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GardenSMART Episode

Show #28/5702. Hedges

Summary of Show

Background Brent Markus
Eric tells us about BRENT MARKUS the guest host of this Episode. Brent studied landscape architecture at Cornell University, then received a master's degree in horticulture, also from Cornell. While studying and researching plan hardiness at Cornell Brent's passion expanded from landscape design to plant propagation and the nursery industry.
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Why Hedges
Hedges as a category are omnipresent. Most people don't love all their neighbors so they want a plant to hedge to CREATE PRIVACY in their landscape. Thus hedges are used throughout the United States which makes them one of the largest crops nationally.
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Why Oregon
You're located in Oregon, what brought you to this state? Oregon has a really mild climate and the growing season is much longer than in most other areas of the United States. The longer growing season means they can grow plants more quickly and then ship them throughout the U.S. Also since it's a mild climate that means they can produce plants in containers year-round, above ground without protection.
For More Information Click here

Two Categories Of Hedges
When thinking about hedges, we typically put them into TWO BROAD CATEGORIES. One being a privacy screen or maybe even building a wall in a garden. We also think about hedges in terms of formal gardening - typically shorter hedges that would be used for a knot garden or border garden, an herb garden or to just border a path, designed to be more of an edging type hedge.
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Boxwood
Eric points out an iconic example of BOXWOOD. It is a very ubiquitous plant, one that is used all over the U.S. especially in more formal gardens. Boxwood is popular because it is easy to care for and grows almost anywhere in the United States. Not only will it grow almost anywhere, but it'll grow in full sun, it will grow in part shade, it'll even grow in deep shade. And best of all, deer don't like it. It's also a plant that that lives a long time.
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Demonstration Of Conventional Hedge
Brent has put together a plant demonstration of what might be the start of a more CONVENTIONAL HEDGE. These are conventional boxwoods. If one went to the garden center they would most likely be purchasing a one gallon plant. Brent shows us a plant that is a great example. It has really vigorous growth and nice color, then a real nice fibrous root system. One can readily see all the nice white roots.
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Pre-Grown Hedge
But there's another option. And, it's impressive. Brent has these plants already grown together. The root mass is shared between a number of different plants. They're pre spaced and pre pruned, starting at a young age to really take the guesswork out of planting and growing hedges. One thing that is very important to remember is that a lot of the early prunings that occur on a plant - especially something, where we're trying to build density and form - the early prunings are the most important. So in order to maintain or to even achieve this kind of density in the center of the bush, it's going to take many, many prunings.
For More Information Click here

Certain Plants Better For Hedges
Nearly any tree or shrub can be made into a hedge if we're tenacious enough, and we're willing to put the work into it. But there are clearly CERTAIN PLANTS that take better to this type of more intensive pruning. Eric asks Brent - if I were looking for an evergreen hedge, what would be some of the varieties that you would think would be best for that application?
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European Beech And American Beech
Eric loves these deciduous hedges. They remind him so much of Europe, so many of the fences that exist over there are in fact EUROPEAN BEECH, it's what people use extensively in gardening. They use them on arbors, use them on walls and, and it nostalgically takes him back to some of the most beautiful European gardens he's seen. European beech has been used as a hedge in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Belgium for over 200 years.
For More Information Click here

Maple As A Hedge
Eric notices Brent has a MAPLE that they've turned into a hedge. That is probably a little out of the ordinary, not something that we would see everywhere, but it's also got this very elegant look. Woody ornamentals and trees turned into hedges, there's something very elegant about that. That is very true. Brent shows us a Flame Amur Maple. The variety is named Flame because of it's brilliant red fall color. It's quite a fast growing tree and is also hardy to zone three.
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Unusual Plants As A Hedge
Eric is sure that Brent has played around with a bunch of different plants to see what might work for a hedge. What are some of the more UNUSUAL plants? Eric is correct, they have. Number one, they're looking at density and also looking at how low branching they are. One doesn't want their hedge to be like a deciduous tree, which is skeletal at the base. So it has to be a plant that can tolerate being pruned every year, in some cases two times a year, and it has to be solid from top to bottom.
For More Information Click here

Laurels As A Hedge
Speaking of density and leaves, Brent has also grown a number of varieties of LAURELS. One happens to be a Portuguese Laurel. It is a really nice evergreen, gets red accents on the leaves.
For More Information Click here

