“My garden sweet, enclosed with walles strong,
Embanked with benches to sytt and take my rest:
The knots so enknotted, it cannot be exprest,
With arbors and alyes so pleasant and so dulce.”
George Cavendish (1499 – 1561).
How to punctuate the end of hedge with panache and style in 2015.
I was taken to see the gardens at The Kelliher Estate on Puketutu Island in Auckland last week. When we say island, it is connected by a causeway. No ferry crossings were required. The gardens have been undergoing a major renovation in the last few years. There is a difference between a restoration and a renovation. The former attempts to recreate the gardens as they were in their glory days. In our climate with rampant growth and a heavy dependence of woody trees and shrubs, restorations are somewhat ill-conceived, in my opinion.
Renovations are a reinterpretation of a garden and in public gardens can range from pedestrian to insensitive, from ego-driven (the modern gardener determined to ‘make his or her mark’) to compromise by committee. Occasionally they are carried out with genuinely creative flair and there were indubitably elements of this showing in the gardens at the Kelliher Estate.
I was simply delighted by the reworking of the formerly overgrown lilly pilly hedge at the entrance – cloud pruned. With panache. I am no expert on lilly pilly. In fact it is more akin a yawning gap in my knowledge, especially as there are a number of plants which carry this common name. But I am guessing that this particular lilly pilly was the Australian myrtle also known as Syzygium smithii syn Acmena smithii (see footnote). If you are going to try something like this at home, take your time. You can’t rush the process of finding the natural shape of each individual plant. And trim flush to the stem. Nothing looks worse than nubbly elbows poking out all over the place where you have lopped off branches.
Finally the wave hedging is a device I have seen in UK and Europe but not in this country before. It echoes the natural shapes of the landscape but gives some form without the regimented and straitjacketed predictability of the usual flat topped, formal hedge.
The one key element to remember if you decide to get more adventurous with your own hedges is to ensure that they will tolerate hard pruning and resprout from bare wood if you are going to reshape. Not all hedging plants do and conifers can be particularly touchy.
Postscript: Social media can be very helpful. The following more knowledgeable comment on lilly pillies was made on the garden Facebook page by Andrew from Twining Valley Nurseries:
“You’re not wrong with the naming of Lilly Pilly. I’ve been to garden centres and seen the same plant labeled with three different names!
The correct taxonomic names for the 3 most commonly grown Lilly Pilly’s in NZ are-
Waterhousia floribunda (Old name: Eugenia ventenatti or Syzygium floribundum) Common name: weeping Lilly Pilly
Syzygium australe (Old name: Eugenia australis) Common name: brush cherry or Australian rose apple and is the most common.
Acmena smithii (Old name: Eugenia smithii) Common name: Lilly Pilly (or weed!)”