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Gardening with Gael - There definitely needs to be a hedge



Magnolia hedge-138A couple of months ago we received a letter from Northpower saying that if we didn’t trim our leylandii hedge they would cut it down.

We planted our cupressus leylandii hedge over thirty years ago. At that stage there were no subdivisions across the road and the southwesterly wind whistled across the estuary straight into our section. Leylandiis or Acmenas (monkey apples) seem to fit the criteria for a hedge. The acmenas had just been put on the noxious weed list so leylandii it was. Fast growing, dense, an attractive green and happy in our sand they appeared the ideal choice. I wanted them to form an arch over the driveway and now thirty years later they have.

What I didn’t realise was that they required very regular trimming. Miss a year and the next trim may well expose bare branches. Leylandii do not sprout new leaves further down a trimmed branch the way karos, coprosmas and pohutukawas do. Then, in the last couple of years they have been attacked by a virus leaving intermittent trees dead. Year after year we have had them trimmed then spent a day or two cleaning up the branches and raking the ground. Now with all the cottages sold suddenly we had the opportunity for a change. Northpower would cut them down and mulch them. There would be a charge for the mulch but the job would be done and we would have a huge pile of mulch for the rest of the garden. It seemed like the right time.

Not only does the hedge stop any wind but it has provided us with maximum privacy. The arch has formed as I hoped and now within the next month it will all be gone. I am having trouble imagining it.

There definitely needs to be a hedge. This time one that is more easily pruned. Karos and five fingers are already growing around the base. I have narrowed our options to the following:

Ÿ Pittosporum crassifolium or karo. These make a great coastal hedge. Fast growing, easily trimmed and happy in almost any soil, this native pops up everywhere. Even let to grow they would stay well under the power line. We have some already and I love the dark crimson-purple flowers. The only disadvantage is the colour. New shoots are a lovely dark green but the overall colour of a mature bush is quite grey.

Ÿ Olearia panniculata. There are many species of olearias, often indifferent to soil conditions, tolerant of drought and happy in a coastal environment. Some, such as olearia albida produce large panicles of daisy-like white flowers through summer to late autumn. I have grown many varieties of olearia and they impress me with their ability to flourish with minimum attention. I love the leaves, apple green above and white underneath. The leaves are tough and leathery and have attractive wavy margins.

Ÿ Michelia figo or Port wine magnolia. Previously I have planted this shrub as a single specimum. When Box rebuilt our deck I planted a hedge of them across the front. What I like is this tree forms a dense hedge with foliage to the ground and it’s indistinct magnolia-like flowers produce a rich fragrance which fills the garden.

All three varieties meet the height criteria and trim well. Both the natives are available through Rick of Mangawhai Natives which makes them an easy option. I am going to miss the

initial privacy and my archway but the benefits of a fresh smaller hedge are something to look forward to and I’ll have plenty to mulch it with.


OPTION: Port Wine Magnolias are beautiful, deeply scented plants that make magnificent hedges and borders.

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