Behind The Scenes Of A Pre-Formed Hedge
There's so much BEHIND THE SCENES that goes on to produce a finished product that oftentimes people aren't aware of, a great example is the hedges that are grown together. Not many people get to tour commercial nurseries and see what's actually happening. Brent tells us more about the hedges that are grown together. These are actually field grown plants and a lot of the plants Brent's working with are field grown. Eric would like for Brent to talk us through the process starting with planting the liners out in the field. How do you prune them? How do you harvest them? How do we end up having that nice little hedge end up in the box? There's an incredible process that goes along with harvesting a preformed hedge. It starts with planting a small rooted cutting out into the field and then going back and using very specialized tractors with GPS controlled implements.
For More Information Click here

Hicks Yew As A Pre-Formed Hedge
Brent next shows us a HICKS YEW that's been grown together. It's a beautiful variety for deep shade, but it can also tolerate partial shade or full sun. Best of all, you plant it right in the box, You just dig a trench then backfill around it. The box biodegrades and the roots grow right through it. So let's compare that to growing a conventional hedge. As you can see, the plants aren't as thick, they haven't been pruned. But if one were planting a hedge with these, in this case, these five gallon containers, this would be roughly the spacing, several feet apart, that one would use.
For More Information Click here

Maintenance
Our hedgerow, once established, is going to be pretty MAINTENANCE free and that's something really wonderful about these types of plantings. But there are a few things we should keep in mind just from a care and maintenance standpoint to keep these guys happy year round. What would Brent's tips be? The most important thing for getting them established is water. One needs to water any plant in the landscape consistently until its roots are incorporated into the native soil. Even through periods of drought, the best way to water and most efficient way would be a drip tube. Here we have a drip tube with emitter spacing every 12 inches.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Show #28/5702. Hedges

Transcript of Show

In this Episode GardenSMART visits a tree farm that is redefining the way we think about hedges. From privacy fences to formal features to ready-made, we look at hedges as we GardenSMART in Oregon.

Eric tells us about BRENT MARKUS the guest host of this Episode. Brent studied landscape architecture at Cornell University, then received a master's degree in horticulture, also from Cornell. While studying and researching plan hardiness at Cornell Brent's passion expanded from landscape design to plant propagation and the nursery industry. In 2007 Brent opened his first tree nursery, Rare Tree Nursery in Oregon, where he specializes in growing and distributing unique ornamental conifers and maples to garden centers and landscapers throughout the United States.

Eric welcomes Brent back to the show. It's great to see you. In the world of production horticulture, we see a lot of the innovation happening along the lines of new introductions, new cultivars, not so much in the way that plants are actually produced on a large scale. In many cases, most nurseries are using the same containers that were used, 20, 30 years ago. And Eric thinks what Brent's done here is truly innovative and a really cool concept. You're doing hedges. What gave you that idea, what was your inspiration?

Hedges as a category are omnipresent. Most people don't love all their neighbors so they want a plant to hedge to CREATE PRIVACY in their landscape. Thus hedges are used throughout the United States which makes them one of the largest crops nationally. In 2012, Brent took a trip to the Netherlands and saw an eyeopening nursery, a nursery called Quick Hedge. When he came back state side he dreamt about hedges. All he could think about was how that small operation was producing miles and miles of gorgeous finished hedges and wanted to start that in the U.S.

It's a great idea. You're located in Oregon, what brought you to this state? Oregon has a really mild climate and the growing season is much longer than in most other areas of the United States. The longer growing season means they can grow plants more quickly and then ship them throughout the U.S. Also since it's a mild climate that means they can produce plants in containers year-round, above ground without protection. Which means they can grow these plants outside without needing a greenhouse surrounding them.

And, that's really important because the roots are above ground in the container which means they're not protected by the soil the way that an in-ground plant would be. Otherwise it would require acres and acres of greenhouses to protect all them. They grow a lot of their plant material in containers, especially when they're young. But then about three quarters of the plants end up growing in the field while the smaller format plants stay in containers. Eric finds it a fascinating concept and can't wait to take a look.

When thinking about hedges, we typically put them into TWO BROAD CATEGORIES. One being a privacy screen or maybe even building a wall in a garden. We also think about hedges in terms of formal gardening - typically shorter hedges that would be used for a knot garden or border garden, an herb garden or to just border a path, designed to be more of an edging type hedge. For years hedges have been incredibly popular to use as edging or to surround vegetable gardens, to create a formal knot garden or just simply as a border planting, whether they're along a sidewalk or a driveway.

