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DIY Garden Hedging: A Step-by-Step Tutorial for Aussie Natives

Whether you’re a retail nursery business owner, a seasoned landscaper, or a passionate home gardener, creating a stunning and professional quality topiary through garden hedging can be a rewarding project. And because of Ozbreed’s dedication to breeding high-quality Aussie plants, you don’t have to stick to exotics from overseas for a quality hedge that will stand the test of time.

Without further ado, let’s get into this guide.

Tools Needed for Hedge Planting & Pruning

  1. Gardening Gloves: Protect your hands from thorns, sharp branches, and blisters.
  2. Spade or Shovel: You’ll need this to dig holes when planting your hedge.
  3. Trowel: A smaller tool like a trowel is handy for planting smaller hedge plants.
  4. Garden Fork: This tool is useful for loosening the soil around your planting area.
  5. Secateurs: These are great for pruning small branches and shaping younger hedges that are yet to reach their final form. Opt for bypass secateurs for clean cuts on live wood.
  6. Hedge Shears: For larger established hedges, hedge shears are a must. You can swap these out for a petrol, electric or lithium-ion battery-powered hedge trimmer if you’d prefer. Just stay safe.
  7. Pruning Saw: For very thick branches, you may need a pruning saw.
  8. Hedge Trimmer: For large or long hedges, a hedge trimmer can make the job much easier and quicker. These can be corded, cordless, or petrol-powered.
  9. Ladder or Platform: If your hedge is tall, you’ll need a ladder or platform to reach the top.
  10. String Line and Stakes: These are used to ensure your hedge is trimmed straight and even.
  11. Rake and/or Broom and/or Leaf Blower: After trimming, you’ll need to clean up. A leaf blower can make this task quick and easy, but if you’ve got a substantial amount of clippings it’s a good idea to use a rake to make a pile that’s easy to put into the compost pile.
  12. Wheelbarrow: Useful for transporting clippings, compost, or any other garden waste.
  13. Watering Can or Hose: Essential for watering your hedge if you don’t have a reticulated irrigation system, especially in dry periods. Make sure you’re watering around the root zone rather than the leaves.

Remember, always clean your tools after use to keep them in good working order and prevent the spread of diseases between plants. And when using any power tools, make sure to wear appropriate PPE and follow safety guidelines to avoid accidents.

Step-by-Step Guide to Hedging

Step-by-Step Guide to Hedging

Whether you’re dreaming of a lush, green privacy screen, a vibrant floral display, or an intricate topiary masterpiece, hedges are versatile features that can truly elevate any garden. From the initial planting and nurturing of your chosen plants, through the artful snips that shape their growth, to the ongoing care that ensures their health and longevity, each step is a rewarding journey.

Let’s embark on this green adventure together, cultivating not just hedges, but also a deeper connection with nature.

Step 1: Choose the Right Plant

Choosing the right plant is crucial for successful topiary. Firstly, you need to choose a plant that will thrive in the position you want to plant it in. Consider sunlight availability, moisture levels, and the amount of effort you’re willing to put into maintaining it.

You also want a species that has dense foliage and grows slowly for easier maintenance and long-lasting maintenance. You don’t want to go on holidays for a few weeks and return to a completely overgrown hedge that’s lost its shape.

Towards the end of this article, we’ll explore in more depth some of the best native Aussie plants we’ve bred at Ozbreed so that you don’t have to sacrifice density and hardiness just because you’d like to use native plants.

Step 2: Decide on a Shape

The next step is deciding on a shape for your topiary. This will largely depend on your personal preference and level of expertise.

  • Simple Shapes: For beginners, simple shapes like spheres, cones, or pyramids are a good starting point. They’re easier to achieve and maintain.
  • Complex Shapes: More complex shapes, like spirals and tiers, require a bit more skill and patience. They might be a good challenge if you already have some experience with topiary.
  • Animal Shapes: The most complex shapes are those that resemble animals or people. These require a lot of skill and time, but they can result in truly stunning topiaries.

Remember, the more intricate the shape, the more frequently you’ll need to prune to maintain it.

Step 3: Create or Purchase a Frame

This step is for intricate topiary, such as when you’re looking to create a bunny-shaped hedge or a completely symmetrical spiral. If you’re trying to make life easy and you’re happy with a rectangular hedge to line your pathway, you can skip this step.

Another option is to opt for a tight string line to guide your eye while creating perfectly straight lines instead. A frame will guide your pruning and help you achieve your desired shape. You can purchase pre-made frames in a variety of shapes from garden centres or online.

They’re typically made of wire and come in two halves that you can fit around your plant. If you’ve chosen a simple shape, you might opt to create your own frame. A DIY frame can be made using chicken wire.

Cut the chicken wire to size, then bend and secure it into your desired shape. Make sure the frame is sturdy and secure, as it will need to support the plant as it grows. Whether you’re buying or making your frame, ensure it’s the right size for your plant.

It should be large enough to accommodate the mature size of the plant, but not so large that it takes a long time for the plant to fill it in.

