The hedge I’ve grown to hate

Slightly off-topic, forgive me. And this is also a bit of a rant.

But its that time of year when a huge proportion of British gardens are aflame with the fiery new shoots of Photinia (usually Red Robin) along mile after mile of recently planted suburban hedge. It is recommended for planting for spring colour, and it seems to thrive wherever it is planted. So we are seeing it more and more such that it has almost achieved Ubiquitous status. But is it a suitable plant for a hedge, or a small space?

What most people don’t seem to realise is that left to its own devices it grows into a large shrub with beautiful frothy white spring flowers interspersed with a few fiery new shoots. It needs space to do that. And space isn’t what most people give it.

So it is clipped and snipped and forced into shapes and sizes much too small for its inclinations. Flowering wood is cut off, and all we ever see are those new spring shoots, which let’s be honest are often more of a dingy brown than a fiery red. And their owners keep clipping and snipping throughout the year, so the poor shrub thinks it lives in some everlasting spring, so keeps sending out those new shoots. And it ends up looking much the same throughout the whole year, which rather defeats the object.

By contrast, here in South-West France where space is not at a premium and many people have large gardens if not land, we see many examples of Photinia which has been left to its own devices and is thriving and looking magnificent. Here’s a quick snap taken in a supermarket car park in Eymet in the southern Dordogne last week. Don’t you agree it looks better with the frothy flowers to offset those new shoots?

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