With the rapid decline in the size of urban gardens, plants that will perform well in small spaces are becoming preferred. All garden styles are becoming downsized and required to give the full impact of a larger garden but in a greatly reduced area.
Ground space in small gardens is a luxury therefore plants with narrow growth habits are keenly sought after. Typically in order to achieve height, plants also need width, especially at the base, therefore taller plants tend to be the first to be eliminated from small gardens. This can include hedges which can be seen as requiring too much space and therefore a luxury in a small garden. When it comes to hedges in small spaces, luckily there are some very good options for narrow growing plants.
Not all hedges are suited to narrow spaces. Many hedge plants will be sparse or even bare if trimmed too narrow – regardless of their height.
For narrow hedges with height pencil pines are often used. While dramatic they do not suit all garden styles and there are many areas of Australia where they are unsuitable and perform poorly. Narrow hedge alternatives include Slim™ Callistemon viminalis ‘CV01’ PBR and Pinnacle™ Syzygium australe ‘AATS’ PBR. Both plants have been selectively bred for their very narrow growth habits.
Pinnacle™ (pictured above) is a lily pily and will give the look of a classic lily pily hedge, with a distinct advantage – narrow shape. Pinnacle™ has a mature height of 6- 10m, but can be pruned down to 2m. It can achieve this height in a space of 1 – 1.5m. Most lily pilies or any other small tree or large shrub will require 2 – 4 m of ground space to be stable and attractive to this height. Pinnacle™ will retain leaves to ground level making it ideal as a narrow hedge. It can also be easily pruned into conical shapes reminiscent of pencil pines if desired for climates where conifers are not suited. Its naturally narrow habit means it will require significantly less maintenance in order to retain its narrow shape than many other hedges would.
Callistemons also make wonderful hedges and the narrow habit of Slim™ (pictured above) makes it an ideal hedge choice for narrow spaces or small gardens. Slim™ will grow to 3m tall with a spread of 1.3m, and can even be pruned to a minimum width of just 60cm. Being a callistemon it is a very hardy plant suitable for most areas of Australia and most soil types. It also has the wonderful bonus of masses of vibrant red bird attracting flowers in spring and summer. Slim™ is ideal, not just as a hedge but also as a feature shrub for attracting wildlife to small urban gardens.
Other callistemons can also be highly effective hedges in small gardens, such as Green John™ Callistemon viminalis ‘LJ23’ PBR. This low growing Callistemon will reach approximately 1m tall but be only 60cm wide.
In small gardens, hedges that flower can provide a dual function of privacy screening and adding seasonal flowering interest to the garden. Where space is of a premium, having any plant form a dual role in the landscape design is highly valuable. You will find more information on flowering hedges here.
For a vibrant splash of colour, Lemon Twist™ Metrosideros excelsa ‘LEMON TWIST’ PBR makes a great feature as a hedge or statement shrub. Growing to 1.5m tall by 1m wide, it can be used to add exciting foliage colour to small (or large) spaces and gives a far more manageable and attractive alternative to the once popular “Sheena’s Gold”.
Other foliage effects with hedges in small gardens can be achieved using various nandinas or Little Ruby™ Alternanthera dentata ‘LRU30’ PBR as parterre or low growing hedges. Little Ruby™ requires significantly less maintenance that the common form and does not set seed as regularly so does not have the same weed potential. They can be used to add colour in front of a taller dense green hedge or be used to enclose garden beds and give a sense of formality to a small space. Blush™ Nandina domestica ‘AKA’ PBR used as an informal hedge will give a sense of seasonal colour change, and has the added bonus of red new growth in the warmers months, it can also add an oriental theme to a small garden. Neon Pink™ Iresine herbstii ‘HERBIE53’ PBR is another plant to add exciting coloured foliage to a small hedge or for use in small spaces. Growing to only 40cm, this plant has much smaller leaves and a far denser growth habit than the common species form. The intense colour and small leafed form of Neon Pink™ can be very dramatic in small garden spaces. These three coloured foliage plants can also be used as clipped formal accent plants.
Traditional box hedges can add a formal element to small gardens. Being compact and low growing, they work very well in small spaces. Ozbreed Aussie Box® Westringia ‘WES02’ PBR makes an ideal and very hardy alternative to exotic box hedges and has a far greater climate range in Australia. Its dwarf form and compact nature make it ideal for hedges in small gardens. Another great Westringia for small gardens is Grey Box™ Westringia fruticosa ‘WES04’ PBR. It is another dwarf compact form and has a natural ball shape. Growing to approximately 40cm high and wide, it is ideal not just for low hedges but also for creating formal ball shapes in small gardens.
Small gardens still have great options for plants which give great impact in less space. Hedges can be very rewarding in these small gardens to hide brick walls, reduce noise and add privacy. Happily with good plant selection wonderful and rewarding hedges can be created in small spaces. Look out for the above mentioned plants or look for plants which grow to your desired height but need less than one metre of ground space.