Architectural Privacy Hedge

(Question)

I would like to plant a hedge that will grow to a solid green manicured wall of 8 feet for interest and privacy across the center of my front yard in North York. The yard faces south and will be cleared of all existing items except for a mature Magnolia tree. I will complete the yard with assorted grasses. Any suggestions for hedges and ornamental grass would be appreciated.
Thank you!

(Answer)

Information on growing hedges is a very common gardening question posted on the Toronto Master Gardener Website, which has resulted in our producing a Gardening Guide on the topic.  To see the guide Evergreens suitable for hedging, click here.

If you search our Ask a Master Gardener website using the word “hedge”, you will find a number of Q&A’s that provide helpful information with regard to choice of plants and their maintenance. When choosing plants for a formal hedge it is important to consider their eventual height, spread and speed of development. Here in Toronto one has to ensure the plants are hardy within Zone 6 and are suited to the soil type of your garden. Plants for a formal hedge must have a dense growth habit and tolerate close clipping. In your particular circumstance, cedar (Thuja occidentalis) or yew (Taxus spp.)  appear to be good choices, as they stay dense and grow tall. However, they will take a while to grow to the height you require. Bear in mind that your choice of plant material may be determined by what is available at your local garden centre or nursery.

Further reading:Hedges and Hedging for Toronto

Grasses are becoming a popular choice for gardeners as they are drought tolerant.  Many grasses prefer full sun; some are invasive though, so choose clump forming varieties. Most grasses offer interesting seed heads in the fall; they can be left on to enjoy all winter and cut back in the spring. Select grasses that hardy to at least zone 6 for Toronto. In your south facing garden they should do well. There are many wonderful ornamental grasses to choose from. A visit to the Toronto Botanical Garden (at Leslie/Lawrence) and/or the Music Garden (at the foot of Bathurst Ave and Spadina) will provide an excellent example of the use of grasses.

The following articles will provide you with further useful information.

http://www.canadianliving.com/crafts/home_and_garden/guide_to_gardening_with_ornamental_grass.php

http://www.thestar.com/life/homes/outdoor_living/2010/10/01/cullen_the_new_green_grass_of_home.print.html

http://www.leevalley.com/en/newsletters/Gardening/7/7/article1.pdf

The City of Toronto in their guide to Drought Tolerant Landscaping, 2012 provides names of suitable grasses to grow in the Toronto region.

Native Grasses

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)

Switch grass (Panicum virgatum)

Hairy panic grass (Dichanthelium acuminatum)

Northern dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

Non Native Grasses

Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)

Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)

Porcupine/Zebra grass (i) (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ or M.s. ‘Zebrinus’)

Ribbon grass (i) (Phalaris arundinacea)

Blue fescue (Festuca glauca)