Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hedge Plants in South Florida v.II

Hello fellow Gardenerettes and Gardeners...hope all is going well for you in 2014!  It's been pretty terrific here so far. Today is our third day of true "cooler" weather, 71 degrees, yes we consider the 70's cold, lol.  Though it did drop to the 40's the past few nights, yeaaa!  Yesterday and today are heavy with grey skies, lots of rain and uber windy, uck.  Great day to be inside with a hot cup of coffee and let's get to it!
Fort Lauderdale beach cam
One of the most talked about elements in any landscape is a hedge.  Hedges can have all kinds of requirements, heights, functions and looks though most people want a hedge for privacy.  One thing I cannot stress enough to property owners, new gardeners, even experienced it's all about "the right plant in the right place!"  Granted there are certain exotic plants in my personal opinion that I believe should never be sold in Florida (i.e. ficus tree, schefflera tree, rubber tree, Brazilian pepper, carrotwood, bischofia, purple Mexican petunia, etc.) as they are always invasive and very troublesome.  Your neighbors landscape mistakes can end up being your misfortune.  This should be a fortune cookie message, hee hee.

Ok let's talk hedges, in this second hedge post (v.II) I want to spread a little inspiration and lift your spirits to let you know that yes, there are cool affordable and beautiful plants you can use for your hedge.  Whether you are looking for fast growing plants or need some slow growing ones we are going to cover some of them right here.  You can also see additional plants at my first hedge post v.I and my fast growing shrubs v.I and v.II post.  So grab a cup'o'joe or a spot of tea, some snacks, get comfortable and let's get started.

Before we get to the good stuff, let's get the "ficus conversation" outta the way as I believe you should be aware of how troublesome this plant is in South Florida.  As of late the ficus was typically know for it's use as a hedge...though riddle me this for just a moment.  The ficus tree (ficus benjamina and ficus aurea) is a sub-tropical tree which has the genetic disposition to grow 100 feet high in it's natural conditions, right?   Sooooo why pray tell does most of South Florida use it for a hedge?  And yes there are landscapers who are dumb enough to use it, though hopefully they are not your landscapers, lol.  On average, a hedge typically has the dimensions of 2-3 ft thick by 6-12 ft high and you say you are going to try to tame a ficus tree to those coordinates...good luck I say.  That's a battle I would't pick any day, as they require a lot of maintenance for not alot of reward.  I haven't even begun to tell you how invasive their root systems are.  I mean think about it, in order to hold up a 40 ft wide by 80 ft high canopy it's gotta have some serious structural underground roots right?  Hmmmm, I wonder what it does to the foundation of your pool or your house.  "Well," you say, "so what, I'm still going to put that ficus in my yard.  It can't be that hard to stay on top of it."  Well start saving some money now cause you'll need it when the root system starts to break your sewer/water pipes and be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars a year on spiral white-fly pest control (those little buggers are killing trees all over Florida) oh yes don't forget you will need to pay someone to come out twice a year to cut it back since it eventually grew out of your control to 20 ft high.  Oh wow, gosh, you must be thinking by now, Sheri is such a ficus hater. Lol, not a hater my friends but an advocate of the "right plant for the right place."  I say all this only because I want you to be a better informed gardener and to let you know of so many other wonderful plants are out there just waiting to be your hedge.
Beautiful ficus hedge, huh? This is what white-fly's doing
to many plants all over South Florida.
Call PIP pest control, they are here to help!
So enough with the oppressive ficus talk, many of you have written to me about some great suggestions for hedge plants and viburnum is one of them.  There are a few varieties of this Asian native that do well here in South Florida, they are odoratissimum (Awabuki sweet viburnum), suspensum (sandankawa suspensum) and Walter's viburnum.  Which ever evergreen variety you end up choosing they are all excellent performers.  They can grow in a variety of light sources from full sun to under story shade, they are tolerant to different soil types, can withstand periods of drought or lots of rain and are relatively pest free.  Though if you are sensitive to scents, viburnums do have an aroma of what I think of as stinky feet during certain parts of the year.  It seems to be more intense when it's wet outside.  These multi-branched plants grow between 6-20 ft depending on the variety, are moderate to fast growing and can be used as small trees if preferred.  Wildlife are attracted to their small white flowers and small berries for food sources. Either leave them growing in their natural state or trim them for a formal look, both ways are relatively low maintenance.  If like a good deal, viburnums are excellent 'bang for your buck' plants.

From left to right: odoratissimum awabuki, suspensum & Walter's viburnum.

