European beech (Fagus sylvatica) field dug and in biodegradable planters. These are ready to ship and ready to plant and once installed all they need is adequate water and follow-up pruning to maintain shape. COURTESY INSTANTHEDGE
Harry Bates exterior
Co-chair Dick Bruce at "Art in the Garden." COURTESY FRAN CONIGLIARO
Fran Conigliaro and Diana Brennan at "Art in the Garden." COURTESY DIANA BRENNAN
Hedges have been an important part of Hamptons landscapes for as long as I can remember, and I feel pretty certain that if you visited the East End a century ago, the village areas of Westhampton, Southampton and East Hampton would look very familiar, not just for the architecture and seascape but for the hedges as well. The vast majority of these hedges, probably hundreds of miles and thousands of linear feet of them, are the ubiquitous privet hedges. The hedges are primarily used as privacy screens and windbreaks, and while some property owners let them grow somewhat wild, most have them sheared and shaped two to four times a year to keep them symmetrical and dense.
While gardeners and homeowners can buy small and inexpensive branched starters of privet from online nurseries, most of the local hedges are bought from local nurseries, where they are field dug and reinstalled on local properties by landscape contractors, or they are bought as single balled and burlapped shrubs that are then lined out, planted, and, over a period of years, shaped and coaxed by repeated prunings to form the summer screens of green that keep us from being peeping Toms.
But there is change in the winds, and new types of hedges—and a new way of buying them and planting them may be just around the corner.
Brent Markus, the owner of InstantHedge in Canby, Oregon, discovered his passion in his teens, landscaping his parents’ garden in a suburb of Chicago. He won his first award, the Chicago Tribune Garden Contest Best Collectors Garden, when he was 17, and his designs have been featured in numerous national publications.
Mr. Markus attended Cornell University to study landscape architecture and received a master’s degree in horticulture. Mr. Markus’s original nursery, Rare Tree Nursery, has been operating from the same location for the past 11 years and specializes in Japanese maples and dwarf conifers.
Well, Mr. Markus had an idea: Why not grow hedges in a nursery situation, where the hedges were grown not as individual plants but as, of all things, hedges? Then, dig these hedges with special equipment, put them into special biodegradable planters, ship them to landscapers and nurseries, who would then bring them to your property and install—an instant hedge.
Suddenly, gardens and gardeners can have a new form of instant gratification, but this time in plant form!
Mr. Markus’s creation of InstantHedge was inspired by a 2012 visit to the Netherlands. He returned home and decided to go big, planting 81 acres with more than 400,000 plants. In the ground since 2014, the first InstantHedges are shipping across the country now.
Mr. Markus explained: “Five years of growing, and our first hedges are topping 6 feet, so it’s game time!”
Now, you may be wondering about plants being grown way out in Oregon, and how safe and reliable it is to truck them all the way to New York for planting. Well, this has actually been going on for decades, and at just about every quality local nursery and garden center you’ll find trees and shrubs are grown in both Oregon and Washington State. They are trucked cross country in climate-controlled trucks, arriving in the East three to five days later, where they quickly acclimate.
These are truly instant hedges! Each InstantHedge is an evergreen or deciduous hedge sold in panels of four trees that have been pruned multiple times each year, using GPS tracking equipment, to provide extraordinary density.
Revolutionary technology ensures precision, accuracy and delivery of a consistent product. The hedges look like they’ve been growing in place for years, not just dropped in the ground. This saves years of grow-in time once they arrive at your property, since they’ve been pre-shaped and pruned.
Once they’ve been planted, all you or your landscaper has to do is give them adequate moisture and either maintain their shape and size with routine pruning or allow them to continue to grow while pruning them to maintain their density and vigor.
Mr. Markus displayed InstantHedge at a number of nursery trade shows around the country in 2017, so he could familiarize retailers and wholesalers with this unique idea. He noted that if initial response to the products is anything to go by, the future is bright.
Response to InstantHedge’s debut at the winter trade shows “has been outstanding,” according to Mr. Markus. Renowned plantsman Michael Dirr stopped by to see the hedges at the Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show in Baltimore and remarked that they were “brilliant!” Another visitor was said to have remarked, “I’ve been waiting for something like this for 15 years.”
So, maybe he’s really on to something big.
And he’s not offering what some refer to as the “common” privet. InstantHedge is currently offering 13 varieties of ready-to-plant hedges, covering hardiness zones 2 to 9, heights of 3 to 6 feet, and full to partial sunlight requirements. Hedges currently ship in biodegradable cardboard boxes, with a plastic fabric pot version under development.
In addition to the large hedges, they are also releasing an 18-inch boxwood hedge that should be available this fall. The offerings are divided into the evergreen group, which includes a couple of laurels, Hicks yew, and several arborvitaes, including “Green Giant.” In the deciduous group, they are offering European beech, a hedge maple Acer campestre, and Conrus mas, or Cornelian cherry.
So, of course, you want to know where you can buy these and how much they’ll cost. Mr. Markus tells me that you won’t find them at most retail gardens centers, at least not this year, and that if you’re interested in the product, you would have to have your landscaper or landscape architect look into it—but there may be other options.
If you’re thinking that this might be something that would work on your property, think in the area of $200 a running foot.
He added, “Our InstantHedges are initially more expensive than planting using conventional trees, but the cost of ownership over time is significantly less. When planting conventional trees, it takes years for them to grow together, so the cost of maintenance until the hedge is finished is extremely high. Our hedges are instant gratification.”
How perfect for the Hamptons!
Marders in Bridgehampton is one local nursery that can supply InstantHedge. You can reach InstantHedge at instanthedge.com.
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