Out of the Box: California native plants for hedges

Joan Bolton of Santa Barbara writes a nice blog about gardening and garden design. A recent blog post called Splendid Hedges has recommendations for California native plant hedges. Joan recommends Lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia), Hollyleaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia), Catalina cherry (Prunus lyonii), Ceanothus 'Julia Phelps', Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Howard McMinn manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’) and Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium) as hedges.

I guess that most people think big when they think of hedges, even though the ~1 foot tall clipped box (Buxus) hedges used as borders and in European knot gardens are equally hedges in my mind. Here's a nice photo that I found at Boxtrees Nursery (in England of course).

Maybe there's no smallish California native plant that lends itself to that style of hedge since the smallest pruned and maintained size among the plants that Joan recommends are the last two, which she says can be maintained at 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Or maybe with our high population density we're really talking about privacy and screening views when we in California talk about hedges.  I looked briefly online for examples of California natives in a tightly sheared hedge, but didn't find any pictures. I do recall pruning a Lemonade Berry hedge with loppers and an electric clipper at a friend's house in Hope Ranch when I was a teen.

Scanning the archives of my (northern California based) listserve I came up with these suggestions for hedge plants:
Rhus integrifolia (the previously mentioned Lemonade Berry)
Galvesia speciosa (some selections will grow with a more compact habit than others)
Bacharris pilularis (Coyote Bush)
Garry elliptica 'Evie' or 'James Roof' or even the straight species
Rhamnus crocea can be used as a very formal hedge
Ribes viburnifolium (Evergreen Currant)
Cercocarpus betuloides (Mountain Mahogany)
Garrya elliptica
Arctostaphylos 'Sunset' was recommended instead of McMinn as it was said to be more hedge-like and not require much in the way of pruning

Las Pilitas nursery, always a source of interesting information, has a section on hedges and screens. They include some more iconoclastic selections.

Finally, in a related blog post earlier, Naked behind a screen in the garden, KarenH suggested that I look at a Los Angeles area online native plant resource called Project SOUND, which I have mentioned very occasionally here. It's nice to see that it's up and running and thank you KarenH.


Garden miscellany

Here's an interesting garden juxtaposition. To set the stage: This photo was taken at the LA County Museum of Art. The permanent garden that lines the walkways between buildings has a high level of LA-style design: Bright red painted steel uprights for the walkway roof, exceptionally straight and perfectly aligned COR-TEN steel retaining walls, COR-TEN steel raised planters that resemble wooden planter boxes, and a range of imported plants starting with turf grass and ending with palms.

Surrounding the BCAM building and LACMA's courtyard is a 100 palm tree garden, designed by artist Robert Irwin and landscape architect Paul Comstock. Some of the 30 varieties of palms are in the ground, but most are in large wooden boxes above ground. - Wikipedia (but of course those wooden boxes are actually steel that resembles wood boxes, so Wikipedia is wrong in that small matter.  Also the palms are not all, strictly speaking, palms.)

Given the high level of design and the mix of imported plant materials I thought that this reindeer (clearly made from artificial plant materials, surmounting a "bark" hill that is dotted with plastic flowers, and surrounded by a synthetic box hedge) was a sly comment on the permanent garden.  Alas, it is a marker for the entrance to the Tim Burton exhibit and destined to move on when the exhibit closes on Oct 31.  The reindeer was a prop in the movie Edward Scissorhands.

Tim Burton has a fairly prolific career so there was ample material but when it was all said and done I was left feeling like I'd had a Dodger Dog and a large Coke instead of a five course gourmet meal.

Here's another "garden" looking north from the end of the Palos Verdes peninsula.  I believe that's Rhus integrifolia (Lemonade Berry) in the foreground.  I saw a large Mimulus on the cliffs as well in full late summer dormancy.

Landscape Resource

I just found what looks to be a useful online plant palette design tool associated with a website called Landscape Resource.  It has an obvious URL (http://www.landscaperesource.com/) that I can't actually make an active link since I'm bound by the site's overly broad terms and conditions which state in part,

8.  You may not create a link to this website from another website or document without Landscape Resource's prior written consent.