Eric points out an iconic example of BOXWOOD. It is a very ubiquitous plant, one that is used all over the U.S. especially in more formal gardens. Boxwood is popular because it is easy to care for and grows almost anywhere in the United States. Not only will it grow almost anywhere, but it'll grow in full sun, it will grow in part shade, it'll even grow in deep shade. And best of all, deer don't like it. It's also a plant that that lives a long time. We oftentimes don't realize but there are boxwoods that are a hundred years old, even more. So it's also a very durable plant. It's long lived and also it's incredibly malleable. You can prune it and maintain it at whatever size or height you'd like. You can grow plants together to create hedges, or you can grow them individually as geometric accents.

Brent has put together a plant demonstration of what might be the start of a more CONVENTIONAL HEDGE. These are conventional boxwoods. If one went to the garden center they would most likely be purchasing a one gallon plant. Brent shows us a plant that is a great example. It has really vigorous growth and nice color, then a real nice fibrous root system. One can readily see all the nice white roots. One could plant these individually and shape them however they would like. But when you're using them as a hedge, you're typically going to plant them so that the branching is going to touch and appear to be one solid plant within two to three years. One must be mindful of that spacing and also the ultimate width you're interested in. So you would plant them at roughly the noted spacing, digging individual holes and irrigating them.

But there's another option. And, it's impressive. Brent has these plants already grown together. The root mass is shared between a number of different plants. They're pre spaced and pre pruned, starting at a young age to really take the guesswork out of planting and growing hedges. One thing that is very important to remember is that a lot of the early prunings that occur on a plant - especially something, where we're trying to build density and form - the early prunings are the most important. So in order to maintain or to even achieve this kind of density in the center of the bush, it's going to take many, many prunings. Once that's established at a young age it makes the maintenance downstream a lot easier. Brent's team prunes them to encourage that lower branching and to encourage density. Then once they have the low branches formed and the density beginning, they can allow the plant to grow taller, thicker and wider. The point at which that's established, every successive years it's easier and easier to keep it in shape. This is kind of a one and done situation where you can plant it and then with a single annual pruning, keep it at whatever height, width and density that you're interested in.

Nearly any tree or shrub can be made into a hedge if we're tenacious enough, and we're willing to put the work into it. But there are clearly CERTAIN PLANTS that take better to this type of more intensive pruning. Eric asks Brent - if I were looking for an evergreen hedge, what would be some of the varieties that you would think would be best for that application? What they're finding is that the most popular evergreen hedges are different types of arborvitae. If we're looking at a broadleaf evergreen, there are a lot of gorgeous laurels. If you have really low light, consider using a Hicks Yew.

Eric loves these deciduous hedges. They remind him so much of Europe, so many of the fences that exist over there are in fact EUROPEAN BEECH, it's what people use extensively in gardening. They use them on arbors, use them on walls and, and it nostalgically takes him back to some of the most beautiful European gardens he's seen. European beech has been used as a hedge in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Belgium for over 200 years. Brent has visited hedges in Europe that have been in the exact same footprint and been pruned for more than 200 years. It's really amazing that a plant can be trained and have that longevity. European Beech has some unbelievable characteristics. You have a nice fall color of yellow and then the leaves turn Brown, just like any deciduous plant. Where they are different than most other deciduous plants is their leaves are actually held on until the next spring when the new leaves are pushed out. One might say, "Oh, that kind of looks odd." but it really doesn't. It's gorgeous. And there's a reason why European beech is specified by so many landscape architects and landscape designers in the U.S. now and that's because it's just so beautiful.

The American Beech also holds it's leaves the same way. In the winter, if you're walking through the woods you can spot the American beech because its leaves are in place, a beautiful copper like kind of look, something you can spot from a hundred yards away. It actually is quite attractive. That combined with the really nice smooth gray bark of all beeches, American or European, and you just have gorgeous four season interest. They're great plants.

