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Time for a new hedge

It’s that time of the year when the box stores (and even some grocers) all ship in large quantities of cedar trees. Big quantities usually mean cheap prices, which is part of the reason we buy lots! Another big reason is that in the early spring, we can usually see more of our neighbours then we’d like because the trees and shrubs haven’t leafed out yet. Before you rush out to the store to stock up on your privacy hedges, there are a few things you need to consider first.

Cedars are pyramidal, which means that they are thick at the bottom and skinny on top. If you need privacy from your neighbours, it is usually at eye level…not at the ground where these trees are the thickest. Most homeowners forget that simple fact and plant a row of cedars hoping that their hedge will grow fast. Unfortunately, a cedar only grows between 4 and 6”s a year in our neighbourhoods. This means that the average 6’ cedar needs 10 years to really create a thick privacy hedge at eye level.

“Don’t forget that when you are picking up cedars at the store, they are going to be even shorter in the ground because of the height of the pot”

Another important point about the pyramidal shape of cedar trees is that the bottom branches need sunlight to stay green. The image of a perfectly trimmed-square cedar hedge just isn’t a reality for most of us. Any branches that are not getting at least 4-6 hours of sunlight a day will turn brown and die off. Trimming your hedge sides so that they are flat means that you are creating more shade on the lower branches from the upper ones. You also need to consider both sides of the tree. If you are planting a tree close to the house or the fence, will always mean that one side is going to die off. It’s a pet peeve of mine when you can see that dead side of the tree when you are standing at someone’s front door.

Finally, those cedars that you are panting this year are going to need some care in the fall. You need to plan on wrapping those trees in burlap for the first three winters. The cedars need that long to establish enough root growth so that they can survive the season changes in our Canadian climate. If you decide to skip this part, you may be okay for the first year (or even the second) but it never fails…one tree in the middle of the row will die and then you have to plant a smaller one to fill the gap.

I am a fan of using cedars for privacy, but mix in a few trees like Aspen into the row to add extra privacy where you really need it. Adding a few trees also takes away from visual wall that a cedar hedge creates in the yard!

 

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