On the subject of the hedge, I had a couple of plant ideas for the curvy bed that C has recently re-exposed. Perhaps we should investigate mosses? Scotch moss likes shade and even flowers part of the year.
Then again, nix mosses — an ornamental grass would be a more appropriate scale for the giant hedges. Japanese Forest Grass (otherwise known as Hakonechloa macra ) is perennial, likes shade, goes well with hostas, and comes in a a number of varieties (Albostriata, All Gold and Aureola, to name a few). I just read about a new variety “Beni Kaze” that turns bright red in the fall, but have not been able to find any pictures. From my cursory internet research, it seems highly sought after and probably a bit spendier than its cousins.
I assaulted the westerly laurel hedge today, trimming back a foot or more of growth that was eating into our living and growing space, overshadowing flowerbeds and effectively reducing the size of the patio. Shouldn’t have let it get so overgrown, but last year the folks on t’other side seriously pruned it back (to bare trunks), as it was impinging on their driveway. I left our side alone so that it would have a healthy surface to help photosynthesize the life back into it.
I’m never very satisfied with the appearance, post-trimming… laurels only put out growth on their exposed face, so once you chop through the shiny new leaves you’re into some nasty, shade-dwelling territory that’s seen much better days. Ach, such is life. The nice thing is that they’re evergreen and grow all year long, so by trimming it in early June, I trust it’ll make good use of the long summer daylight and bounce back that much quicker.
As to the fate of the hedge on the south side… I’ve pruned-back the parts I can reach, but we’re going to have to call in a tree service to finish the job. The damned thing must be approaching 20′ tall in places, and suffered some broken and split branches in a wind storm this winter. Topping the beast a good bit lower, and peeling about a yard off its depth is definitely indicated. We should get much more light into the garden after that operation is concluded, though I fear the additional traffic noise we might experience. Shedding so much bulk will reduce the sound barrier that shields us (somewhat) from the busy street.
Still, once it’s all done and the surfaces healed, it’ll be pleasing. A nice, dense rectilinear laurel hedge makes it feel very much like a medieval walled garden back there, and while I admire (and enjoy the lessened effort required of) somewhat wild, “country” landscaping, there’s something very æsthetic about neat rows of vegetables and straight-walled hedges. The organic, stream bed-inspired forms of the flowerbeds beneath the laurels make much more sense, too, when they contrast the sharp-sided backdrop of a well-trimmed hedge.