Formal Need Not Mean Thirsty | Satori Garden Design
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Formal Need Not Mean Thirsty

fluffy botanic balls of loveliness, no?

fluffy balls of botanic loveliness, no?

I’m always on the lookout for a climate appropriate plant that can function in a more orderly, formal fashion since it is a style some of my clients will ask for.  I was walking and was struck by the beauty of this lovely formal garden edged in Westringia fruticosa.  Westringia being from Australia is pretty darn happy in our climate and not too greedy about the water.  If the right variety of Westringia is used (i.e., ‘Mia’s wonder’ or ‘Highlight’) a perfectly sized  3-4′ wide rounded boarder is formed with minimal pruning, thus minimal green waste.  Voila!

Other great garden performers for formal hedges include:

  • Pittosporum crassifolium ‘Compactum’ (super  Australian performer, rounded shape 2-3′ wide)
  • Rosemary (smaller growers like ‘Roman Beauty’)
  • Correa (a gorgeous evergreen shrub from Australia with drooping bell shaped flowers)
  • Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek’ (gorgeous compact grower)
  • Artemesia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice (California native with low mounding silvery soft foliage)
  • Monardella villosa (California native commonly known as Coyote Mint, good for “informal” formal).

I’d let you know when I think of some more.  Better yet, tell me your pick for a climate appropriate formal hedge.

  • Brad

    March 15, 2011 at 11:20 am

    For a drought tolerant -california friendly formal hedge i like india hawthorn, little ollie, and heteromeles as well.

  • Christiane Holmquist

    July 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Hi Arleen, I appreciate your article about ‘formal’ hedge plants; this is the type of post i write myself, and know from own blog and business and family what it’s like to run all of these responsibilities, and write intelligent, useful material.
    I agree with your plant list. (May I add Podocarpus ‘Icee Blue’; it’s an upright,narrow grower that is easily controlled to make a plant screen. Water needs should be moderate, at least closer to the coast, like Santa Monica; I have planted it in Carlsbad which is on the coast).
    It’s my dream of putting together an online roster of drought tolerant plants that we have experience with, and that we all (SoCal designers) can contribute to.
    Presently I am researching trees/shrubs for large containers (I am working on another project where a condo-backyard that is completely paved over has only the budget for large planters where I would like to plant screening shrubs or small trees).
    So thank you for writing about your own experience (I happen to get mostly the projects with “looser”, more informal hedging or plant screens.)
    Happy gardening! (and designing)

    • admin

      July 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      Thank you Christine. It’s funny you mention the icee blue podocarpus because I just updated that hedge list today and added that one and a few others. I saw a Pamela Burton garden on a tour and she had used it as a hedge. She was at the garden and she was very lovely to talk to. I would love to get a real thoughtful data base going for Southern California plants that we could all share.

      Take care,


    • admin

      July 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Have you ever worked with Grewia occidentals for a screening shrub? I find it amazing and very happy in coastal conditions. Maybe that would work for you condo containers. Love it because you can keep it about a foot flat but will grow upwards.

  • Bryan M

    September 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Yes I saw a Little Ollie hedge and was impressed with how nice, dark green it was.