Homegrown: What bushes would be good as a fence?

I have an area that is 56 feet long that needs bushes. It is in partial shade and I’m doing bushes rather than a fence to separate a gravel area from the lawn.

I’m looking for something that could be kept to around 3 feet by 3 feet, have color and maybe alternate between three or four varieties. Are hydrangeas good here? Seasonal color would be nice. I would appreciate your help.

— Susan

Hydrangeas will grow here, but perhaps not what you’re thinking of. The common hydrangea most people think about are the Bigleaf Hydrangeas and they generally do poorly here.

Most of them are not winter hardy enough to bloom or even survive, but our summer heat and dryness is a problem for them, too. They prefer cooler, more humid weather with an acid, organic, well-drained soil with regular watering.

In other words, Seattle!

There is a variety that you might try, but more on that later.

Probably the best hydrangeas to grow here are varieties of Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). The “Pee Gee” type in late summer has large white flower clusters the size and shape of a football.

Recently, there have been a slew of new varieties introduced into the trade such as “Pinky Winky,” “Quickfire,” “Limelight,” “Little Lamb” and “Great Star.”

Another variety, “Annabelle,” has white rounded to dome-shaped clusters.

All of these will tolerate some sun, but would be happiest with some shade in the afternoon. And be sure to do a good job amending the soil by mixing in a good amount of decomposed organic matter such as Soil Pep.

Though they are not as demanding as the Bigleaf Hydrangeas, they do appreciate good soil.

The one Bigleaf that you might consider is a newer variety named “Endless Summer.” It has large round “mophead” type flower clusters in summer and will bloom reliably. It will usually bloom pink, but it can turn blue if the soil is acid enough (a tough proposition here).

Like the other Bigleafs, it needs really good soil and I’d try to put it in pretty much full shade.

Now besides hydrangea, there are a lot possible choices for you. There are barberries, boxwood, burning bush, shrubby dogwoods, euonymus, dwarf lilacs, potentillas, shrub roses, spireas, dwarf viburnums and weigelas.

Some of these choices will depend on how much sun and shade a particular plant will receive. Some need more sun while others need shade. Some have colorful flowers, others have good fall foliage color.

If you get a chance, come on out to the nursery and you can look through a book we’ve put together that shows some the choices.

We’ve written a good description for this area and included pictures showing different characteristics of the plant.

I received Indica azaleas for my birthday. I was wondering if I can transplant them outside. If so, when is the best time of the year to do so?

— Faye

I’m afraid they’re not cold hardy plants. Southern Indicas are considered hardy to 20–25 degrees only. Though they are a bit more heat tolerant than other azaleas, they would still struggle with our heat and dryness.

I’d consider them strictly a houseplant. They want very bright indirect light and be careful with the watering. They like regular moisture, but will quickly die if kept too wet. Allow the soil in the pot to dry just a little bit before soaking them again.


What time of year do you recommend pruning honeysuckle to remove old growth?

— Kathy

My first choice would be early in the spring, probably mid- to late March. It could be done in late spring, but it will delay or even eliminate much of the flowering of the vine.

Doing it during the growing season you can easily tell which stems are alive and which are dead which is harder in March.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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