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Abelia hedge a good bet


garden hedge(copy)One of the first plants I ever planted 47 years ago in my garden was an abelia. I was a complete novice and relied on the nurseryman for advice. The abelia was the only plant among many that did well and it has remained a favourite ever since.

Abelias originate from Asia and Mexico. They are suitable as ornamental shrubs and make wonderful hedges. As a shrub their slightly arching canes become smothered in small pale pink tubular flowers which last from spring through to autumn. As a hedge, the little flowers smother the bush. A trim at the end of winter and just before spring allows the flowers to develop. Most can grow to about 2 metres and are easy to keep trimmed to a desired height. Abelia grandiflora is my favourite. I love the dark glossy leaves which have a bronze tint as they age. There is a variegated form as well.

This year Box is about to do a major grape planting on the lower paddocks and I want a path that will link the area to the main garden. Driving past Mr Sword’s beautiful abelia hedge gave me an idea. I have driven and walked passed this hedge for years. Mr Sword tells me it is easily 20 years old and it still looks great. He says they clip it many times during the year to keep it neat. My Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening recommends removing some really old canes from time to time. During the growing season long arching canes need to be trimmed as they appear. Sometimes these can be left giving the plant a graceful appearance.

Palmer’s Manual says that as a hedge it can ‘form a dense living wall within 2 years’. That would be good. I had already planted some as a hedge a couple of years ago and a living wall it is not. This may be because the plants are planted on the edge of a bank and the last 2 years have been particularly dry. After the first year I shored up around each plant with rocks and mulch. This year they flourished, several of the plants sending up shoots of half a metre. I can continue this hedge to form the path. I do like the arch Mr Sword has over his gate but I am not sure I will manage that.

Abelias are not easy to find. I imagined that they would be a stock plant available from any nursery but it appears they have to be ordered. Fortunately they can be found online. I have bought some and potted them on in my shade house ready for the rain and the planting season. If the rain we had last weekend continues this is the perfect time. The ground is still warm enough to stimulate some root growth. Abelias prefer a mild climate and the fact that they will grow here at the Heads in sandy soil and at the Block in clay loam makes them reasonably hardy. They are named for Dr Clarke Abel who was a keen naturalist .
A FAVOURITE: Mr Sword's abelia hedge. Abelia shapes well, and is smothered in small pink flowers in spring.

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