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This is the first article within the designated ‘rant’ format, that will continue each Wednesday. Articles for the other six days of the week will be more cheerful, or at least less objectionable. These articles may not always be rants, so might alternatively include discussions of particular fad, trends, gimmicks and so on. Perhaps some topics will remain just that; discussions in which the advantages and disadvantages of a particular subject are compared. Categories may develop, so besides ‘Horriduclture’, there could be a category for discussions of fads, for example. This is a new format for me, so I will keep it open to modification, and see how it goes.

Fat hedges are one of my serious peeves!

Hedges done properly are very useful landscape features, that provide privacy, obscure undesirable views, muffle outside sound or simply divide a large garden space into smaller garden rooms. Landscape designers know how to use them, and are good at planning their locations and orientations, as well as designating the plant material to be used for particular hedges. Some informal hedges or screens are outside of useful space, where they have plenty of room to grow plump and wild without becoming obtrusive. Formal hedges are those that require shearing for confinement within limited space.

Fat hedges are those that are designed to be contained, typically by formal shearing, but are instead allowed to encroach into the usable space within the landscape that they are designed to enclose. They can be a serious problem in confined garden space, and sometimes occupy most of the space themselves.

Seriously, they are very often several feet deep (from front to rear). Fat hedges on either side of a small garden room that is only about twelve feet wide can easily occupy more than half of the area. Think about it. If each hedge is just three feet deep, and there are two hedges, that means that six feet of the width of the twelve foot wide space is occupied by fat hedge! That is half of the area available! Some fat hedges are even deeper! A fat hedge does nothing more than a properly maintained hedge. Really, a three foot hedge accomplishes no more than the same sort of hedge that is only one foot deep. The interior is only bare twigs.

Fat hedges are mostly the result of inept gardeners who allow the hedges to gain a bit more width with each shearing, without ever renovating overgrown hedges. To make matters worse, they allow the tops of the hedges to get wider, which shades out lower foliage, which becomes sparse. Then the fat hedge becomes a top heavy hedge, leaning into usable space where it should be leaning slightly away. Ends of top heavy hedges often protrude a bit more than the sides of the hedges. If these hedges flank a driveway or walkway that is perpendicular to the sidewalk or a patio, the distended end is particularly obnoxious.

In the picture above, the low hedge seems to be well maintained. If it is a fat hedge, it is in a situation where it is not really crowding much. However, notice the width of the sidewalk. It is quite broad. Then there is a significant constriction where the hedge protrudes over the sidewalk. What is the point of so much concrete and such a wide sidewalk if almost a quarter of the width of it is overwhelmed by vegetation? It is like four lanes of freeway that merge into three, only to merge back into four.

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18 thoughts on “Horridculture – Fat Hedges

  1. Great post Tony. I share your frustration with fat hedges.
    Vancouver is home of the fat hedge. Not only do they block sidewalks, but during the one or two big snows a year, the fat, wide tops collect the wet snow which splits the hedge.

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    1. That sounds almost comical. It reminds me of the scene in the remake of ‘the Shining’ in which the snow is being knocked off of the topiaries in the landscape so that they do not get damaged.

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  2. I am guilty of a firethorn fat hedge but am determined to tackle it soon. The problem is birds are nesting in it, then you don’t want to lose the flowers, nor the berries. This year I will lose the berries. Or so I say but then have a look at the thorns and shudder. 😉

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    1. Well, at least you have excuses. I avoid pruning camellias because their bloom season drags out in our mild climate, and pruning somehow sets them back. I do not mind fat hedges in gardens maintained by those who live in the home nearly as much as I loathe those that are maintained by gardeners who get paid to maintain them properly. Gardeners are supposed to know how to do it properly, even if they must know how to plan around bloom and berries. They just do not care.

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  3. Great post. I think the bottom-line problem is that people plant too near to pathways, buildings or walls. Then as the plant grows, the clippers are working like mad. It’s a function of ignorance of the size of a mature plant and lack of imagination of the planter. I’ve been guilty of both botanical sins. 🙂

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    1. Although that does happen frequently, the more common problem in landscapes that are supposed to be maintained by maintenance ‘gardeners’ is that the hedges just do not get cut back enough. ‘Gardeners’ are supposed to know how to do it properly. If a hedge gets overgrown, they should know how to renovate it. There is no excuse for the hedge hanging over the sidewalk in the picture. Even if the hedge is difficult to shear, someone needs to simply cut off that protruding edge!

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  4. Oh, these are the bane of my existence. We have neighbors on both sides who have not properly tended their hedges and so they start to shade out and crowd out parts of our yard. We wind up having to spend OUR time trimming THEIR hedges!! In some cases these things actually become a hazard. There are too many corners where hedges were planted and not maintained where it is difficult to see cross traffic at intersections. I understand that people want to shield their homes from traffic noise, but I would also like to not get myself or my family killed!! So there’s my rant on your rant!! 🙂

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      1. Many, sadly not all! We actually have street corners along busy intersections obscured. Most of them are in unincorporated “county islands”, sections of town where it is in the county but not technically in the city limits, even though it is surrounded by the city.

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      2. You would think that those who live there would extend the courtesy of doing the right thing, even without the lawns. (That is why stupid laws are necessary!)

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  5. Photinia “hedges” are the worst, I think. When I moved into my house the “hedge” had grown into a tree. It took a good 8′ away from the yard it so big and wide. At least on the outside, the inside was rather hollow and dead. I had my son cut it down, and now the herb garden area gets a lot more sun. Hedges of any kinds are not my thing.

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    1. We have photinia hedges at work that are too far gone to salvage. Some could be cut down and allowed to regenerate, but photinia is so unreliable. Many of those that get cut down do not regenerate. For one such hedge, I remove dead shrubs, and cut the remaining shrubs as small trees that are now up and over the walkways that they once encroached into. This only works where small trees are an advantage. If they were not an asset to the landscape, I would have merely removed them.

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