February 04, 2017

Formal Hedges Have Straight Edges (or Should Anyway)

A Cabbagetown, Toronto Front Garden Makeover


What comes to mind when you think of a hedge (the horticultural and not financial type)? Likely a "living fence" that separates two functional spaces like this one along the Sacred Way near Beijing


The Sacred Way near Beijing China by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
Hedges, willows and paving along 
the Sacred Way near Beijing, China


The hedges on both sides of the path are ramrod straight. level, plumb and run for hundreds of metres. They direct visitors onward without creating mystery or curiosity. That's the message our lazy reptilian tourist brains want: stay on the path and you should be rewarded. Rectangular hedges (especially made up of broad-leaved evergreens) are usually boring and utilitarian because that's their job.


A hedge could also serve as "living backdrop" like this clipped yew hedge found below at the Royal Botanical Gardens located nearby in Burlington, Ontario. It's an opaque curtain (or wall, if you prefer) and since you can't see through it, you're forced to see the green Hershey Kisses plopped in the Knot Garden in front of it. By enclosing the small space, you're eyes are directed to the topiary instead. The hedge could have been a rendered concrete wall (green-coloured of course) and the latter would still have performed the same function.



The Laking Knot Garden at the Royal Botanical Garden by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
The Laking Knot Garden at the Royal Botanical Garden 


A client in Toronto's downtown Cabbagetown neighbourhood recently asked me to transplant some boxwoods which didn't survive the previous winter. The Buxus hedge is "U" shaped with a backdrop of hortensia (Hydrangea macrophylla) and, together, they loosely frame this very typical postage-sized inner city front garden that's about 15' x 20', With most formal picture frames, though, you expect to and should see clearly right angled corners. That's what our lazy brains expect and if they (corners) are absent or obscured, a mystery is created when one shouldn't have occurred. And, to me, green rectangular blocks are not about mystery.


Toronto Cabbagetown front garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown front 
garden makeover before



Toronto Cabbagetown front garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown front 
garden makeover before



Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Toronto Cabbagetown 
garden makeover before 

Ignore the mundane hosta that's collapsing and entering into dormancy (the "before" pictures were taken in late autumn) and try to find the outline of the short boxwood hedge running down the front path, along the sidewalk and up the neighbours path. It's hard to see, right?  Where's the strong sense of enclosure?



Toronto Cabbagetown garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Toronto Cabbagetown
garden makeover before 



Cabbagetown Toronto front garden makeover before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto front 
garden makeover before 



Cabbagetown Toronto front garden makeover before Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto 
front garden makeover 


The new design:


The two mature and beautiful clumps of ornamental grass (to be specific, Japanese Forest Grass or Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') are preventing us seeing the hedge's corners. For the sake of the formal garden design requested by the client, I:

  • uprooted and transplanted the grasses elsewhere
  • chose new perennials with light blue, white and pink flowers like Amsonia "Blue Ice", "David" summer phlox, and "Ivoty Prince" hellebores planted in groups
  • replaced 3 dead boxwoods to re-stablish the hedge


Cabbagetown Toronto front garden makeover after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto front garden makeover after 



Cabbagetown Toronto front garden makeover after Paul Jung Gardening Services
Cabbagetown Toronto front garden makeover after 

It will take a few years to re-establish the hedge but the "bones" have re-surfaced, as it were.



Are you sick of formal hedges?


It's hard for me to write about hedges without recalling this collection of plants below:


Unusual concave hedge by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Unusual Toronto concave hedge

Many years ago, I worked for a client in a different Toronto neighbourhood and nearby would see, basically, "garbage" trees lovingly pruned and whimsically sculpted (see the fine attributes of Siberian Elm here).

If there's an iron law I've discovered over the years when it comes to plant care, it's this: the way a plant is pruned by or on behalf of the owner always reflects his or her personality and values.

I won't speculate on what drives such behaviour with garden shears (this would be a great story) but merely want to show you a hedge with no/few discernible straight edges.


Unusual Siberian Elm hedge by garden muses--not another Toronto gardening blog
Unusual Toronto Siberian Elm hedge 



Freeform hedge by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Freeform Toronto hedge

Now, this is a hedge that's mysterious!

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