Monday, May 8, 2006

Visions and Hedgerows

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will." George Bernard Shaw

Gardening comes from our visions of beauty. Imagination is a prerequisite of the gardener.

When we moved to our property 16 year ago, it was 2 1/2 acres of neglect and bad plantings. The 32 walnut trees hadn't seen a pruning at least 10 years. There were bushes and hedgerows of wild plums, pittosporum, oleander, grapevines, wisteria....all crying out for attention. I had no experience with gardening on this scale.

One acre of this property had been a railroad easement in its previous life. The tracks were long gone, but it was hilled up along the road from the 16 tons of rock bed put in place to support a locomotive on the move.
At the time we bought it, the only thing it was supporting was an acre of prickly star thistle and other noxious weeds.

Our house sits at the back of the property so this was the view out our front door. Not a pretty sight. I remember looking longingly out of our front door and imagining something better, but it wasn't until we'd been here for about 5 years that I managed to do anything beyond wistful imaginings. My visions had to remain dormant since our house also faced the same neglect as the yard.

Then one day I began to scratch out a small rectangle in the dirt on the railroad easement and try my hand at a vegetable garden. I might as well have been gardening in some third world country. Hard clay, rock, weeds, infertile soil, dry heat. When I finally stirred it all up and added water, it was an invitation to a whole host of weeds and insects that had lain dormant too.

Maybe weeds and insects have their own visions?

Everything feasted on my plants....and thus my experiment with the balance of nature began. I began reading.

Mainly what I remember learning is that the environment around the garden is as crucial to its health as what is actually in the garden. What I had around my garden was bare dirt, open to the wind and sun. The insect world around us was having a virtual field day.

First learned lesson: insects get to your plants from:

  1. crawling up out of the soil, or
  2. flying in from your neighbors.

The British have a great solution for the 'flying in from your neighbors' problem. Hedgerows.

While most people probably think of hedgerows for privacy or windbreak, they are extremely beneficial for preventing pesky insects that fly in. Seems like they can't figure out how to fly over your bushes.

So I set about trying to create a hedgerow that would not only protect my plants, but provide privacy from the road which runs in front of our house. It's not a 'quick fix' solution. But a fence was out of the question: too expensive.

My cheapest solution was transplanting and I had lots of pittosporum (mock orange) here and began transplanting it out along the road. I also thought that upright rosemary would do well here and bought about 6 one-gallon plants, along with 5 beautiful climbing-type roses with deep red flowers.

Here is what it looks like 10 years later. I am definitely pleased by how it turned out. The pittosporum is actually another row right behind it, so we have a double hedgerow now. It's taken longer than I thought, but I realize the value of just going ahead and doing something....then waiting to see how it comes out.
Left photo: Roses and rosemary hedgerow
Top photo: a hedgerow of rosemary with lamb's ears, a little love-in-a-mist, some yarrow and a pomegranite tree a neighbor gave us.

This blog is dedicated to all of our visions of beauty.


  1. hey, this is really neat! makes me appreciate our property more:) the pictures are really nice


  2. Sherri, This is beautiful. You've found your calling.

    I can't help but compare how different it is to garden in a northern climate. Here we can grow things that say "part shade" in full sun and they thrive.

    Also, the angle of the sun has a whole different feel at 43 degrees latitude (I think that's where we are). At 7:00 in the evening the it is wicked in your eyes, but feels great on your back.

    And also, we'll never be able to grow a rosemary hedge here. I'm still imagining a hedge of jeruselum artichokes as a wind break. The tubers are still in my fridge begging to be planted.