Asked May 10, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT

Hi, I currently have a photinia hedge that has gotten completely out of control. It is probably over 20ft in places. I have 2 questions: !) Could I rehabilitate it? Or have I let it go too far... 2) If I replaced it with another hedge, is there a hedge that would be edible? This hedge separates me from my backyard neighbors. And when they moved in they said they liked the hedge. It was wild then, but not this bad! Thank you for your time and suggestions! Margie Mitchell

Multnomah County Oregon pruning landscape plants horticulture

3 Responses

Photinia hedges can be renovated by cutting them down to within 4 to 8 inches of the ground--but a hedge that is 20' tall will want to grow that tall again, and will require pruning at least once a year to keep it neat, and at any lower height. Consider replacing it with a hedge plant that tops out at the maximum height that you want your hedge to stay.

Yes, hedges can be edible: Raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears are among many tasty fruits whose plants can be trained into visual or physical barriers--even asparagus can be planted to form a delicious, albeit fragile hedge.

If you send me more specific information I can give you more specific recommendations. We would need: how much sun does that part of the yard get? Is if flat, or sloped? Is it under nearby trees? How tall do you want the hedge to be? How long are you willing to wait for it to get that height? How thick are you willing to tolerate? (A 10' deep hedge can severely restrict a 50' back yard!) How often are you willing to prune it? How would you water it? Can it be deciduous (most edible hedges are), or must it be evergreen? Is it to provide merely a visual wall? Or should it discourage dogs/kids/bad guys? What other characteristics should it have--fall color? decorative trunks? fragrance? berries for birds? blossoms? decorative foliage? How will you water this hedge? Are you willing to use common garden chemicals--apples and pears will require regular spraying to get healthy fruit; many non-edible hedges can be grown well in a completely "organic" yard. What other characteristics and/or restrictions do you want it to have? (Please hit "reply" to this message, rather than starting a whole new inquiry.)

If you provide more information, we can be more specific in our advice. Alternatively, you could consult Ray and Jan McNeilan's excellent book: The Pacific Northwest Gardner's Book of Lists. It is available in most libraries, and the trick to making it most useful is to consult it while at your computer--use Google images to find photos of the various plants recommended for specific conditions, as the book itself has excellent lists of plants that grow well in a variety of conditions here (the authors live in Oregon City)--but the book does not include photos.
Or, you could keep a sharp lookout as you walk through neighborhoods near where you live, and boldly ring the doorbell when you discover a specific plant that you find attractive--gardeners are generally more than happy to tell you exactly why they chose that plant, and any special conditions of its care!

Thinking about my out of control hedge again. Lost some of it this winter from the wind. Answers to your questions: sounds like edible may not be the answer for me. I would like it to be a visual fence, so evergreen. 6 to 10 feet. It lines the north edge of my property (my house faces south) all the way across from east to west (50ft.). Has a lot of sun both higher up and more exposure in the center of the hedge. There are red flowering currants in front of it on the west side. And a lilac and raspberries on the east side of it.

Probably a faster grower would be better. Not too thick (5 feet max). would prefer not to prune every year (but could). Would love for it to be native, food source for critters.

Thank you very much for your previous reply and for your continued assistance!

Margie Mitchell

As architects tell their clients: "you can have anything you want--just not everything you want." Most shrubs that attractive wildlife are deciduous--but there are exceptions. Many shrubs that will reach 10' heights will be wider than 5'--but there are exceptions.

The Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists (Ray and jan McNeilan) is still your best resource. You will find a list of 25 shrubs that attract wildlife, and a different list of about 25 evergreen shrubs suitable for clipped hedges. A few plants--Japanese holly (Ilex crenata, multiple varieties) and Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta varieties), for instance--appear on both lists. Many evergreen ceanothus varieties are very attractive to birds and butterflies, and will naturally stay an appropriate height, but will probably grow wider than you mentioned. Get the McNeilan book from the library (or purchase it), and then work back-and-forth between the lists, using Google image search to find what the plants look like, and consulting your Sunset Western Garden Book to confirm that you have or can provide appropriate growing conditions.

There are many more specific plant options available now than ever before, and more grow here than almost anywhere else--but as your desires grow more numerous, the group that meets them all definitely shrinks... These are good tools to assist your decision-making.