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DARREL KOEHLER: Hedges offer not only beauty, but privacy

While hedges may have dropped off in popularity, they still are a great landscaping tool as well as providing a living fence. This also is one type of fence you don't have to worry about painting or repairing. A yearly or more frequent pruning wi...

While hedges may have dropped off in popularity, they still are a great landscaping tool as well as providing a living fence. This also is one type of fence you don't have to worry about painting or repairing. A yearly or more frequent pruning will suffice.

There are many woody plants that can be used to create attractive hedges or screens, adding both beauty and privacy. When planting a hedge, plants are spaced closer than normal so that they will grow together densely. Hedges can define a space in landscape or create a visual or physical barrier.

There are two types of hedges: Formal and informal. Formal hedges are trimmed or sheared in a geometrical shape so the foliage forms a smooth plane. These hedges must be pruned one or two times per year. Informal hedges are pruned only minimally and the plants develop their normal growth habit. They require only light maintenance pruning every two to three years.

Hedging your options

Many woody plants work well for hedge use. Here are some of the more common plants:


• Cotoneaster: This shrub's upright, spreading branching pattern and dense growth make it a natural for hedges. It has glossy dark green leaves and bears small black fruit that stay on the plant from summer into winter. There are about a dozen varieties of cotoneaster with Peking being the one most frequently used for hedges. However, cotoneaster is a member of the rose family and can become infected with fire blight. The hedge can be cut to ground level if you want to renew it.

• Caragana: Another common hedge plant is caragana or pea shrub. It gets its name from the yellow flowers it produces. The blooms resemble sweet peas. This hardy plant, which is found in Russia, Manchuria or Siberia, also is used for windbreaks and wildlife planting. The Russian variety is a bit smaller and would probably work best for hedging purposes. It also can be cut to ground level for renewal.

• Dogwood: Several species will work, especially the red-stemmed kind noted for its bright red winter stems. They need to have the oldest stems pruned out every few years to improve their form and encourage stem color. They are best grown as informal hedges.

• Burning bush: Noted for its eye-catching red fall color, this plant also known as Winged Euonymus has other ornamental features as well. During the growing season, it has clean, medium to dark green foliage. Its corky stems and horizontal branches add definition to the hedge.

Other shrubs that can be used for hedge purposes include juniper, cherries (Nanking and Purple-leaf Sand), lilacs, arborvitae and viburnums (which includes high-bush cranberry).

Two forms of buckthorn, common and glossy, have been used for hedges for years. Because of their invasiveness, buckthorn is no longer recommended for planting and sales have been restricted in Minnesota.

Tropical tubers

Once the favorite of Victorian gardeners, dahlias have burst back on the scene. We seem to have a passion for tropical plants in our landscaping and dahlias, along with cannas, fit the bill perfectly. Dahlias usually hit their full stride during one of the most pleasant periods of the growing season: late summer and autumn. Dahlias not only bloom late into the season, they thrive in fall. And, they keep blooming until they fall victim to a killing frost.


With flower types that range from mini to maxi, in shapes that recall daises, cactus, pompons, water-lilies, buttons, zinnias and more, dahlias offer a diversity of shapes, sizes and colors secondly only to tulips. Official registries list thousands of named varieties in all colors except true blue and black.

Don't plant dahlias until frost danger is over. For a fast start-up, plant dahlia tubers indoors and then set out in the summer garden. The only downside is that they need to be lifted and stored for winter or treated as annuals with new tubers or bedding plants obtained each spring. There numbers also quickly expand as many have discovered, including the Prairie Gardener.

Vertical plants

Growing plants vertically makes good use of space in the smaller gardens people tend nowadays. Vertical gardening also makes harvesting easier, especially for those with sore joints. Combining vine plants, such as beans and cucumbers or peas and gourds, on the same A-frame gives you double the harvest for the space. Pole beans will climb just about anything, including other plants. Pole beans produce longer than bush beans; they continue to grow, flower and fruit as long as you keep harvesting.

When you grow vegetables on trellises and other supports, plan to have them on the north side of the garden and towards the back of a row or bed so they do not block the sun from other, low-growing plants. Cages are the easiest method to grow plants vertically. Staking, fencing and netting also work.

Sucker woes

The best way to get rid of suckers is to cut them back. Gardeners can also apply a growth retardant, brand name Sucker-stopper RTU (ready to use). It can also be used on water sprouts -- suckers that form on the branches of trees such as apples. Suckers growing away from the base of the tree can be treated with a broad-leaf weed killer such as Trimac. Suckers are a naturally occurring problem and are often can be dealt with a mower, too. Canada red cherry is one of the worse offenders.

Apple outlook


Some gardeners are reporting a bumper crop of blooms on their apple trees. There also appear to be enough bees and other insects to pollinate them. However, those who had huge crops of apples last year are reporting sparse blooms. Normally, apples produce big crops every other year. Judging from what has occurred to date, there should be plenty of apples for everyone in the fall.

Summer show

A rainbow of colors, bloom sequence, form and fragrance are offered in a display of roses, geraniums, Asiatic lilies, heliotrope, New Guinea impatiens, petunias, caladium and more at the summer flower show in progress in St. Paul. The event, which will continue throughout summer, is at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, 1225 Estrabrook Dr. in St Paul. It is near the Minnesota state fairgrounds. Info: (651) 487-8200.


The vegetable, salsify, which is also known as vegetable oyster, was misspelled in the May 24 garden column. Sorry.

Koehler is the Herald's garden columnist. His column is published every Sunday in this section during the growing season. Send garden questions to him in care of the Grand Forks Herald, Box 6008, Grand Forks ND 58206-6008. Tune in the weekly gardening show airing at 4:10 p.m. Thursdays on KNOX Radio 1310 (A.M.)

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