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Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Posted by kato_b z6 NEPa (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 11, 13 at 15:05

I want a dark background for one of my flower beds. Any ideas for something that I can keep trimmed narrow (~1ft) and high(~6ft)? Ideally I'm thinking of a purple leaved privet but I don't think it exists. I doubt a ninebark would have the neat hedge look that I want.... Any other ideas?
It's decent soil with close to full sun, zone 6 the last few years.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

LOL!! If someone could develop the plant you describe, they could become very rich!! Evergreen for your zone - such a thing doesn't exist. Deciduous - you could try one of the purple leafed Japanese barberries (pruning a challenge) or perhaps one of the dark leaved weigelas. If you were going to try a ninebark, I think you'd be happier with a dwarf like "Little Devil' than the full sized ones and it could work well if you allowed it to grow to form rather than a need for lots of trimming or pruning.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Just the thought of a barberry hedge causes me pain in my fingertips and toes! You learned pretty quick never to walk barefoot anywhere that a hedge trimming MIGHT have fallen anytime over the last ten years. Ouch they are Painful! That said I did eye my Helmond Pillar for a couple minutes thinking about a row of that....
Wiegla is not a bad idea but there's so muh winter wind here they always seem to suffer dieback. And I'd really prefer something I can keep trimmed.
So I guess I need to either breed a purple leaved privet or now I'm thinking I have another option.
Europeans seem to like beech hedges, so maybe that would work? I just have to get a dozen beech seedlings, find some purple leaved trees, learn to graft them on to the seedlings, wait a half dozen years. How's that sound?
Hmmmm I'd really like a dark background. Maybe a privet hedge would be dark enough.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

There is a brand new crape myrtle developed by Plant Introductions that was just introduced to the public in 2013. It is called Midnight Magic. It is supposed to be hardy to zone 6, and it has dark purple leaves and grows 4-6 feet wide and tall, maybe smaller in zone 6. Below is a link to it. I hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Midnight Magic Crape Myrtle

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

One foot wide? The only thing that comes to mind is one of my nemeses, Nandina, but don't know of a non-green variety or that it would be hardy there.

This is probably not what you are after, but the effort it would take to keep a shrub hedge one foot high but 6 feet tall, I'd rather store Canna rhizomes for winter. Dig up when frost kills the foliage and put in basement. Replant in spring. Much easier than getting sweaty and bit by mosquitoes wresting with pruners all summer, IMO. You'd have a relatively even entity in height, as thick as you want so not see-through, the pretty flowers (that hummingbirds will visit if in the area,) a variety of dark leaved cultivars. You may find they are hardy if the drainage is good. Worth experimenting with one or two left in place. They multiply very quickly, so I'd get about 1/10 of what I really wanted to start. By the end of the 2nd season, should have solid coverage. The year after, you'll be sharing them.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

great minds must think alike! This grainy photo is from four years ago. The dark leaved ninebark is already planted on the right(and much bigger today) and tall dark leaved cannas are planted all along the fence! Sorry planting man, no crape myrtle.... they just don't make it through my exposed hilltop winters.
I have the cannas elsewhere, I liked them there, but it just wasn't the neat look I was going for. I want to be able to shear whatever is planted there and I don't think a ninebark would do well sheared. Am I wrong on that? They seem more of a suckering type of bush, and I usually prune out a third each year to keep it vigorous.
I was at the nursery today and for about five minutes I was staring at a dark leaved crape myrtle. I almost convinced myself it would work as a hedge, but then thought what a sin it would be to trim off flower shoots to keep it formal.... and then I remembered the other three I've killed in the last few years.
looks like I need to learn grafting, guess it's not the worst skill to have.
or use the privet.....

Here is a link that might be useful: purple beech hedges

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge


Let's see if we can get you outside that box...

When I saw the title of "dark leaved shrub for hedge" I was wondering why you didn't just use Boxwood, Taxus, or Cephalotaxus. Then the commentary all turned purple, so those obvious solutions went by the wayside.

After reading all the posts, it seems you are skipping past an opportunity. Suppose you took a plant that wasn't necessarily narrow - you already discuss shearing - and think about making it narrow against its will.

I suggest an easy-to-find plant like one of the purple foliaged Cercis canadensis clones, and apply the espalier technique to it. You can grow it as wide, tall, and as thin as you'd like, and you wouldn't have to go looking for a plant that doesn't exist.

