When it comes to hedges, Thuja Green Giant stands alone. Faster growing, hardy and disease-resistant, with perfect green foliage every day of the year, it is the premium choice for hedging. Like all hedges, to keep it neat and trim, and to keep it green right to the ground, it needs regular trimming. In some gardens this can be a problem, because you have shrubs and flowers planted in front of the hedge. This effect – of flowers in front of a perfect trimmed wall of green, is a garden classic, but making it work is not so easy. Walking through beds to trim a hedge, and putting up ladders, can cause a lot of damage to flowers and more delicate bushes, and collecting the trimmings can cause even more damage. Also, the trimming goes more slowly, and can become frustrating.
As well, the roots of the hedge spread out sideway beyond the hedge, and they love to grow in the rich soil we prepare for our flower beds, and the mulch we put around roses and flowering shrubs. This means that the shrubs and flowers grow less vigorously, as the hedge takes water and nutrients away from them. In addition, the shadow of the hedge causes the plants to lean away from it, towards the light.
The Hidden Path
What to do? This problem has been around as long as hedges have been made, and in the past there was a simple solution, which seems to have been lost. So lost is it that you won’t find a single image of this on the internet, or a description of how to build it. Sometimes in exploring older gardens you might come across this trick, but you probably won’t have noticed it unless you explore ‘behind the scenes’. Maybe the absence of images is because in big gardens, even the owners weren’t aware of this trick, put in by the gardeners, because you really can’t see it when you stand in front of the beds. Visitors won’t see it either.
What is this secret way to enjoy the beauty of flowers, roses and shrubs displayed against the perfect green backdrop of a lush, trimmed hedge? It’s easy . . . a hidden path. Yes, by simply running a narrow path between the hedge and the bed, you have instant access for trimming, without trampling on anything, and with the space to easily put up a ladder. When you come to clean up, the trimmings are easy to rake up from a hard surface, and the whole job goes faster. The path also creates distance between the hedge and the bed, reducing root invasion from the hedge, and allowing the plants to grow straight and strong, not weakly and leaning over towards the light.
Making a Hidden Path
What you are going to do is run a pathway right up against the hedge, and put a bed on the other side of the path. Sounds simple? That’s because it is. The path should be narrow – usually no more than 3 feet wide, and it’s construction can be very simple too, since it really isn’t seen from the garden itself. If you use a ladder to trim your hedge, make sure the path is wide enough to be able to stand it up parallel to the hedge, and wide enough to get a wheel-barrow along. Narrow is good, as it makes the path harder to see.
For a surface, you can use almost anything. Perhaps you have some left-over pavers, or some simple concrete slabs. You don’t even need a paved surface. Spread some gravel over the soil and run a vibrator over it all so the gravel beds-down into the soil surface. Don’t use mulch or anything like that – you want a surface you can easily rake to get up the hedge trimmings.
This walkway can be put in at any time, but it is best to do it when you develop the bed in front of the hedge. If the hedge is newly-planted, or young, remember to allow some space for it to expand to its final width. That is another thing – the walkway gives you an automatic line to trim the hedge perfectly flat and even. Make sure you lay the path straight to get that result.
There is also a secret to making this pathway less visible. Build a low wall – perhaps 6 or 8 inches tall – along the bed side. Again, this can be made of almost anything. Eight-inch planks of pressure-treated lumber nailed to short stakes works well and is low-cost. When you prepare in the bed, and finish off the surface before planting, grade it backwards so that it ends up the height of the low wall. You don’t want to see the wall from the front of the bed. Now, when you stand in front, most of the path will be hidden by the slope of the bed. This slope also improves the drainage in the bed. You will get good concealment once the plants in the bed grow. Be sure to plant right up to the back edge of the bed, so that some plants overhang the path a little. Once they have grown a little, the path will be invisible.
Easy Hedge Trimming
Now, instead of the time-consuming chore of picking your way among shrubs and flowers, trying not to damage them, you have complete, easy access to the hedge, for both trimming and cleaning up. The job will go quickly, with no hassles, and your flowers will be completely untouched. Reviving this lost trick will make your life so much simpler, and your garden so much more enjoyable.