IMPATIENT PEOPLE (like myself) should not try to landscape on a budget. Last Friday, hoping to create a hedge in an afternoon, I drove an hour west to Stables, a garden center in East Moriches, L.I., where I bought eight ilex crenata ‘Steeds,’ a type of holly, for $15 apiece. I was hoping to use these shrubs to block the view of cars in my beautiful new parking court.
The shrubs looked much bigger in the garden center. But they were in containers, not balled and burlapped, so I could fit them all in the back of my Honda, lying on their sides, and plant them myself. As soon as I got them home and placed them where I wanted them, top, I could see this wasn’t going to work out quite the way I planned.
Nor was the planting as easy as I naively hoped (when will I ever learn?) It took me many hours over two days to dig the requisite trenches on either side of the gravel walkway from parking court to house — one about 7 feet long and the other 11 feet. Most of that area had been part of a driveway for 50 years, so the dirt was compacted, hard as concrete, and I had to go at it with a pickax. My neighbor from across the street came over to sympathize.
I dug generous sized holes, did what I could to improve the “soil” with bagged compost, and placed the eight 4′ tall plants where I wanted them. I had bought two more than the garden center recommended for the available linear footage; they said to space them 3′ apart to allow for growth, but no way was I going to see that much air in between. Then I filled in the holes, built up little watering ‘moats’ around each one, and topped it all off with wood chips to give it a finished look.
I was going by what Julie Moir Messervy, a garden writer, said in her book The Magic Land about how it’s done in Japan: “We planted shrubs so that their branches would just touch, allowing them to grow together as a mass, while pruning them at least once a year to keep them in check.”
A good weekend’s work. But oh dear, I can still see the car, above. These ilex (I’m becoming something of an ilex specialist, since they’re evergreen, deer-resistant, and cheap — I now have several varieties) will grow to 6 feet in height and widen, but will I still be around? That’s no way to think, I keep telling myself. Meanwhile, every little bit of green helps.