Were to begin, with the end of February on the horizon, it can be overwhelming. The number of topics, questions and management concerns in the late winter and early spring are greater than any other time of the year. I have thought about this long and have decided to begin a series on plants to be used as hedges.
Before I begin I would like to define things so all readers have a solid understanding of my approach. There are two different kinds of hedging plants, also referred to as screening plants or privacy plantings. There are a variety of evergreens and then there are the woody ornamentals. These plants, mass planted, are used to block a view, act as a wind break, separate garden areas or border a foundation, driveway or walkway. To clearly demonstrate these two groups I will discuss the Taxus (yew) family representing the evergreens and the Euonymus group representing the woody ornamentals. As the series develops wings, I will always discuss one planting option at a time from each group.
I am going to start with a very popular woody ornamental planting choice for many gardeners and designers, the Euonymus alatus also know as Winged Burning Bush because of it’s brilliant colors changes in the Autumn (green to bright red in full sun). This plant choice is so important because of it’s great diversity as it refers to uses. It can be used as a single ornamental piece, mass planted in small or large groups depending on your space and finally as a low or high hedge separating property and garden views. The Burning Bush can be planted at a distance of up to 7 feet from one another and still eventually create a very respectable screen. Much of the time the planting plan is determined by expected timelines such as how long someone want to wait for the anticipated design result.
Burning Bush can grow more than 15 inches tall in a single season and at least that wide in the same amount of time. That translates into 7 1/2 feet in five years and at least 3 feet wide in one direction in that same amount of time. If you consider planting balled and bur-lapped (B&B) plants that are 18 inches tall and wide 6 feet apart from each plants center, within five years your plants will be completely touching and over 8 feet tall (when planted in full sun). We need to keep one thing in mind. During these five years what do you do about pruning, watering and fertilizing. Before you get too concerned be confident that you are dealing with one of the easiest plants in the category of hedging material.
Fertilization after your initial planting is a minor issue, if soil drains well. Watering for most plant material in a man made environment should be consistent and available. Watering is all determined by the time of year, sun exposure, weather conditions and soil makeup. Anyone who plants a plant into the ground will know their soil just because they dug into it. If you paid someone to plant for you, do yourself a favor and watch them and review the soil that comes out of your ground. The final plant management consideration over the long run has to be pruning. The pruning of your plants has to be at the top of your priorities. This part of garden care is critical because pruning each year controls how your plants will develop as individuals as well as how they will grow as a group.
Burning Bush has the most wonderful bright red coloration throughout the Autumn season. It is never recommended to prune this group of plants any later than June 30th of any year. The reason you prune this plant early is so the plant has the ability to restore and fill in through the rest of the growing season without risking the loss of FALL colors. I always try and prune the Burning Bush (Winged Euonymus) after the new growth has fully emerged, usually the beginning of June.
I need to backtrack just a little bit at this point. Developmental pruning is important to the long term development of any piece of plant material. Burning Bush is no exception. As a new plant develops, removing inner crossing branches and then thinning a specimen every late winter early spring is critical to the continued health and vigor of your plants. Looking at a plant with no leaves on it can be very revealing. Do not be afraid of removing large pieces. The plant will compensate, fill in and will have more room to grow with better air circulating around it’s root crown and main stem unions. Most people dismiss much of this work and eventually are faced with plants that split, fall over, have lots of material on top but not evenly balanced all around, or are vulnerable to insect and disease due to neglect.
Too many people make the simplest mistakes due to lack of knowledge, lack of qualified garden and landscape professionals or not considering the long term cost benefits to proper maintenance. Whatever your thought process may be, it is important to know your needs, how to meet those needs and then understand how to maintain the value of the work and money you invested in.
I hope I was able to clear the path for you to begin your gardening adventure. May the flowers of all the worlds gardens enrich your life, one view at a time.
Until next time, be happy, at peace, with love in your life. For some additional information you could refer to the following paragraph.
Winged burning bush is a deciduous shrub, up to 20 ft. (6.1 m) in height, which invades forests throughout the eastern United States. Occasionally, four corky ridges appear along the length of young stems. The opposite, dark green leaves are < 2 in. (5 cm) long, smooth, rounded and taper at the tips. The leaves turn a bright crimson to purplish color in the fall. The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish yellow and have 4 petals. Flowers develop in the spring and lay flat against the leaves. Fruit are reddish capsules that split to reveal orange fleshy seeds. Winged burning bush can invade a variety of disturbed habitats including forest edges, old fields, and roadsides. Birds readily disperse the seeds, allowing for many long dispersal events. Once established, it can form dense thickets that displace native vegetation. Winged burning bush is native to northeastern Asia and was first introduced into North America in the 1860s for ornamental purposes. It currently continues to be sold and planted as an ornamental or roadside hedge.