Column: September is hedge-shaping time for gardeners
The first part of September is a good time to prune and feed most hedges. By shaping them now they have time to push a bit of new growth before they shut down for the winter. Pruned and fed with a tree and shrub food, hedges will remain lush into the holidays and through the winter season. Better to have hedges with soft new growth rather than stark, stub-cut branches to welcome your holiday guests. This little bit of work will make for a clean, neat, appealing landscape.
If you need some pointers on pruning hedges or recommendations of plants that work well as hedges, the next few paragraphs are for you.
Prune no more than 1/3 of the foliage back in a given year. If plants have truly gone wild, prune them back over a two-season period. In today's column I am talking about the evergreen varieties of hedges and out-of-bloom hedge roses. At this time do not prune early spring blooming shrubs or you will cut off the already-forming flower buds. Doing so will destroy the springtime bloom. I already notice next spring's flower buds forming on some of my shrubs. If in doubt about when to prune which shrubs, bring samples into the garden center and ask for the correct pruning time for each plant.
I have always thought of hedges in three main height categories: tall privacy hedges, head-high hedges and border accent hedges. Tall privacy hedges grow solid "walls" that are 10-30 feet high. These plants are large, aggressive, and need some room to grow. The really high varieties come from the cypress, cedar, pine and juniper families. For shorter privacy hedges choose from Leyland pyracantha, red-tipped photinia, and the many vines that can be trained to grow up fences and walls.
The head-high hedge varieties grow in the 4-10 foot tall range and can easily be shaped by hedging twice a year. Local plant choices include cotoneaster, evergreen euonymous, hedge roses, privets and the larger shrub junipers. All are hardy and fast growing, but not as aggressive as the privacy group of plants.
Border accent hedges are the shortest of the hedges, reaching heights of 2-4 feet. The classic English garden choice is the evergreen boxwood. Boxwood keeps its shape with little maintenance and, because it doesn't appeal to deer and rabbits, it's a good choice for the "wilder" parts of our communities. The many border accent hedge choices include heavenly bamboo, carpet roses, compact euonymous, spreading yew and magic berry holly. All are strong growers at this altitude and hedge well. If you're not familiar with the plants I've mentioned, just visit the garden center and ask for a tour of hedge plants.
Spacing varies on these plants so ask one of your garden center professionals for advice, or shoot me your questions by e-mail at www.wattersonline.com. All email correspondence is strictly private and goes directly to my desktop for answering. It may take me a few days, but I personally answer each garden question.
Gail from Prescott Valley asked this week, "I have white foam oozing from the leaves of my Autumn sage and my grapes. Can you tell me what this is and should I be worried?" Well, Gail, you have spittle bugs which are running rampant in Yavapai County. Under that foaming white mass is a family of insects that are eating your plants. I have them in my gardens, too. I wipe them out with "Fruit Tree Spray," an all-natural product by fertilome. It easily eliminates these pests and is safer to use that most other sprays.
Labor day usually marks the start of the fall bargain season I mentioned in last week's article. My garden center likes to jump the gun by beginning our sale the last week in August. The goal for all nurseries is to sell the remaining summer crops to make room for the pansies, mums, kale and other fall plants. Sort of a case of out with summer's pinks, blues, and whites and in with fall's stronger hues of gold, orange, and red. This is a win-win sale because I must move out plants of uncompromised quality and you get them at greatly reduced prices.
With all the activity at the garden center this week I should be on hand almost daily. So bring in plant samples and/or photos and I can help you realize the hedges and other additions you're considering for your landscape .
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain, owner of Watters Garden Center in Prescott, is a master gardener and certified nursery professional who has gardened extensively throughout Yavapai County.