They create privacy, disguise unattractive views or act as sound barriers. I’m talking about hedges, and they’re a great addition to any garden, provided they’re chosen thoughtfully.

A good hedge has three characteristics: fast-growing, evergreen, dense foliage. Flowers or fruit are welcome additions, but not absolutely necessary. Of course, drought-tolerance, low-maintenance, and non-invasiveness are equally important characteristics.

Along mostly shaded fence lines, try:

  • Viburnums – Although species and cultivars abound, V. tinus, V. suspensum and Viburnum X ‘Lord Byron’ are best for San Antonio’s climate.
  • Hollies – The only native evergreen holly is the yaupon holly and depending on the desired height, you can use either standard or dwarf varieties. Recommended non-native cultivars are Burford holly, Foster holly, and Nellie R. Stevens holly.
  • Pittosporum – The older I get the more I respect this broadleaf shrub’s ability to hang tough in all sorts of weather.

Along mostly sunny fence lines, consider:

  • Junipers – One of the most drought-tolerant and pest-resistant species we have. Recommended varieties are cultivars from Juniperus chinensis, including ‘Bluepoint,’ Hollywood,’ ‘Keteleer,’ ‘Robusta Green,’ and ‘Spartan’.
  • Indian hawthorn – ‘Majestic Beauty’ is the only real choice here.
  • Xylosma – An old-fashioned choice, but a species that tolerates all soil conditions.

You probably noticed I didn’t mention ligustrums. Although I give wax-leaf an occasional pass, Japanese ligustrums are invasive and are best removed from your plant palette. As far as maintenance goes, all species mentioned prefer well-drained, neutral soil. Water infrequently and deeply, and maintain 2 inches of mulch over the root system.

Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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