We have this week had the hedge cut. This is a landmark moment. It’s the first time we’ve handed this task over to the professionals – it is as if our little hedge has finally matured into something that a professional might pay due regard too, rather than laugh at – for there is no doubt that it is now a hedge – one with a hole.
The garden entrance – or the hole in the hedge – has always been something of a reference point to the amount of time we’ve lived in the house. We photographed it on the first day when we were not yet owners of either house or hedge.
As you can see the hedge was something of a rump, the original garden gate was on its last legs and that entrance, no longer used, was home to the recycle bin and an old wool fadge.
Both Peter and I grew up in Auckland and were big fans of the beautifully maintained tecoma hedges in suburbs like Epsom, Mt Albert and Remuera. At the same time Justin a friend of mine was devoting himself to the most divinely maintained tecoma hedge, one he manicured to perfection, as counterpoint to his perfect and obsessively maintained lawn.
I’m not introducing a note of competition here, our hedge will never be the art work that Justin’s is – but I’m just flagging that it helps to have ‘a hedge friend’ to get you through the establishment phase of any hedge – simply because most people won’t share your obsession.
Peter and I both saw the potential in what was the stub of the old hedge that still collected around the derelict gate. The problem was that this was the only place in which there was a hedge – the front of the house was ruthlessly exposed to the busy street – with only a 3 foot high hurricane wire fence between us and the road (and noisy neighbours.)
We committed to planting afresh and bought an enormous number of small tecoma plants (not costly at about $4.00 each) and placed them along the inside of the wire fence. We fed both them (and the old hedge) with sheep manure and water, water, water. One section of the new planting got hit by a frost and really struggled for the next couple of years but the area of old hedge responded well to a little attention.
The hurricane wire fence proved perfect as each new runner from the tecoma could be woven through it giving the hedge an internal support structure. While Peter and I generally have differentiated garden zones – the hedge is a joint project – I weave and shape the new runners and pick off flower heads (said to promote longer growth) – he clips and shapes.
In a surprisingly short period of time, the two sides of the hedge round the gate began to meet in a neo-gothic point. This seemed the right moment to re-build the gate. Stephen built a replica version (sans letter-box) and together we spent a good long day trying to dig out the old totara gate posts and to dig in new ones – something much easier to do if you do it before you plant the hedge.
In time the hole in the hedge has closed over and the new gate makes an attractive entry point to the property – off the communal lane. Napier is littered with old houses with garden gates that are wired up, rotting off hinges or simply overgrown and I’m always pleased, and sometimes surprised, when a visitor uses our garden gate.
Our hedge now runs the entire front of the house, covers a reinforced concrete bus shelter donated to the city by the Inner Wheel (the wives of Rotarians) in 1958, and terminates at the garden gate. All this has been achieved within five years. Now professionally cut for the first time, the hedge has a good basic form (if a slightly scalped appearance) and is again of manageable scale – aka available for a little fine tuning.
Justin would tell me that my verticals aren’t vertical, that the top has a dip in it and that the interior of my gateway needs work and he’d be right – but I defend our hedge’s romantic character, bask in the privacy it offers, and look forward to a little manicuring to come.