Eric notices Brent has a MAPLE that they've turned into a hedge. That is probably a little out of the ordinary, not something that we would see everywhere, but it's also got this very elegant look. Woody ornamentals and trees turned into hedges, there's something very elegant about that. That is very true. Brent shows us a Flame Amur Maple. The variety is named Flame because of it's brilliant red fall color. It's quite a fast growing tree and is also hardy to zone three. They have shipped these into Northern Minnesota where a lot of other varieties that are deciduous might not thrive, this will. Another unique deciduous variety that they're growing is a Cornelian Cherry. It has nice four season interest, a beautiful flower set and then fruiting. Really nice red fruits followed by beautiful orange to yellow fall color.

Eric has also noticed a Pyracantha made into a hedge. Pyracantha has been really popular, the hedge just becomes covered in these beautiful white flowers literally from head to toe. And when those flowers are spent, what remains are beautiful orange berries.

Eric is sure that Brent has played around with a bunch of different plants to see what might work for a hedge. What are some of the more UNUSUAL plants? Eric is correct, they have. Number one, they're looking at density and also looking at how low branching they are. One doesn't want their hedge to be like a deciduous tree, which is skeletal at the base. So it has to be a plant that can tolerate being pruned every year, in some cases two times a year, and it has to be solid from top to bottom. They've been looking at different types of arborvitae. Brent shows us a Green Giant arborvitae. It can tolerate full sun, but it can also tolerate pretty intense shade. It's a fast grower that's really nice in a multitude of conditions. If you need something that's a little bit hardier and slower growing the Emerald Green arborvitae is incredibly popular, hardy to zone three and very slow and tight growing, but does require full sun.

The next is a Virescens Cedar which is much more narrow. If you have a more narrow footprint, this is a really good option for you. In terms of a small hedge, there is a newer variety on the market called Little Simon and Little Simon is essentially a dwarf form of an Emerald Green. So rather than being around six feet tall in seven to eight years, this is only going to be about two feet tall. It provides the hardiness and the density, but allows one to maintain a much smaller hedge. Is this being used in a lot of the same applications that we discussed with regards to boxwood? Absolutely. They're growing it as almost a boxwood substitute. One could use it on a patio or a restaurant might use it in raised planters to provide a little bit of privacy between diners. And because of its hardiness one can use it on a roof deck or really in a container year-round in most areas of the United States. Wow, that's great.

One thing Eric sees in common with all of these plants is that they're more fine textured. Even the European Beech when pruned is going to put out a lot of shoots behind where it was pruned. And that's what allows it to achieve that density, as compared with some trees that end up being much more coarse, meaning it's going to be harder to achieve that kind of density.

Speaking of density and leaves, Brent has also grown a number of varieties of LAURELS. One happens to be a Portuguese Laurel. It is a really nice evergreen, gets red accents on the leaves. But they also grow a skip laurel and an English laurel, both of which have been incredibly popular throughout the Pacific Northwest. They ship more skip and English laurel to California, Oregon and Washington than anywhere else in the United States.

Well this is a great portfolio of plants. Eric can see for the gardener there's something for pretty much any application. Wherever you want to hedge, be it tall or small, you've got the solution. Brent's most popular requests are for privacy hedges, anything from five to six feet tall. Once it's planted you have instant privacy. But hedges are of course used for design. There are a lot of hedges ideal for lower heights, like the boxwood and the Little Simon, but also some medium size at three feet to create garden rooms and to create visual barriers in the landscape.

