Guest Blog Written By Angelina Schmidt
Good fences make good neighbors. A beautiful row of landscaped shrubs or hedges will make for happy neighbors and provide you with peace and privacy. However, such shrubs and hedges in Southern California need to be more than just lovely adornments but also need to be drought-tolerant and fire-resistant.
Because of the environmental challenges facing California, native plants offer the best solutions for landscape hedges. These plants are ready-made for the California landscape. They require less water and provide some fire-resistance. (Remember: fire-resistant does not mean fireproof).
Many plants from Mediterranean areas, New Zealand, and other similar locales are also suited for Southern California climates. Just be careful not to plant an invasive shrub. Plants such as Sydney Golden Wattle and bamboo are impossible to control and will soon spread beyond your property.
Get a Hedge Up
We’ve chosen three native shrubs to get you started for formal or informal settings. Since they’re acclimated to the Southern California climate, they practically care for themselves.
Hollyleaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia)
Hollyleaf cherry serves multiple purposes. A dense, native evergreen, it’s fire-resistant and heat and drought-tolerant.
White flowers adorn this shrub in the spring, and later in the year, edible red fruit forms for humans, birds, and other wildlife. It gets its name because the leaves look like pointy-edged hollies that can jab hands. Hollyleaf cherry makes a lovely hedge.
California lilac (Ceanothus)
Another evergreen shrub, this one has beautiful, fragrant blue flowers from spring into fall. Several varieties are available, including a pink one, and some that work for ground covers, hedges, or trimmed into a tree form.
An almost perfect plant, this tidy shrub rarely needs pruning if sited correctly.
California lilac (Ceanothus) does not tolerate hard pruning, so plant it for its mature height and width, and you’ll be fine. Although it’s called California lilac, it is not a true lilac but from a different species (Syringa).
Red monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus var. puniceus)
The red monkeyflower is an excellent choice for a shorter hedge, one in the 3-foot tall range, a California evergreen shrub. In spring, red flowers cover the shrub. Its neat habit makes it a good companion plant for some of the taller shrubs or trees in your hedge. It will soften the base of your taller plants. Red monkeyflower is also fire resistant.
Before you grab the shovel and start planting, there are several factors to keep in mind:
- The size of the planting space – Select plants that will not outgrow that space as they mature.
- The environment of the planting site – Is it naturally wet, dry, sunny, or shady? Is there irrigation in the area? You’ll want to take into account all of these horticultural requirements before making your plant selection.
- The plant’s size at maturity – Right plant, right place reduces your pruning and other maintenance duties.
- Hardscapes near your plants – Consider sidewalks and driveways. You want to leave room for passersby or car doors to open and people to exit.
Tips for Planting and Care
Hedges are planted by on-center measurements, and if it is 4 feet wide at maturity, you should plant it so the center is 4 feet from the center of the next plant. As the plants grow, their branches will touch. For a more instant hedge look, plant them 6 inches closer together or buy the largest plants you can afford.
A lot of hedges can grow to be 100 feet or more. This is where sheering comes into play. You’ll trim the top to your desired height. Sheering also promotes lower branch growth and increases plant density. Just make sure to keep the tops narrower than the plants’ base so the sun and rain can reach the lower branches.
Don’t Fence Yourself In
Yes, a tall wooden fence will provide you with privacy for the short term, but there are several disadvantages. A wooden fence has a limited lifespan, and as the wood decomposes, it’s a target of fungus and dry rot. The wood will also crack and sag over time.
If you’re looking for a smaller respite from the world, try installing a pergola with a cover. Some even come with privacy screens and are great for the hot tub area. Now enjoy your private and peaceful soak!
Angelina Schmidt is a writer and home designer who blends the best of the old and the new into her designs.