Is “Instant” Gardening a Plus or a Minus?

It was bound to come to this: “instant” pre-grown hedges in a couple of different sizes. Just dig, drop, and “voila!” You have your hedge or your knot garden or your privacy screen or whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve. The web site of the grower to which I am referring is here, along with the different types of plant material.

So cost aside, the question becomes, is this a good thing? And even I am not entirely sure. For one thing, it does seem that there are “sustainable” planting options offered, like biodegradable planting boxes.

And there are valid reasons to need–or want–hedges for one reason or another. I recall the Christmas that my young abutting neighbor got an ATV that he insisted upon driving around his much too small 1/2 acre lot. “Instant” shrubbery would have done a lot to deaden that sound.

Even now we have another abutting neighbor whose son has a log splitting business. It sounds harmless and charming doesn’t it–until you realize he’s using a commercial log splitter for 4 hours or so at a time. Again, some “instant” shrubbery would be useful here, except that I am not sure that it would grow in competition with the roots of my large pines. (Luckily, he is off to college in the fall! Whew!)

In my retail gardening days, I always advised clients to buy “the largest plant they could afford.” (Actually the way I phrased it was that I always buy the largest plant that I can afford because I am not getting any younger–which still happens to be true). So again, “instant” plants solve a bit of that conundrum as well by taking some of the work of “growing the hedge” away from you.

And yet, even with all of these very positive things, there’s something about this that troubles me.

First are the inappropriately sheered plants that don’t want to be hedges like magnolias, cornelian cherry, viburnum and even sheered arborvitae (nevermind ‘Witchita Blue’ Juniper!)

Next, there is the danger that some folks will order plants that are invasive to their region–here in Connecticut, for example, privet is banned.

And then there is just the idea that gardening–the idea of growing things–teaches us so many things about our soil, microclimate, etc. Now, we can probably still learn that with a pre-grown hedge, but it’s going to be a different lesson–a more expensive one, I venture to say. And since part of gardening involves killing a lot of plants, that’s not how I want to learn, thanks so much!

So maybe this “instant” hedge idea is going to be better for commercial applications and large residential projects. If I were a home gardener (as I am) I think I would prefer to grow my own to learn about them and let them settle in. But, then again, I am not getting any younger.

2 thoughts on “Is “Instant” Gardening a Plus or a Minus?

  1. tonytomeo April 1, 2019 / 10:05 am

    As a nurseryman, I should be a proponent of such things. They do happen to be practical options for some situations. For example, they are used on model homes that must be slapped together and look good instantly. Many of the smaller hedges do just fine if planted as mature plants. However, I would not recommend it for plants that do not transplant well when mature, such as pittosporums. Unfortunately, when a hedge is needed immediately, it is likely a big hedge that is needed, and big hedges are the sort that do not transplant well. Arborvitaes is one exceptions. They can be planted quite large, although they will have gaps in between for a while.

  2. gardendaze April 1, 2019 / 10:23 am

    This is exactly why I am conflicted about this. Large commercial buildings also cry out for this kind of thing, especially in my climate where evergreens are much more slow growing than yours and you might want to screen off an expanse of concrete foundation quickly. It’s so much better than planting something fast growing and possibly invasive.

    And so if the homeowners want them too–so what? We already see enough crimes against horticulture that this isn’t going to cause that many more.

    Karla

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