There's so much BEHIND THE SCENES that goes on to produce a finished product that oftentimes people aren't aware of, a great example is the hedges that are grown together. Not many people get to tour commercial nurseries and see what's actually happening. Brent tells us more about the hedges that are grown together. These are actually field grown plants and a lot of the plants Brent's working with are field grown. Eric would like for Brent to talk us through the process starting with planting the liners out in the field. How do you prune them? How do you harvest them? How do we end up having that nice little hedge end up in the box? There's an incredible process that goes along with harvesting a preformed hedge. It starts with planting a small rooted cutting out into the field and then going back and using very specialized tractors with GPS controlled implements. They're actually going through root pruning this plant four times prior to being harvested. And they above ground prune it one or two times per year, both the top and the sides, then ultimately separating them into 40 inch blocks while in the field. Essentially at the end of that four, five or six year time period in the field, they've created a root system that they know exactly where it is because they've been pruning it for the previous four years as an above ground plant that's a solid hedge. Then with the harvester, they're essentially just lifting it out of the ground as easily as almost picking up a piece of meat with a fork. Root pruning is so important and that's why Eric loves field grown plants. We think about a plant that's in a container, what's going to happen when the roots hit the sidewalls. They're just going to start growing in a circle and on some plants, especially as we start looking at larger trees and shrubs, that can be very problematic from a standpoint of the health of the plant. Also, with a plant that is grown in soil and has been root pruned multiple times, you've got all those nice fibrous roots on the outside of the package if you will. And because it's soil on soil, the integration is going to happen much faster. So when you plant one of these, they should really be off to the races. Exactly. With that root pruning, they're essentially geo locating the entire root mass from the day that it's planted. And so a year after it's planted, they're root pruning, they start with a plant in the ground that's smaller, they go through with a U shaped blade and prune to that smaller size. Second year, larger, third year even larger. In the fourth year, the final harvest size. What that allows them to do is slowly expand the root system. And every place they've cut the roots on an annual basis, they're producing an incredibly fibrous root mass. So when they transplant the final plant, then a customer plants this, it's as if the plant has no transplant shock, no stress. And they're able to deliver it with more than 90% of its root system. What we don't see under the soil is not unlike when one were to cut a tip at the top of the plant. It's going to cause other adventitious buds underneath to break out. One ends up with four or five little breaks under this cut. Root systems behave the same way. So when you clip the end of a root system, the same way as the top it ends up getting bushy, so do the roots. That means there's so much more surface area to take up water and nutrients, it's going to make a plant that's significantly more hardy.

Brent next shows us a HICKS YEW that's been grown together. It's a beautiful variety for deep shade, but it can also tolerate partial shade or full sun. Best of all, you plant it right in the box, You just dig a trench then backfill around it. The box biodegrades and the roots grow right through it. So let's compare that to growing a conventional hedge. As you can see, the plants aren't as thick, they haven't been pruned. But if one were planting a hedge with these, in this case, these five gallon containers, this would be roughly the spacing, several feet apart, that one would use. Then we would need to allow three, four, maybe even five years for these to start to fill in. The plants grown together make it effective and beautiful from day one. And, Eric loves the idea of the biodegradable container. Every year when he buys his annuals, he ends up with all of this stuff that then has to be either recycled or maybe it can't be. In this case, 100% of the packaging material ends up just becoming compost for the plant. Correct, they use a grade of cardboard with no added chemicals, no added gluing agents, so it beautifully decomposes in the soil within about 60 days.

Our hedgerow, once established, is going to be pretty MAINTENANCE free and that's something really wonderful about these types of plantings. But there are a few things we should keep in mind just from a care and maintenance standpoint to keep these guys happy year round. What would Brent's tips be? The most important thing for getting them established is water. One needs to water any plant in the landscape consistently until its roots are incorporated into the native soil. Even through periods of drought, the best way to water and most efficient way would be a drip tube. Here we have a drip tube with emitter spacing every 12 inches. The spacing's important because you want to make sure that you're getting enough water under each one of the plants. With a tightly spaced hedge, you really need 12 inch spacing between the emitters. Brent shows Eric how it's done. Stretch the hose out over the top of the hedges. Regardless of if you're using an InstantHedge, a pot, or a conventional hedge, you just want to bring the drip tube over the base of the plants. Make sure that the drip emitter is interacting with the plant's root system. It's important when you're doing that to stake the drip hose down so that it doesn't move. It's simple as that. It obviously needs to be connected to a water source and preferably a timer. And a nice micronutrient package would be great. What Eric uses on all of his shrubs and trees is like a 16-4-8 product with a good shot of calcium, magnesium and then other micronutrients. It's an easy, prilled slow-release product, put it out a couple of times a year, spring, late summer and it just keeps them vibrant. Importantly a healthy plant is a happy plant and the healthier the plant is, the better they do at resisting disease and insect pressure.

It's always exciting to see what's new and innovative in the world of gardening. Today we visited a farm that is pushing the boundaries of the way we use hedges in the garden. Eric thanks Brent for spending time with us. We've had a wonderful day and learned a lot. Thank you Brent for sharing this incredible innovation and thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. Brent in turn thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting.

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Stephanie Pratt, Instant Hedge, Photographs courtesy of Instant Hedge

When fall hits, we often find ourselves in a frenzied state of cleaning up our gardens. However, fall is really one of the best times to plant trees and shrubs, and it's the ideal time to install a new hedge! Here are a few reasons why: Read more....


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