Step 4: Plant

Once you’ve chosen your plant and prepared your frame, it’s time to plant. Here’s how to do it:

  • Prepare the Soil: Make sure to prepare the soil according to the needs of your chosen plant. You may need to amend the soil with gypsum for hard clays, or add a quality hydrogel or organic matter for free-draining sandy soils, depending on your plant choice and the existing conditions in your garden.
  • Dig a Hole: Dig a hole that’s deep and wide enough to comfortably accommodate the plant’s root system. A good rule of thumb is as deep as the pot, and twice as wide. Experts will tell you a square wok shape works best to prevent root strangulation, meaning the hole is wider at the top than the bottom. If you’ve got hard clay, avoid glazing the sides of the hole by roughing it up a bit.
  • Plant: Place the plant in the hole, making sure it’s at the same depth it was growing at before so that the stem isn’t buried. Backfill the hole with soil, firming it gently around the base of the plant.
  • Water: Water the plant thoroughly after planting to help settle the soil.

After planting, position your frame, if applicable. If it’s a large frame that encompasses the whole plant, place it over the plant carefully, ensuring it doesn’t damage any branches. If it’s a smaller frame meant to guide a specific part of the plant, insert it into the appropriate part of the plant.

Planting an Aussie native for a hedge

Step 5: Prune and Train the Plant

Pruning and training the plant to fit your frame is likely the most challenging part of creating a topiary, but also the most rewarding.

  • Start early: It’s always easier to start a shape earlier rather than later. Remove the tips once branches reach the desired length to encourage lateral branches to grow.
  • Prune Regularly: Prune the plant a little bit at a time, but regularly. It’s better to gradual approach than to cut off too much at once.
  • Train the Plant: Gently bend and tie the plant’s branches to the frame using soft garden ties, taking care not to break them. The goal is to guide the plant to grow in the direction of the frame.
  • Follow the Frame: As the plant grows, continue pruning and training it according to the shape of the frame. This process requires patience, as it can take several months or even years for the plant to fully take on the desired shape.

Step 6: Maintenance

Maintenance is crucial to keep your topiary looking its best. Hedges don’t stay the same forever – in fact, if they aren’t growing it’s a cause for concern.

You’re going to need to regularly maintain their shape and health, so follow these steps.

  1. Regular Pruning: Pruning is vital for maintaining a hedge once it’s reached the desired shape and size. Regular trimming not only keeps your hedge looking tidy but also encourages denser growth. Prune young hedge plants before they reach their full size to help them grow denser.
  2. Right Timing: Hedges can be trimmed anytime when they are not flowering to remove new, uncontrolled growth. However, it’s best to avoid heavy pruning during extreme weather conditions like heatwaves or frosts.
  3. Proper Tools: Use sharp, clean tools for pruning. This will give you cleaner cuts and reduce the risk of transmitting diseases between plants.
  4. Shape It Right: When trimming, aim for a shape that’s wider at the base than at the top. This helps ensure all parts of the hedge receive sunlight, which promotes healthier growth.
  5. Adequate Watering: Water your hedge adequately, especially during dry spells. However, be careful not to overwater as this can lead to root problems. Some horticulturists say to water more deeply less often to encourage deep rooting.
  6. Fertilisation: Feed your hedge with a balanced fertiliser during the growing season to encourage strong, healthy growth. Over-fertilising can encourage faster growth, leading to increased pruning. This can be counter-productive.
  7. Weed Control: Keep the area around your hedge clear of weeds, which can compete with your hedge for nutrients and water as well as harbour pests and diseases.
  8. Pest & Disease Management: Monitor your hedge regularly for signs of pests or disease and take action at the first sign of trouble.
  9. Patience Is Key: Remember, maintaining a hedge is a long-term commitment. With patience and regular care, your hedge can remain an attractive feature in your garden for many years.
  10. Rejuvinate and rehabilitate: Once hedges lose their shape or vigour, drastic measures can be taken to tame them once again. We won’t cover that in this article, but it is possible to get your hedge’s shape back with patience.

Aussie Box® Westringia

The Ozbreed Aussie Box® Westringia hybrid ‘WES08’ PBR is a native Australian plant that is revolutionising the world of hedging and topiary. This compact shrub is a product of Ozbreed’s innovative plant breeding program.

It’s been specifically designed to offer an attractive, resilient, and low-maintenance alternative to traditional English boxes, which have long been the standard for hedging.

How to Maintain a Thriving Australian Cottage Garden
The Aussie Box Westringia is the perfect English Box alternative.

This versatile plant boasts a dense growth habit, making it perfect for creating structured hedges or borders in your garden. It’s also an excellent choice for mass planting, providing a lush backdrop in any landscape design. Despite its compact size, the Aussie Box Westringia doesn’t shy away from showing off its beauty.

It produces an abundance of delicate mauve flowers throughout spring and summer, adding a dash of colour and charm to your outdoor space. One of the key appeals of this plant is its hardiness. It’s not only drought-tolerant but also quickly establishes itself in a variety of soil conditions.

