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11 April 2014

Escallonia - Ideal for Windy Gardens

If you have just moved in to a newly-built house which has a windy, exposed garden, or if you are just making changes to your current garden, you should consider planting an Escallonia hedge.

Escallonia are evergreen shrubs with glossy, leathery leaves, and 5-petalled white, pink or red flowers which appear in summer and early autumn. It is a vigorous evergreen hedging plant, growing 30 - 45cm a year, and forming a dense hedge up to 3m high. Escallonia is ideal for a coastal garden and has no particular soil requirements, although it doesn't like to be waterlogged. It prefers full sun, although it will cope with partial shade, and can be cut and trimmed to any height from 45cm to a maximum height of 3m. It is also usually pest-free.

It responds very well to clipping and flowers continuously from early summer to mid autumn. Flowers appear on the new season's growth so it needs cutting once during late summer, though if used in a very formal setting, it may need a bit of tidying up through the growing season. Escallonia is one of the few hedges which will produce a respectable show of blossoms even if regularly clipped.

The best time to plant your hedge is from first rain in September right through till May the following year, though container-grown plants can be planted all year round. If planting in summer, be prepared to water three times a week in hot weather. Prepare the area to be planted by clearing any weeds or grass, then mark out the line of your hedge using a string line. Dig the first hole next to the line, loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole, then dig in some well-rotted manure or fertilizer. Remove the plant from it's pot and stand it in the hole, measure 35cm and dig the second hole, using this soil to backfill the first hole. Continue like this until your hedge is planted, using the soil from the first hole around the last plant. Water your plants in, preferably in the evening so that the soil stays wet all night.

Hedges should be trimmed with slightly sloping sides and left wider at the base, so that sunlight can reach the lower leaves. Keep the area near your hedge weed-free for the next nine months, by which time the hedge will have established and the shaded ground below the hedge makes it difficult for any new weeds to germinate.

There are numerous types of Escallonia available, ranging in maximum height from 2.5m to 4m. Escallonia 'Peach Blossom' and Escallonia 'Apple Blossom' are slower growing, smaller varieties, not usually reaching much more than 2.5 metres. These are often planted as ornamental shrubs, but are still suitable for hedging. Escallonia rubra macrantha is one of the fastest growing varieties, ideal for hedging, and is the best choice for planting on a very windy site.

If you are thinking of planting a hedge in your garden, then Escallonia could be the plant for you.
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