Everybody loves their Thuja Green Giant hedge. It is always lush and green, creating a perfect backdrop to the rest of your garden. But what if your hedge could be its own garden? Imagine a hedge where flowers emerged from the green wall, or colored sections broke up the long wall of green in interesting and novel ways. Seems like a dream? Not really. There are some simple things you can do that turn your hedge into something more than a backdrop, and make it an integral part of the ever-changing picture of flowers and foliage that make gardens so lovely. Interested? Then read on. . .
Basic Ways to Color Your Hedge
The idea of mixing plants together in a hedge is not new, but it is seen more in Europe than America. It is an interesting and attractive way to create a colorful and changing hedge that becomes a garden feature, not a background to the other features. These hedges are often called Tapestry Hedges, and the idea is to plant different hedging plants among the main plants of your hedge. So, when you come to lay out your Thuja Green Giant Hedge, replace some of the plants with something else, with a different color and texture of foliage. This can be subtle, using shades of green, or more pronounced, using stronger colors of blue, gold or red. If privacy is a big consideration, then you will want to stick to evergreens, but if not, then deciduous plants are possible choices. Using deciduous plants also opens up the possibility of having sections of your hedge bloom with flower-color too.
It is best and simplest to put in these different plants when you plant the hedge. They can be alternated, as was done with the hedge in the picture at the top of this piece, or they can be random substitutions, even with several different plants. Once you have established a hedge it becomes more difficult, but as long as the plants are not too large to move, and it is spring or fall when you do it, then you can remove some existing plants to develop a new area, and then fill the gaps with new trees of a different type.
Here are some ideas for plants to consider:
- Different Shades of Green and Texture
- Italian Cypress – rich dark green foliage on a tough, drought-resistant plant
- Spartan Juniper – a tough and sturdy grower with a deeper green color
- Holly – evergreen for privacy, and often used alone as a hedge, varieties such as the American Holly, or the Nelly Stevens Holly, will grow through the Thuja, mottling it with shiny rich-green areas
- Blue Highlights
- Blue Spruce – always reliable, many people don’t realize that spruce can be turned into a formal hedge. This perennial favorite is very cold-hardy, as well as heat-resistant
- Blue Italian Cypress – this rare variation on the Italian Cypress has a blue tone to its foliage that will heighten the contrast with the Thuja
- Blue Spanish Fir – a wonderful rich blue color that will really stand out
- Arizona Cypress – also blue, this cypress tree thrives under adverse conditions, just like Thuja Green Giant does
- Golden Highlights
- Gold Spanish Fir – you will love how the golden needles on this tree sparkle among the green of your Thuja hedge
- Red Highlights
- Smoke Tree – we have to move into deciduous plants to get red, but the result will be worth it. With its spreading habit, just where the red ends up will be unpredictable, adding to the fun
- Flowering Plants
- Yoshino Flowering Cherry – as this tree grows, spring will suddenly bring pink flowers garlanding the face of your hedge – wonderful!
- Cleveland Pear – as tough as the Thuja you mix it with, and bringing white flowers in early spring to the green wall around your garden
Other Possibilities for Color in Your Hedge
If you already have a mature hedge, so can’t insert other hedge plants, it doesn’t mean you are out of luck. Fast-growing climbing plants can be tucked in the spaces between the trunks of the hedge, and they will soon climb up and burst into bloom. The best choices are plants that flower on new shoots, because then they can be cut down to the ground in fall to allow for easy hedge trimming at that time, or in spring before the climbers get going. Fast-growing annual climbers will twine through a hedge, flower, and then can be removed in fall. Many climbers have brilliant flower colors, and purples, reds, pinks and golds are all possibilities.
When doing this, it is important to dig a good-sized planting hole, and use plenty of water and fertilizer for the climbers, otherwise they will not be able to compete with the roots of the hedge for nutrients and water. Depending on the layout of your garden, you can also plant them a few feet from the hedge and lead them up to it on a short pole.
Here are some climbing plant that will grow tall in one season and flower profusely:
- Clematis – these well-known climbers have some varieties, like the ever-popular ‘Jackmanii’ (rich purple flowers), that will bloom on new growth each year. They can take 2 or 3 seasons to become established and perform at their best, but their large, flat flowers really look spectacular. Cut them to the ground each fall.
- Morning Glory – if you grow these from seed, by summer they will already be blooming, and can be pulled down in fall for pruning the hedge
- Cypress Vine – in warmer areas this vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) will grow as a perennial, but young plants from seed will grow large and bloom with brilliant red flowers in the space of a single season. The similar Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea sloteri) is more vigorous for a tall hedge
- Canary Creeper – for fascinating golden blooms on your hedge, plant this annual climber (Tropaeolum peregrinum). It has interesting rounded leaves, but the real beauty lies in the clusters of flaring flowers in bright yellow