Indian hawthorn, raphiolepis indica & raphiolepis umbellata minor, is originally native to China but has long since been considered a Florida native.  This underrated low border native is born with all kinds of tolerants to salt, wind, light, drought, pests and cold. Indian hawthorn is by nature a low maintenance small shrub, naturally maintaining heights between 3-6 ft high.  It's small flower clusters range from light pink to white then turn to pretty blue berries.  You used to see this moderate growing plant everywhere but seems to have lost some popularity in recent years.  Not sure why since it is a very well priced plant and easy peasy to grow.
Indian hawthorn hedgeinformal shrubs & pink flowers.

My sweet, sweet myrsine, rapanea punctata, is always overlooked at the nursery but not today.  This dense upright growing native will have it's 15 minutes of fame in this post, by golly!  It's growth habit reminds me of a bay rum where its leaves cluster towards the ends of the branches.  Myrsine is adaptable to lots of soil types, can even withstand wet soil and salt.  It is one of few tall shrubs that does well in shaded areas like the wild coffee.  Wildlife appreciates its small white flowers and berries that grow right on the older branch trunks.  This is a very underrated modest plant that will sure to perform till the day is long.  Though are priced a few dollars higher because it can be a challenge to find these simple but stately beauties.
Myrsine hedge, a solitary myrsine shrub &
a close up of the inconspicuous flowers.

Maidenbush, savia bahamensis, is another wonderfully dense upright growing medium size shrub.  This coastal native loves the salt spray as any beach-goer does.  Though the maidenbush really only gets to be around 6 ft high though will fill out nicely; great for a wind screen.  It can grow in full sun or part shade, it's drought hardy, an evergreen and likes sandy soils but not a fan of acidic soils.  Maidenbush is a plant that should be used much more than it is especially since it's natural habitats are rapidly being removed by building developers.  If you are lucky enough to find this bush at a nursery, I suggest you purchase at least one plant for a beautiful specimen in your garden.  They can be a few dollars more than average but well worth the purchase!  The maidenbush is a must-have for 2014.
Maidenbush at Plant Creations, an incredibly awesome nursery
 in Homestead, FL.

Wax myrtle, myrica cerifera, is another outstanding Florida native bush you can use for a hedge.  This multi-trunked evergreen shrub averages at 6-12 ft high but can grow as high as 20 ft.  It kind of reminds me of an olive tree with elongated leaves but tolerates the sun, salt, wind and drought.  It has large clusters of tiny whiteish-bluish-grey berries all over the branches which birds love.  Though bet you didn't know that candles were made from the waxy berries during Colonial times.  Wax myrtles are tough, durable, fairly fast growing and very easy on the pocket.  Truly a great hedge plant of all times!
Wax myrtle hedge, berries and stand along shrub.

Eugenia, eugenia myrtifolia, may be dainty at first glance but do not underestimate the hedge power it possesses.  This bright green with red blushing shrub can be manicured as a nice tight formal hedge (or topiary) or just let it grow naturally with it's beautifully full fluffy foliage.  Even though it's leaves are small, the eugenia grows very dense and quite fast.  It's an easy plant to maintain since it max's out at about 15-20 ft high.  There's not alot of information out there on the myrtifolia, I guess because it's so easy to grow and it adapts really well to a variety of light, water and soil requirements.  Though do not get this eugenia confused with it's cousins the Surinam cherry, eugenia uniflora, or the Stopper family of eugenia's, though they too make great hedge plants with similar growth habits.  Eugenia myrtifolia is a very affordable, easy to grow, full sun loving shrub.
Natural eugenia hedge, trimmed curvy hedge & solitary plants.

Marlberry is another wonderful shrub that can be grown in a variety of light and water requirements, from full sun to deep shade; from dry ground to moist soil.  Does well in our salty air and tolerates periods of high windy days.  Though it does grow new shoots from the base of the plant (called suckering) which helps the marlberry grow in width and density for the ultimate privacy hedge.  These shrubs withstand trimming very well but look just as nice with their natural columnar growth habit, maxing out at about 20 ft high.  The pinkish-white flower clusters smell uber sweet to attract pollinators and the berries are loved by the birds.  For a Florida native, the marlberry is priced very reasonably since it is an excellent performer in South Florida.
Marlberry flowers, tall shrub & berries.
Well that is it folks for the second version of hedges in South Florida.  Hope you found some interesting information to help you along your landscape pathway. 
With many thanks y'all...Happy Gardening and Best Wishes,

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