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The Garden Fanatic -- Steve Kawaratani

“Love your neighbor, yet pull not down your hedge.”

-- English Proverb.

“Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to, it’s an

absolute prerequisite.”


-- Marlon Brando

Surrounded on three sides by neighbors, our backyard wouldn’t be

nearly as wonderful without the seclusion afforded by hedges and trees.

Catharine and I have increased our property’s privacy with hedges, while


still mindful of our neighbor’s view.

A hedge is a line of shrubs or trees used to define the limits of a

given area. Used in the garden, these plants may be employed as an

edging, background, windbreak, barrier or enclosure.

A clipped or informal hedge is used in the same manner as a masonry

wall or wooden fence and is generally less expensive. As an element in

landscape design, hedges serve as a protection and screen from peeping

eyes and provide a feeling of privacy. In baser terms, a hedge may be


used to blot out your neighbor’s ugly rooftop and trash-strewn backyard.

Well-sheared, perfect hedges can only be made from plants that will

tolerate regular clipping. Less formal hedges can be made of plants that

resent the constant clipping endured by privet and boxwood. I have found

that most shrubs, left to their own devices, will grow into some form of


Buxus microphylla japonica (Japanese Boxwood) is a popular hedging

plant in Laguna. The compact, bright green foliage is well suited to


trimming and will eventually grow to a height of four to six feet. It is

most commonly grown as a low to medium hedge and trimmed into myriad

forms of topiary.

A native of Arizona, Dodonaea viscosa “Purpurea” (Purple Hopseed Bush)

can be pruned as a hedge or left unpruned to become an informal screen.

It will tolerate ocean wind and poor soil, and it is quite drought

tolerant. Its rich bronze-green color makes a compact hedge of six to

eight feet or more.

The most commonly used hedge in Laguna is Ligustrum japonicum

“Texanum” (Japanese Privet). Easily grown in almost any soil, it will

attain a height of four to nine feet. The glossy green leaves are

attractive, while the showy flowers may attract too many bees for some


Murraya exotica (Orange Jessamine) makes a fine hedge in filtered

sunlight. Light green, glossy leaves form an upright and compact plant to

about six feet. The white flowers have a jasmine fragrance.

The versatile Podocarpus gracilior (Fern Pine) is useful as a big

shrub, street tree, espalier and hedge in sun or partial shade. It grows

easily in most gardens and can be grown from six to 20 feet high.

Oh, summer in Laguna ... perfect weather, no parking spaces and

fireworks at Main Beach. The backyard spa is fired up, and Catharine and

I are ready to soak away our day. Hedges really are an absolute

prerequisite for privacy.

See you next time.

* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery, 1540

S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist Catharine

Cooper and has three cats. He can be reached at (949)497 2438 or by

e-mail at o7 plantm@lagunanursery.comf7 .