This adaptability coupled with its aesthetic appeal makes the Aussie Box Westringia a preferred choice for both professional landscapers and home gardeners alike. Whether you’re looking to create a formal hedge, design a natural border, or simply add some native Australian flora to your garden, the Aussie Box Westringea is a plant that promises to deliver in both form and function.

Sweeper Waterhousea Floribunda

Sweeper® Waterhousea floribunda ‘DOW20’ PBR is another breed cultivated by Ozbreed. The plant is known for its heavily weeping form, making it a stunning addition to any landscape design.

Sweeper Waterhousea floribunda
Sweeper Waterhousea is perfect for hedging!

One of the key features of this plant is its lush new growth and elegant rippled leaves, which give it a unique, ornamental appeal. This characteristic also makes it a great choice for hedging or as a screen, providing privacy without compromising on aesthetics.

As a weeping lilly pilly, its leaves also have a lovely smell. Crush them up and have a sniff! In terms of size, the Sweeper Waterhousea is a large tree that can reach heights of up to 10 meters.

However, with regular pruning, it can be kept at a manageable size, making it suitable for residential gardens as well as larger landscapes. It’s relatively low maintenance, requiring only occasional watering once established and can withstand a variety of conditions, including frost and heat.

Whether you’re looking to create a natural screen, add height to your garden, or simply introduce a touch of elegance to your landscape, the Sweeper Waterhousea is a fantastic option. Its combination of beauty, resilience, and versatility make it a standout choice in any setting.

‘Sublime’ Acmena smithii

Sublime™ Acmena smithii ‘DOW30’ PBR is a remarkable addition to any garden or landscape project. This mid-sized tree, also known as the Sublime lilly pilly, is highly valued for its attractive, lush lime green new growth and dense foliage that extends all the way to the ground.

Sublime’ Acmena smithii
Sublime lilly pillies have a beautiful light green colour to the fresh growth, adding another layer of colour to your garden.

This plant stands out due to its hardiness and resistance to common plant diseases. It possesses an exceptional resistance to Psyllids, a pest that can damage the leaves  many native plants in the Myrtaceae family, and is also highly resistant to myrtle rust, a fungal disease that affects also many members of the family and other natives.

Its dense foliage and refreshing lime new growth make it an excellent choice for screening or hedging. The thick, compact habit of the tree provides privacy while adding a vibrant touch of green to your landscape. With its combination of beauty, functionality, and resilience, Sublime Acmena smithii is an ideal choice for anyone seeking a low-maintenance yet aesthetically pleasing plant for hedging.

Macarthur Callistemon viminalis

Macarthur™ Callistemon viminalis ‘LC01’ PBR is a truly stunning addition to any garden or landscape. Also known as the Macarthur bottlebrush, this plant is notable for its compact form and vibrant red flowers.

Macarthur; Callistemon viminalis plant
How great are the vibrant bottlebrush flowers on this Macarthur Callistemon hedge!

It has a dense growth habit, making it an excellent choice for hedging in your garden. It’s also a fast-growing plant, quickly establishing itself in a variety of soil conditions. This adaptability, coupled with its aesthetic appeal, makes the Macarthur bottle brush a preferred choice for both professional landscapers and home gardeners alike.

One of the key appeals of this plant is the masses of red bottlebrush flowers it produces. These eye-catching blooms add a splash of colour and interest to any garden, attracting a variety of birdlife and adding to the overall biodiversity of your outdoor space.

Daniel’s Wrap

Sculpting a hedge from Australian native plants isn’t just gardening, it’s an art form. It’s a dance with nature where you lead the waltz, guiding the growth and form of these beautiful plants into a living masterpiece. From the moment your spade first breaks ground to put your chosen Aussie natives in their new home, to the day you stand back and behold a fully mature, expertly shaped hedge, this process is a journey.

Each snip of the shears, every carefully positioned stake, and all the hours spent nurturing your plants are steps on the path to creating something truly special. But beyond the aesthetic appeal, your hedge serves a greater purpose. It’s a bastion of biodiversity, a haven for the unique and varied wildlife that calls Australia home.

Every bird that nests in its branches, every insect that makes a meal of the pollen found in the flowers, is a testament to the vital role your hedge plays in the local ecosystem. So, don’t be daunted by the task ahead. Embrace it. Revel in the joy of watching your hedge grow and evolve under your care.

Celebrate each new shoot, each fresh leaf, as a sign of success. And when challenges arise, as they inevitably will, remember that they’re just opportunities for you to learn and improve. So pick up those shears, pull on those gloves, and get ready to create something magical. Happy hedging!

Daniel is a writer and content creator for Ozbreed, one of Australia's leading native and exotic plant breeders.

Daniel has worked in various capacities within the horticulture industry. His roles have ranged from team leader at several companies, to creator of the Plants Grow Here podcast and Hort People job board, as well as his position on the National Council for the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH).

He's passionate about explaining how to care for different types of plants to ensure home gardeners and professional horticulturists alike can get the most out of the plant babies.

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