November 30, 2020
I want to share a little more Wildflower Center inspiration, this time from the maze in the Family Garden. Traditionally mazes are defined by clipped boxwood or yew hedges that grow at least to head-height — about 6 feet tall. Here at Austin’s native-plant botanical garden, the maze is hedged with several different native Texas species or cultivars.
Bright with red berries, yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), pictured above, makes a colorful, bushy hedge along an outer path. Since yaupon holly generally grows into an upright, multi-trunked small tree, these must have been pruned over time to create a thicker, more bushy look. I’d love to hear from someone at the Wildflower Center about how they prune them.
Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) is a straightforward choice for a sunny, dry location. The standard species can be airy, especially at the lower branches, so I’d guess this is a bushier cultivar. You can see it’s been pruned to create a hedge, although not severely sheared. The solid effect is well done.
A more unusual but effective choice is ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon holly, a fastigiate, non-berrying cultivar of the native yaupon holly. Because its form is columnar, plants must be closely spaced to create a solid screen. ‘Will Fleming’ also tends to flop, so regular trimming or tying is required.
Here’s another section of the ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon hedge, transitioning to red-berried yaupon holly behind a butterfly bench. Across the path you can see a bit of a Southern wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) hedge. Native to East Texas, Southern wax myrtle tends to be thirsty here in Austin. But for moist low areas or rain gardens it might make a good choice.
In the center of the maze, where a frog sculpture greets successful maze runners, there’s a surprising choice for the inner hedge: a vine! Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) clambers up a curved wire trellis to make an evergreen screen mostly along the top; the lower half is leggy and see-through, as vines typically grow, and not effective at fully screening the space. But a vine trellis is a creative way to make a “hedge,” and Carolina jessamine offers bright-yellow color and sweet fragrance in early spring when it flowers.
What other native plants make good hedges, either here in central Texas or wherever you live?
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