Helen Chesnut’s Backyard Notes: Eradicating cedar hedge will make gardening simpler


Dear Helen: We want to remove a cedar hedge that was planted on a 2.4 meter high fence along the west side of our property. The cedar roots have spread to the rest of the garden. The location has sun from morning to afternoon. The project would be tedious and expensive. Do you think it would be worth it? We would like replacement plants to at least partially cover the rather ugly fence. Or should we only use native plants like ferns and Oregon grapes?


As someone who spends half of her life digging cedar roots from vegetable patches, I have to admit to extreme prejudice on the matter. Removing the hedge could make gardening easier and more enjoyable for you.

If the entire project of removing the hedge and replanting seems too daunting or too expensive, it could be done in stages. Early fall is an ideal time to start.

Cut and dig up a few cedar trees at a time. If help is needed, you may find a recommendation of a suitable person at your preferred garden center near you.

Rehabilitation of the cedar-free soil will be the most important phase of the project. It has to be dug up and any remaining roots and debris removed. Then dig in some good quality compost, homemade or purchased, and put more on top. If possible, protect the surface over the winter with chopped leaves or straw. Plant early in spring.

There are many that would be suitable as substitute plants. The tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is a beauty. The plants can get as tall as your fence. The holly-like leaves are evergreen. Large yellow flowers appear in winter, followed by purple berries. My plant is just beginning to shed some of the berries.

I like Irish yew trees as companion plants to tall Oregon grapes. The Irish yew grows tall, upright and narrow.

An alternative is the Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata), which forms a fragrant evergreen hedge with glossy leaves and fragrant white flowers in late spring and early summer. There is a gold-leaved form called the Sundance. One of the prettiest hedges I’ve ever seen was the green choisya with a sun dance at each end. The shrubs tolerate pruning after flowering well.

Like the mahonia and yew tree, choisya is quite drought tolerant once well established.

Cactus and juicy show and sale. The Victoria Cactus and Succulent Society is hosting on Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Advent Church, 510 Mt. View Ave. in Colwood, a show and a sale. Payment by cash, EC card, Visa or Mastercard. Please bring your own box or other container.

Plant identification and culture. The Horticultural Center of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. In Saanich, is offering the next plant identification and culture session on Saturday from 1pm to 4pm. Diane Pierce introduces 25 new plants with their descriptions, cultural requirements, general care and landscape uses. This is an ongoing monthly course. Members $ 35, others $ 45. Details and online registration can be found at hcp.ca/events. Register online or by calling 250-479-6162.

Abkhazian boulevard garden. Abkhazia Garden, 1964 Fairfield Road. in Victoria, hosts an open day and the opening of the Boulevard Garden on Grandparents Day, Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry to the garden is free. The numerous prizes include tea for two in the tea house, plants from the garden, cuddly bears and more. There will also be a sale of plants. The new boulevard garden mirrors the inner garden with rocks and running water.

Meet peninsula. The Peninsula Garden Club will have a session on Zoom on Monday at 7:00 pm, with a 7:30 am presentation by Elke and Pam, owners of Botanus in Langley. Your topic is Successful Onion Growing: The Ten Most Asked Questions. ”Membership is required to purchase a Zoom link. For membership details, visit Peninsulagardenclub.ca or email President.pgc@gmail.com.


© Copyright Times Colonist