, for many sizes of spaces except larger ones (not freeways, Abq "Creative" Class). Note what the boxwood does -
1) Defines the lawn vs. the building spaces
2) Frames the tulips when flowering (2-3 weeks)
3) Distracts from the tulips when they are not so pretty (49 weeks)
4) Looks good all year, it's an evergreen

Back in Abq or El Paso, I wonder why people use boxwoods in gravel areas, and as isolated curiousities, to broil under an angry, 4000'+ elevation desert sun. Here - try part shade, the oasis, and in dense plantings.

The above landscape is in the Napa Valley, averaging 30" of precip / year (we average that in 4 years), plus the irrigated lawn (that we don't have much of), 90F summer days but hours of coolness from dusk to early morning (here, little of that), and 60F winters with regular wet periods (winter's our dry season, mixing sun, dry, warm to cold days and many freezing nights, and more wind). Adapt...translate.

Star or Confederate Jasmine / Trachelospermum jasminoides

The bottom, above. It looks like a hedge, but it's growing over a wall and fence. It was designed and thoughtfully maintained to do that, gently clipped to stay in bounds. And the top, below:

More boxwoods as a hedge, unifying other plants (New Zealand Flax). Part service entrance, parking, and main entrance to an upscale retail area in Los Gatos. Someone who cared, having plantsmanship, designed this.

That didn't happen because someone like me gave their time away to educate developers or the public, via free workshops or classes, followed by a public outcry for better projects. Nor volunteerism, luck, esoteric verbosity, or unreasonable expectations. It is the nexus of public savvy, land ethic, good building codes, design skills, reasonable but not flamboyant budgets, and limited / valuable land forcing multiple land uses.

Attention to detail on site planning and planting design creates a great experience. Does your area have that, or not? Why?


  1. I really liked this post, David. The hedges are gorgeous and so green! Makes me want to "sculpt" my poor bushes (no, I'm not going to, haha).

    1. Yes, and in summer when they get no rain, they will help temper the dry countryside. Too bad one can't make a hedge out of large, existing shrubs!

  2. Nice theme! Did you like all the green while you were there? AND you probably noticed that the landscaping was probably a lot better than ALB or Tucson. I can't tell you the amount of times I would stand in San Fran and stare at a many fantastic and wonderfully manicured landscapes that had well thought out planning. Some of the city has superb designing along their major attractions like Lombard Street where several of these plants are used. In Tucson, I'm going to get my butt in gear and work a post for May where I walk through the Encanta neighborhood. This is an exemplary neighborhood of well thought out and beautifully planned yards. I just have to figure out how to take pictures of the landscape without people thinking me crazy or scoping their homes. That's why I've hesitated for so long. I would say most Tucsonans plant wherever and hope that it grows. If it grows, great. If it dies, try another plant. But I would say that there is some excellent planning in fancier neighborhoods like the Foothills and spotty areas around town. I like your series this's fun to revisit the area through your eyes.

    1. I liked the green to a point, though sometimes a bit much. Wandered into the redwoods 2X and it was a nice change to visit, but not to live. The desert rules to live! And driving up Gough St, car running fumes, is no fun. Too crazy, stressful and compact for me. But they give a rip about horticulture, too.

      Can't wait for your post on the Encanta area!

  3. One thing I know from experience as a former Landscape supervisor. You cannot just assign just any old employee to the task of sculpting the hedge. You need someone hwo actually gets it. I mean someone with artistic and creative abilities and intuitive value.

    It's the same thing for tree trimming. It's an art. Many of the more well known big time names in the tree trimming industry who are contracted to clear City's, Electic Compamy's or any other businesses infrastructure of overgrowth knows that the majority of their employees have a hack job method of scupturing.(well if you can use both words in the same sentence)

    Very few can beautifully sculpt in all the right places. I'm not talking about ability to use hedgers, chainsaws, or any other machinery, they can certainly all can do that. It's using it properly.

    BTW David

    Up in Anza where I use to live, there was a property owner on the Cahuilla Indian Reservation who made plant sculpturing an art from using (hold on to your britches) Mountain Mohagany. Not only did they work out perfectly, but the prospect of such an otherwise left out of the ornamental value shrub being not being used in the conventional landscape, could now perhaps be used as a possible hedge replacement in areas so dry and rugged which usuallly rules out the more water loving conventional plants normally used in hedge planning or development stages.

    Might be a future Hedge experiment for you if you got the land to investigate. I'll write to friends there and see if I can't get some pics.

    Take care.


    1. Yes...all those are a skill. But a rewarding one. I think the southwest has a way to go on this, but it starts with the designer...then the client not allowing it to end. It is their fault for giving in to the schmucks who know little (after educated), or demanding such travesties.

      I'm not surprised at Mtn Mahogany, thanks to seeing some nice formal and informal hedges of Rhus integrifolia and R. ovata.

  4. We have beastly problems with boxwood in the Northeast - sawflies and a disease causing the shrub to turn a coppery rust color - eventaul doom. We will be looking for solutions - thanks for this post!

    1. Yikes! I'm glad we don't have such problems in the SW. It is important not to overuse plants, though that is not always a guarantee. But the Calif pruning examples are great.

  5. I love hedges, and am so glad to see some good examples being shown. There are a lot of hedge examples in this area, most of them done very well. Unfortunately, some of the azaleas around town get trimmed as hedges, and when they bloom it looks so sad.

    1. That's great...except the azalea hedges. There are people in the west that never see ceniza bloom, since it always gets "mushroomed". When one is forgotten, then they see. A long way to go to educate clients and the public, and it will take dollar bills, I think.

      And I found some more nice hedge examples while out in Phoenix!

  6. I am very stiff regarding theory and practice. This post is a test book example of what hedges should/should not be. My favorite is the one on top, cut to allow even light through out, too many people forget this.

    Regarding the inquiry at the end, in Puerto Rico most hedges are silly, without purpose, showing a total lack of understanding what is a hedge for?

    Too many with huge leaves,even though, when pruned correctly with a logical time span, they look cute,as with Hibiscus. Imagine a hedge with Bouganvilleas.....another trend..with those painful thorns...

    In Puerto Rico, every other hedge is too tall, wide or short.
    Not to get into the use of trees like Ficus, almost every kind, for hedges.

    Excellent post, and the first I see on the subject, worthy of comment.

    I believe that if one is going to go through the pain in the arse maintenance wise of any hedge, it should be perfect, or aiming towards that goal, in my humble Caribbean opinion.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post! Like you say about PR, too many things are done in the landscape because they like them somewhere else, but unrelated to where they are...and many do not have a passion for why they can be used.

      I especially like your comment on if one goes to the trouble, then do it properly. Yes!

  7. You're supposed to relax on your vacations, David, not work! Haha, just kidding. Seems like a great trip!

    1. Ha ha. I blur the lines between work and relaxation! It was a great trip, L. wheeleri:-)


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