I’ve ranted about hedges in suburbia and the many problems they cause, especially single-species hedges and ones in small spaces. Still, I’m more than open to better hedges in better locations, like this one at “Stoneleigh, a Natural Garden,” the naturalistic garden near Philadelphia that opened in 2018.

Traditional hedges get a bad rap for good reasons, but even they serve some important functions, which this sign points out so clearly:

Design Functions of Hedges:

  • Provide screening, in this case for a swimming pool (originally).
  • Direct our movement through the space.
  • “Suggest boundaries,” which to me means creating garden rooms, intimate spaces we want to spend time in.

Aesthetic Benefits of Mixed, Biodiverse Hedges:

  • Provide more color, texture and beauty throughout the year. (And I’ll add “Able to adapt to losses within their midst without looking terrible.”)

Environmental Benefits of Hedges:

  • Provide shelter, nesting areas and sources of food for songbirds, small mammals, insects, and other wildlife.

New, native additions to Stoneleigh’s Hedges

That sign lists American holly, Arrowwood viburnum, Leucothoe, Sweetgum, Easatern Wahoo (huh??? A native Euonymus apparnently), American beech, Southern magnolia, and Florida anisetree. I also spotted signs identifying American arborvitae varieties ‘Lutea’ and ‘Nigra,’  Bald Cypress, and Eastern Red Cedar.  In the photo above there seem to be pines, too.

This view shows the hedge in its setting, where flagstones were laid in the footprint of the old swimming pool (thus the need for screening).

 The round cut-outs in the flagstone are native bog gardens containing “pitcher plants, sundews, and other native plants that have adapted to low nutrient growing conditions by trapping insects and absorbing their minerals.” Source – this map of Stoneleigh (pdf).

Interesting shape for a swimming pool, doncha think? I was told that the foot-wide half-circle of turfgrass is for catching stormwater run-off. Also interesting.

Opposite the hedge is this gorgeous poolhouse, which now houses rest rooms and space for gatherings.

Touring with the Perennial Plant Association

Stoneleigh was unknown to me until I visited with the Perennial Plant Association 2022 Symposium, which met last week near Philadelphia – the Gardening Capital of the U.S. Did you know about that title? Well, I urge you to visit Philadelphia or any of the 37 public gardens nearby and you’ll be reminded enough to never forget!

It was perfect for a gathering of America’s geekiest plant people, including my Rant partners Marianne and Scott and what looked to be ALL the top names in horticulture.