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A clipped box offsets citrus trees at Winterhome in Kekerengu, at the Marlborough Garden Festival; a larger hedge behind gives shelter.

A clipped box off­sets cit­rus trees at Win­ter­home in Keker­en­gu, at the Marl­bor­ough Garden Fest­iv­al; a lar­ger hedge behind gives shelter.

Every garden needs good bound­ar­ies. And while any basic fence can provide shel­ter and pri­vacy, a well-planted bound­ary hedge has added bene­fits of beauty, fra­grance, fruit or flowers, and hab­it­at for birds, bees and bene­fi­cial bugs.

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A more inform­al mixed hedgerow could include roses like this white Rosa rugosa, and herbs like the San­to­lina in front, at Paua­ta­hanui graveyard.

When we began Te Rito com­munity gar­dens in 2010, the first thing we planted on the bare-grass Kene­puru site was an encirc­ling hedgerow (sup­por­ted by a simple, low, one-hori­zont­al-pole fence). Plants chosen for tough­ness, prun­ab­il­ity, beauty and use­ful­ness (and for an ulti­mate height under 2m) included rose­mary, Bour­bon roses, worm­wood, salvi­as and fei­joas, inter­planted with flax (for birds and fibre), and with lower-grow­ing herbs (lem­on balm, thyme, lav­ender) and self-sowers such as hol­ly­hocks and even­ing prim­rose filling any gaps.

This bor­der, about 1.5m wide, gives wind pro­tec­tion for the interi­or veget­able beds as well as food and shel­ter for birds and bene­fi­cial insects, herbs for tea, and cut­tings mater­i­al for future propaga­tion. Mixed hedgerows like this, made from a vari­ety of plants, can also include ber­ries, flowers or nuts.

Some garden­ers prefer a more uni­form hedge. A beau­ti­fully clipped green hedge needs main­ten­ance sev­er­al times over the grow­ing sea­son, but makes a lovely con­trast to more inform­al garden areas. Choose some­thing not too vig­or­ous, so it won’t out­grow its wel­come. Plants that sprout read­ily from bare wood are best, to avoid bare patches along the bot­tom. Densely branch­ing, small-leaved shrubs are gen­er­ally easi­er to clip and shape.

If wind is an issue in your garden, hedging provides bet­ter shel­ter than rigid walls, absorb­ing wind energy rather than deflect­ing it into wind tun­nels. Many nat­ives are good for this job — flax, korokio, taupata, pit­to­spor­ums or griselini­as. If the pre­vail­ing wind is north­erly, choose plants that will stay low enough not to block too much sun. Like­wise, use a low hedge such as lav­ender to cre­ate an extra lay­er of shel­ter around vegetables.

If you just have a patio or bal­cony wall, it too can be covered by green­ery in the form of beans or pas­sion­fruit (in sun), or small-leaved fig (in shade).

Whatever hedge you choose, autumn is the ideal plant­ing time, allow­ing for good root growth before winter hits. Add lots of com­post and mulch well — this hedge might be around for years, so it needs a good start.


For flowers, bees and birds: rose­mary (Ros­marinus offi­cinal­is) is lovely but can become leggy; roses (e.g. Rosa rugosa) provide hips and an added barbed-wire effect; fei­joas will fruit, but only on the non-windy side; salvi­as provide late flowers (pine­apple sage, Salvia eleg­ans, will flower all winter); rasp­ber­ries, hazels, thorn­less black­ber­ries (less vig­or­ous than their prickly cousins).

For clip­ping: box (Bux­us sem­per­virens) is slow-grow­ing, but you’ll be glad of that in the long term; bay (Laur­us nobil­is) is tough but suck­er­ing — good by a drive­way, but keep it clear of garden beds; korokio (Corokia spp.), espe­cially ‘Fros­ted Chocol­ate’, forms gentle ‘clouds’ if left unclipped, as does Muehlen­beckia astonii (known in Eng­land as dots-in-the-air).

For a shady fenceline: kawakawa (Mac­ropiper excelsum) grows well in shade, and is eas­ily pruned to shoot away if bare spots appear.


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