Maybe I'm the only one who reads those things. I emailed them and had a speedy and friendly reply from Rob Maday who told me that he agreed and that the Terms and Conditions were under review.

The site looks promising enough that you should check it out.  Hopefully, you'll someday soon be able to refer traffic directly to their site.


World's largest and most florific Cal. Poppy

That's one California Poppy (Eschlozia californica maritima) plant overwhelming a downhill rose. I posted on this poppy earlier in May! of this year and it's amazing that it's still producing blooms.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Naked behind a screen in the garden

I stumbled across a good article about Naked Ladies the other day - Amaryllis belladonna, not Playmates.  The author, Joan Bolton, comes from nearby Santa Barbara so her gardening know-how would appear to translate well to Los Angeles.  Browsing her blog I quickly stumbled across some information that I thought would be more immediately useful in a post called Splendid Hedges.  Recall that I just posted how I need to hide a neighbor's front yard with a hedge or screen.

Here's the naked view from my front yard this morning.

My property is slightly higher than the neighbor's and the scrawny roses currently planted along a low wall don't provide enough height to hide the garbage cans and piles of brick in the neighbor's yard.   There's also no amount of planting that I can do where my walkway meets the retaining wall, and that's the area that I'd like to screen the most.  On the one hand, I admire the neighbor for having the balls to buck the wall to wall green grass trend and plant an orchard instead.  On the other hand, I don't want to look at their garbage can storage area.

For purposes of continuity, I briefly considered extending the fantastic (you'll have to imagine the sarcasm in my voice) Eugenia topiary  into hedges or adding more Eugenia as a dedicated hedge, but after about a nanosecond I concluded that I was going to demo the incongruously-placed and uninteresting layer cake topiary. (A highly innovative stacked sphere topiary is visible at left in the above picture.  Imagine many similar but purposeless topiary sentinels, like Easter Island statues.  Ugh.)  So, no Eugenia hedge for me.

I then spent a good long time thinking and reading about native plant hedge solutions, but it turns out that native hedge plants may not be the best solution.  Most hedge plants tend to be taller and broader than I need or want and they don't address the gap where the concrete walkway abuts the retaining wall. But, while I thought I was thinking about hedges,  my mind apparently was spinning up other ideas.

It turns out that there may be a partial hardscape solution: Extending the ornamental fence that already exists on the front side of my property might do the trick, provided I grow low arching shrubs in front or climbing plants on it.  This would definitely be a harmonious solution that would take up the minimum of space.  There may even be standard fence panels that are a bit taller than those I currently have that would give it a bit more screening.  The picture below is a crude mockup of how it might work.

Extending an imaginary line from the top of the large white-flowered rose in that picture says that I would only need to overtop the fence by a foot to two feet to get all the screen that I wanted. 

I haven't had a chance to closely observe it, but I think that the sun exposure in this area of my garden is partial - it's shaded by the Jacaranda street trees in the PM and by the house in the AM. Foggy days are likely too.  This kind of exposure is consistent with the mixed success that the previous owners apparently had with roses in this area. 

To cover the planting gap where the concrete meets the wall I'll want vines or arching growth that I can tie or train to the fence.  This narrows the selection process nicely. This seems to be the short list:

Calystegia macrostegia (Morning Glory Vine). My locally native variety has small white flowers but the Channel Island selection "Anacapa Pink" has large pink veined flowers. Evergreen.
Clematis ligusticifolia (Virgin's Bower or Yerba De Chiva). Winter deciduous.
Lonicera hispidula (California or Pink Honeysuckle) - a vine-like shrub that has relatively sparse growth. Semi-evergreen.
Vitis 'Walker Ridge' (Walker Ridge Wild Grape). Smaller selection. Winter deciduous.

Put one of those on a small fence and I won't feel so naked any more.