'Ruby Falls' would likely be a fine candidate.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedges

That's genius! You did break me out of the box!
The ruby falls suggestion would be perfect. I'll have to start looking around for a plant or two. I never would have thought of using it as anything other than a focal point planting.
I suspect it may be outside of the budget for an entire background, but you never know what fall clearance sales bring.
Too bad that purple leaved azalea isn't hardy here, that might make a good espalier or even hedge..... Hmm just looked it up, Little John azalea, and it says zones 8-9...
I always thought those weeping atlas cedars looked interesting draped on a fence or arbor, never thought to try the same thing with a redbud. Thanks!

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Following on from viburnumvalley's train of thought, how about putting in three to six strands of wire and growing a purple-leaved Vitis vinifera. A hedge one foot wide and six feet tall would be a nightmare to maintain and very vulnerable in high winds and/or snow, I would have thought.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Dark leaved? What about very dark green? I just bought a couple Cornus Sanguinea 'Compressa'. Has a narrow habit (aprox 1ft) and reaches around 6ft. Has a very unique leaf. Even has some fall color. It's deciduous but the stems in the winter are supposed to be a pretty color.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Thanks for the suggestions, I finally got a chance to check some of the others out. I guess the one foot wide six tall goal does seem unrealistic, I guess I'll have to reconsider how much space I'm willing to give over to a background when that stupid white fence is already there.
I don't think I can string wires for the grapes, but I wouldn't mind having one somewhere else in the garden... My record for grapes is pretty sad though.
I have never seen that dogwood! It looks like it might work, but the purple leafed beech might actually be cheaper! Funny that I found a couple site that had it listed as a love it or hate it shrub. It definately has a "unique" look. I might search it out anyway and stick it somewhere as an accent. It's on the list, but the list is awfully long....
Thanks again, I've got a couple things to keep my eyes open for.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Any chance for burgandy Cotinus coggygria as a cut back shrub every spring...shape up as desired?

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Please don't plant something that requires 'weird' maintenance. Shrubs will probably outlive you, or your residency at that location. What are the chances the next person who lives there will like what you've done enough (or know how) to keep it 'right?'

Fence will likely require periodic maintenance too. If it's impossible to walk between whatever's planted and the fence, there's another headache (and will almost certainly end up with trampled plants at that point.) The lack of air circulation could shorten its' life unnecessarily, and/or cause it to mildew.

As far as fences go, I wouldn't mind that at all, certainly blocks the view which people so often try to do with plants along something see-through, like CL. I would love to look at that behind my plants instead of an abandoned yard, neighbor's dog tied to a tree, yada yada... or just an uglier kind of fence.

Hang some pots on it (if possible)?

If you like what you plant, you won't even see the fence, just your plants. Can you see this from your window(s)? That's what I would concentrate on. Making it look great from those angles/vistas from windows.

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Pencil holly?

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

Paula I think the smokebush won't be as neat as I'd like... unless I plant them close together then maybe they would form an even background, but I'm not sure how long it would last. I bet eventually one would overwhelm another and it would get thick and thin and uneven.
Pencil holly... I considered that but was just too lazy to take the cuttings and wait till they were big enough. Then with my luck global warming would take a year off and they'd all die one winter (they're borderline here)
Purple- I guess I see your point, but whoever follows me here is more than welcome to do some bulldozer landscaping if mine doesn't suit them.... and if I don't make it that long I'm sure the wife can dig into the insurance a bit and do the same.
Life's too short to be ruled by resale or home value. I want to experiment and create something, for anything less I could just hire a landscaper for some cookie cutting.
I guess some people like vinyl, others not so much. IMO it makes me feel like I'm gardening inside a human Tupperware container.
Oh and I'm bad with pots.... dead plants in pots along the fence would probably not be a plus :) but come to think of it I've seen some nice fences with mirrors, garden art, pots, even complete vertical gardens.... I'll stick to the maintenance of a hedge though before I get into all that. Nice ideas though, thanks!

RE: Dark leaved shrub for a hedge

What's the fence material? How about painting your side of it a lovely dark eggplant?

Do you see this year round; and are you looking for something seasonal, or permanent? If seasonal, you have lots of choices if you don't care how it looks in winter. What about trellising with lattice and training vines up those? there are even some evergreen vines that aren't too badly behaved for zone 6.

This is posted a long time ago. I'm curious: what did you come up with for a solution? ( I came here looking for things to espalier or train up a wall, yet control height. If anyone knows a link to a forum that would cover that, I'd appreciate it!)

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