We were amazed at the tightly clipped, break­ing wave hedges at Le Jardin Plume in France. I've never seen any­thing quite like it.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Ab­bie Jury takes in hedges in Europe

They con­tain the feather gar­den for which the en­tire prop­erty is named and as such, per­form both a prac­ti­cal and aes­thetic function. They shel­ter the very large peren­ni­als which could otherwise be beaten down by sum­mer thun­der­storms and, pre­sum­ably, winds sweep­ing across the flat land­scape. And the tight clip­ping and dis­tinc­tive form are a stark con­trast to the dy­namic waves of grasses and tall, slen­der peren­ni­als.

In the same gar­den, the green walls in Le Jardin d’été (the sum­mer gar­den) are less un­usual but still per­form­ing the dual function of both re­strain­ing and pro­tect­ing ex­trav­a­gantly loose plant­ings while pro­vid­ing a sharp con­trast in style. The hedges are the struc­ture and form within the gar­den.

We vis­ited an­other heav­ily hedged gar­den in this north­ern sum­mer just passed. Veddw is in the Welsh bor­der­lands and the own­ers have used hedg­ing to cre­ate form and struc­ture. In one of the hedged en­clo­sures, they have done a gen­tler take on rounded shapes, evoca­tive of their wider land­scape of rolling hills. It is a sculp­tural ap­proach where the interest

lies in the shapes and re­flec­tions in the black pool, not in the plants them­selves.

Most of these north­ern hedges are buxus, yew or beech.

In New Zealand, we are gen­er­ally less favourable to­wards beech be­cause it is de­cid­u­ous. Yew is deadly poi­sonous to stock and also does far bet­ter in a drier cli­mate than our high rain­fall and hu­mid­ity of Taranaki which tends to kill it off with root dis­ease. Which leaves buxus, now much af­flicted by the dreaded blight in many gar­dens.

Our pref­er­ence is for flow­er­ing hedges.

It is all to do with win­ter bloom­ing. The sin­gle camel­lia flow­ers pro­vide pollen and nec­tar at a time when there are few other sources of this food.

Our favourite camel­lia for clipped hedg­ing is ‘Fairy Blush’, partly be­cause it is our cul­ti­var and the first camel­lia Mark ever named. It is also scented with the long­est flow­er­ing time of any camel­lia we grow, com­ing out with the sasan­quas in au­tumn and flow­er­ing through to spring.

Camel­lia transnokoen­sis has a shorter flow­er­ing season but at­trac­tive dark fo­liage and small, pure white blooms.

The third camel­lia we have made ex­ten­sive use of for hedg­ing is Camel­lia

mi­cro­phylla, even though it flow­ers ear­lier in au­tumn – pure white flow­ers again and small leaves that clip well. Both these two species set seed. If you can find them grow­ing, you may well find seedlings ger­mi­nated around their base. Or check for seed in au­tumn if you are a pa­tient gar­dener who is will­ing to put a bit of ef­fort into a free hedge.

All our hedges are flat topped af­fairs.

They lack the panache of both Le Jardin Plume and Veddw but I am eye­ing up a some­what re­dun­dant length of buxus hedg­ing and won­der­ing about re­shap­ing it to an un­du­lat­ing cater­pil­lar.

I have been told that New Zealand fea­tures more hedges per av­er­age gar­den than most other coun­tries. This may be to do with our be­ing a windy country. Equally, it may be that plants are rel­a­tively cheap here and re­quire less cap­i­tal out­lay than build­ing a wall in more per­ma­nent ma­te­ri­als.

However, what may have started from prag­matic ori­gins is a far more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly option these days.

My ad­vice is to pick a hedg­ing option that will only re­quire clip­ping once or twice a year.

And if you are going to be ad­ven­tur­ous with the plant se­lec­tion, do some re­search first. Hedges need to be from plants that will grow back from bare wood and some less com­mon se­lec­tions such as miro (instead of yew) and Mag­no­lia lae­v­i­fo­lia (for­merly Miche­lia yun­na­nen­sis) can take a fair number of years be­fore they achieve the dense ap­pear­ance of a hedge.

We are pretty proud of our re­main­ing length of to­taraˉ hedge, planted around the turn of last cen­tury by Mark’s grand­fa­ther or great-grand­fa­ther and kept clipped for nigh on 120 years.

Hedges pro­vide struc­ture and form at Le Jardin Plume.

The stun­ning break­ing waves hedge at Le Jardin Plume.

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