Unfortunately we are all too ready in New Zealand to use imported exotic plants for our hedges. It’s a shame as there are heaps of New Zealand native plants that are perfect for the job. I’ve been trialling lots of these for many years at my nursery, Joy Plants in Pukukohe, sorting out what works and what doesn’t.
Myrsine australis: Easy to grow, comes up anywhere and makes a great hedge. Slow growing. Myrsine australis, or red matipo, is often found self-seeding in old hedgerows. It is commonly seen growing in very tough, dry conditions in shade, making it a great candidate for some of those hard-to-establish sites. Requires very little pruning in its early years. There has been the odd cultivar selected but most are grown from wild-collected seed.
Myrsine aqualonia: This is the one everyone still calls Poor Knights. A fabulous plant for fruit and birds and insects. Very hardy as well. Doesn’t mind salt spray so will grow right down on to the beach. Makes an excellent hedge. Is a wind hardy plant that can tolerate shade but not too much frost.
Metrosideros robusta: The rata makes a wind hardy hedge with plenty of bright red flowers if left to grow to maturity. Great for bees and nectar-feeding birds and lizards. There are some cutting-grown clones that make it possible to have lower hedges with flowers. It’s not grown so much now because it’s a bit tricky from cuttings although easy from seed.
Podocarpus totara ‘Matapouri Blue’ and Podocarpus totara ‘Aurea’ (below). Totara make a fairly quick growing hedge and can have distinct gold or attractive blue leaf colours. Trimming twice a year keeps a good tight hedge impenetrable by the most persistent pests. There are also some very good ground covers, great for the smaller garden.
Pomaderis: there are a number of species of Pomaderis and, although not long-lived plants, in most cases they make great hedge plants. They will self-seed in time and grow on very poor soils or clay subsoils. They have grey or olive green foliage and get covered in masses of cream to yellow flowers. Very quick to establish.
Metrosideros perforata: Makes an excellent hedge and is a good plant to use when you want to screen out unsightly walls or fences. A brilliant clinging plant that will also climb on wire netting or rockwork with very little training or trimming needed. It comes out in a mass of white to soft pink flowers. It’s now being used on living green walls as well.
Metrosideros carminea: Makes a great hedge but can be affected by red spider or thrips. If you mix it with Metrosideros perforata, this will give you the red flowers and the other lovely white flowers.
Ozothamnus leptophyllus: Almost totally neglected as a species. Those shown here are growing on the edge of a midden at Mercury Island in very dry conditions. They’re about six years old and are covered in scented flowers. Would make a fabulous windbreak. Would be great for planting on barren hills on farms in places like Marlborough.
Coprosma virescens: an extremely wind hardy hedge. Has not much foliage due to its small leaves but attractive stems in orange or pink tones are commonly available. Now quite rare in the wild as hares or rabbits enjoy eating them.
Corokia ‘Geentys Green’ – a slender green cultivar suitable for a hedge 0.75m-2m high.
Corokia macrocarpa makes nice hedges. Some have fruit. Like to grow in dry, coastal conditions. There are lots of hybrid forms with many shades of bronze and silvers but sometimes the species are just as attractive. They trim well and have fruits in shades of orange, red or yellow. Great for the birds.
[PART 2 of ‘Hatch On Hedges’ is republished with the kind permission Commercial Horticulture – New Zealand’s Nursery Industry magazine. It is based on a presentation Terry Hatch gave to the IPPS Conference in Nelson in early 2015. All photos are by Terry and Lindsey Hatch. See more of Terry Hatch’s recommendations for New Zealand native plants for hedging in Part 1]