Sustainable gardening for the home can include an edible hedgerow. The practical gardener can plan productive hedging that looks good, while also being functional and edible.
LARGE EDIBLE HEDGES
Large hedges bring solidity to landscapes. Tall and often wide, they provide boundaries and often contribute definition and structure to an outdoor space. Due to their size, they can also often create a blocking barrier to prevailing winds, their intertwining branches and foliage acting as a filter to slow strong winds and provide the garden with shelter.
Bay (Laurus nobilis)
An evergreen tree that will grow up to 10m. Its tough, leathery leaves are wind tolerant. It can be easily clipped to keep tidy, and the leaf is used in soups and casseroles.
Lemon tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii)
This shrub has long, narrow leaves like its Kiwi cousin, the mānuka tree. Growing over 5m high, the lemon-scented foliage is used to flavour food and makes a tasty tea.
Tea tree (Camellia sinensis)
The tough, leathery leaves of this evergreen are good for wind protection. Clipped and shaped, the hedge can grow between 1-4m high. Processed leaves make green and black tea.
MEDIUM EDIBLE HEDGES
Edible hedges along the front roadside or elsewhere define driveways and garden areas adjacent to buildings. Internal garden hedges protect productive garden areas by presenting a visible barrier to the domestic activities of pets and children. Again, the hedging can give shelter and create micro-climates needed for optimum growth of vegetables and fruit.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Its solid, long leaves make a narrow, upright hedge form. Preferring good sun and drainage, rosemary is a fragrant, blue-flowering hedge, ideal for cottage gardens. Its leaves and flowers are widely used in cooking.
Cranberry (Myrtus ugni)
The tasty red berries of this herb make for a practical hedge that lends itself to browsing. Care is needed to trim suckering shoots at the base as, left unchecked, these will increase the width. The tough green leaves make for a hardy, strong hedge.
French lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
These grey-green varieties are shorter-lived than English lavender, but with careful maintenance and continual shaping, their fragrance and flower make quite the statement. For your best chance at success, ensure there is good sun and drainage. Its flowers are used as a garnish.
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Hardy and compact, these varieties are the producers of lavender oil. Their vibrant flower show and distinctive scent can be enjoyed over summer, although make sure to cut back hard after flowering. The flowers are used in baking. Hedging is a brilliant way to add definition to larger garden space.
Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
This addition is a deciduous herb that retains its leaves if the climate is very warm. It is best trimmed after summer, and the fragrant foliage is used in baking and tea.
LOW EDIBLE HEDGES
Use low hedges at garden edges to define boundaries between the garden and lawn or paving. Less vigorous in growth than taller hedging options, these herbs have a smaller ‘footprint’. Being on the edge of planted plots, they will not be competitive for root space, nor will they impede the sunlight required by other plants.
Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum)
Planted out in a row, this member of the daisy family makes for a distinctive, pale grey hedge. Clipped and kept neat, the hedge is ideal for dry, sunny gardens. The leaf is used as a garnish.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
When spied once on a Porirua roundabout, this novel hedge caused me to drive around more than once just to admire it. Yes, it will be short-lived, but what a lush border it will make while it lasts.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Much more practical, a row of thyme will create tight and compact edging. The leaves and flowers are used in cooking.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Planted in a good spot with plenty of sun and shelter, a row of sage will last five to seven years. The leaves have both culinary and medicinal uses.
- Clip hedges every six weeks to keep them tidy over summer.
- For larger hedges, trim after flowering finishes.
- Spread out clippings of herbal hedging onto clean newspaper to dry. These can be packaged up and given away as gifts.
- The flowers of herbal hedges attract bees, meaning these useful pollinators will be plentiful in your garden.