Ten Easy Tips
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Hedges and Ground Cover
Hedges and ground covers are versatile plants that include lavender, rosemary, santolina, germander, yew, and boxwood. Consider growing regions if you are looking for evergreens.
Lavender is a favorite fragrant bush. After blooming, trim the flowers even if you are not going to dry them. To prevent leggy growth, prune only into green wood and clip the bushes. Once leggy, it is difficult to trim back without sacrificing branches. Be sure to plant in full sun and in well drained soil.
Rosemary does not always make it through the winter, but using the 'Arp' variety promises some hardiness. Once established, rosemary does well and the scent is worth the effort. Remember to keep rosemary trimmed, and use the trimmings for cooking purposes. Fragrant, delicate lavender flowers are a bonus. This herb prefers full sun. "Rosemary for Remembrance".
Planting a hedge line and using existing soil is not always the best idea if you expect even hedge growth. Carefully prepare the soil along the planting line for similar composition. Lacking uniform soil, your shrubs may grow in different ways and at different heights.
- Deciduous Hedges
Deciduous shrubs and trees make fine hedges if privacy isn't required year-round. Nearly any deciduous tree will grow into a hedge. For example, the contorted branches of filbert can make a nice hedge and when planting, plant closely and intertwine the branches of each tree. During the growing season, some intertwining of the branches may need to be repeated from time to time.
- Hedges for Wind Control
If wind is a problem, plant your shrubs or trees in two parallel lines. In this type of condition, soil preparation is essential because wind will wear down a plant. Strong evergreens work. Use a frame support if needed, especially when planting a new hedge. Pinching the top growth will encourage a strong lateral growth system and will eventually turn into a wall of foliage.
- Sweet Woodruff
This is a great ground cover that really works, and works to the point of being invasive. It will cover all of the ground it's given, only to be stopped by a cement walk or driveway. Sweet Woodruff is not an evergreen, but is a small, dark green attractive herb with pretty white flowers. It is most attractive in late spring when the flowers are blooming.
- Corsican Mint
For a ground cover with a fragrance, Corsican Mint can't be beat. A small, gentle creeper, only about half an inch high, it has the heady scent of crème de menthe, or menthol. This soft tiny-leafed plant grows well in sun or partial shade, but should probably not be trampled on for healthy growth. Watch for moss because it can ruin a patch of Corsican Mint. This herb requires well drained and moist soil, as do other mints.
- Ground Cover Herbs
Ground cover herbs such as Chamomile make a lovely carpet and can be mowed. Chamomile has a pleasant fruity scent and pretty little daisy-like flowers. Creeping Thyme is very nice in hot, dry locations, and the bees love it. You must be careful when replacing lawns with ground cover. Grass is a warrior of the worst kind and will fight to the bitter end to regain its home. Make certain all the grass has been removed before planting ground cover.
- More Ground Cover and Hedge Herbs
Lady's Mantle can't be walked on, but is a solid ground cover without being invasive. Hypericum, or St. Johns Wort, is used for commercial and industrial purposes. Sage is an herb that can be used for either a ground cover or a hedge and is a very attractive evergreen. Purple Sage is quite ornamental and can provide a splash of color all year long. Sage can also be smoldered for an interesting scent, which incidentally, the Lakota Indian medicine men use along with sweetgrass to attract good spirits and repel bad spirits in their sweat lodges. Hyssop is a member of the mint family with a camphor-like scent. It does nicely as a shrub, though it will become woody and needs pruning. Hyssop is similar to lavender in appearance and is grown as an evergreen in mild winters. Barberry is an excellent hedge plant that can grow in some shade. It has small yet daunting spikes, as well as berries and flowers. Oregon Grape is a holly-like shrub with dark green leaves, yellow flowers and small blue berries, and is considered an evergreen. It is an attractive shade tolerant plant that grows in forests and was considered medicinal by some Native Americans. Juniper is an evergreen shrub with a preference for sun, and grows well in all zones. Juniper berries are used in the making of gin, though they are considered unsafe for medicinal or culinary use. Depending on the variety of Juniper you plant, it may grow upright or spread. The standard herb garden hedge is Boxwood. For the best variety in your growing zone, seek out professional advice. Gardeners have traditionally used Germander for shaping animals and other figures, and it also spreads as a ground cover.
Hedges, like trees, should have no more than 1/3 pruned off during any season. Severe hacking is not recommended. Building a chain link fence first and planting the hedges behind it is not a bad idea. The hedges will fill in and a straight line will emerge as a guide for pruning. Wood fences are not recommended as they are only slightly permanent, and replacing a fence inside an established hedge is a daunting task.