There are really very few hard and fast rules about gardening. Take hedges, for example: people think of them and perhaps privet comes to mind, or hawthorn, or beech or..... well, you get the idea. One of the most effective hedges I've come across was in a council house garden in Manchester. Instead of consisting of just green privet (like the rest in the street ) it was a mixture of golden privet and beech. This had the effect of creating a contrast between the yellow of the privet and the green of the beech in summer. In winter the beech leaves die but remain on the plant, giving a new contrast of yellow against a warm brown, so that there is a year-round colour interest combined with privacy. This sort of effect can be copied by planting variegated plants and different coloured conifers. The only thing to beware of is that the chosen plants have similar growth rates, avoiding the creation of something that looks like the North Sea on a bad day.
|Yew and variegated holly (click to enlarge)|
|Purple and green beech|
Another way of adding interest to a yew or Chamaecyparis hedge is to grow a climber up it which will give some colour variation. The classic example of this is the flame creeper (Tropaeolum speciosum), which follows flower colour with attractive blue fruits.
|flame creeper fruit|
We've all noticed the lovely conifer hedge which suddenly goes brown and we come to the conclusion that its got some dread disease. In some cases this is true but often the 'dread disease' is the comedian who has trimmed it back into old wood. Most conifers, yew being an exception, don't regenerate from old, inner wood, so beware of being too enthusiastic with the shears. Beware also of the cowboy who comes to your door offering to 'do the garden'. 'Do' is the operative word in many of these cases, where this so called gardener doesn't know a rare orchid from an oak tree and is destined to devastate your conifer hedge.
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