A New Hedge

Until last Saturday, a mature boxwood hedge separated our sidestrip, planted with California natives, from the neighbor's front yard, planted mainly with trees. Then, sadly, we found out from PG&E that they needed to dig a 4 foot trench from the PG&E box on the neighbor's property to the junction box at the side of our house. We have underground electric cables, usually a great thing, but frustrating in this case. We had already removed a lot of concrete and some plants in the sidestrip, but the hedge had to go as well.

Our wonderful neighbors graciously agreed -- they cleverly had done their electric upgrade many years ago, but the former owners of our house never had. Of course I'm promising a replacement hedge. And, while I'll certainly plant boxwood if that's their heart's desire, I did say I wanted to suggest some fast-growing, drought-tolerant native shrubs that might work. So here, without further ado, my top three choices:

1. Manzanita. One of the best plants for a sunny spot, green year round, and pretty in winter and early spring with flowers, manzanita is a great choice for a hedge. It's the first choice in the Las Pilitas post on easy drought tolerant hedges. Several species grow fairly fast and it's easy to keep them at the desired height. I'd want to hand prune my side, but I've seen manzanita pruned with hedge trimmers and still blooming attractively (double-click the photo, which is from Las Pilitas, to see the whole hedge).

2. Ceanothus (California wild lilac). Nothing says spring like Ceanothus in bloom, and interestingly, this drought tolerant, sun loving shrub also makes a very fine hedge. A simple Google search for Ceanothus Hedge show many attractive options. Ceanothus is probably the fastest growing of the choices. Ceanothus have a reputation of being short-lived, but can last 20+ years or more if kept without summer water. Below, a Ceanothus 'Tilden Park' just 1 year old, in my front garden.

3. Mahonia (Berberis). Another plant that blooms in late winter or early spring, mahonia is tough, tolerates sun or shade, grows quickly, and is easy to keep as a hedge.

And here's what I think would really work well:
  • Let's make a mixed hedge from different species of manzanita, or different species of ceanothus or, (even better)
  • Let's make a mixed hedge with all three species.
I suggest a mixed hedge because of our experience with the previous hedge: One plant had died, there was a gaping hole in the hedge, and it didn't seem appealing to replace the dead plant because it would never catch up. If we start with a mixed hedge and one plant dies, we can replace it with a new plant (maybe a fast-growing ceanothus) and a certain difference in height won't be so jarring.

And now, I'm really curious what I'll be planting in a few weeks!


Julian said…
Great ideas and mixed native hedges promote great biodiversity in the garden! :)
Randy Emmitt said…

I'd go with the Ceanothus, doesn't it attract butterflies. It also might be a butterfly host plant also.
The Ceanothus looks like a great shrub. We have a prairie native cousin that is also drought tolerant - New Jersey Tea.

Christine said…
Rhamnus californica or Coffeeberry! It works in sun or shade and provides multi-colored berries for birds. It's frosty blue/green foliage is also nice in darker spaces or as a backdrop to other plants. I love your choices, but had to include this little one! It would look stunning paired with Ceanothus or Arctostaphylos.
Sunray said…
Any would look lovely. A mixture is always wonderful especially if a little different blooming times.
Goldenray Yorkies
Elephant's Eye said…
A deliberately mixed hedge gives a tapestry effect, which can look wonderful.
susan morrison said…
Nice ideas! I've never considered manzanita as a hedge - I almost always use it as a specimen or ground cover. Looking forward to seeing what you end up choosing!
fer said…
Is very nice of them to let you take the edge out. I think a mixed hedge will do great and look beautiful
I think the Manzanita and Ceanothus sound like a wonderful idea. Not much of a fan of Mahonia for some strange reason, just personal preference. However, that said, I love Christine's suggestion of Rhamnus californica. We recently planted some along our deer fence line to help obscure the fence (it's supposed to be highly deer resistant). It really is a beautifully handsome plant. Can't wait to see what you choose!
camissonia said…
Wow - that ceanothus 'Tilden Park' is stunning! I'm partial to manzanitas myself, but ceanothus blooms are unrivaled in the late winter/early spring CA native garden.
Brad said…
I would also say skip the mahonia. They are quite prickly and unpleasant if you brush up against them. (The leaves are pokey). I've seen a really beautiful ceanothus hedge in my neighborhood. I didn't realize that would work. Also if you do go with manzanitas I'm sure your neighbor wouldn't object to you handpruning the other side as well.
James said…
Hedges have edges. I much prefer all your nice alternatives. Something fluffy, something natural can accomplish the same kind of separation but give you a more natural look. I'll second Christine's coffeeberry suggestion. I'm trying out a new clone from Las Pilitas, 'Tranquil Margarita', which is a really beautiful plant. (I'll post pictures one of these days...)