Edible Hedges

Edible Hedges

Hedges are handy things to cultivate as they serve so many purposes in the garden and there is no better time to plant a new hedge than now.  Come spring, your shrubs will be settled, start shooting new growth and you can get going on pruning and shaping them at your heart’s content.

Use your hedges to create privacy and security between properties, or to create various garden rooms, quiet corners and dedicated spaces.  Hedges also provide food and shelter to a variety of birds, insects and even small mammals.  Take it a step further and select shrubs that bear edible fruit or foliage for you to harvest and enjoy – that way you can have your hedge and eat it!

A few options available at Lifestyle Home Garden would include:

BIG NUM-NUM (Carissa macrocarpa)

  • Sun / Semi-shade  • Evergreen    • Hardy    • Wind-tolerant    • Plant 1m apart    • Height:  3m

A lovely, indigenous shrub with many benefits which include the large, red fruits, high in Vitamin C, that are borne from mid-summer.  The fruits follow pure white, star-shaped flowers with a fresh orange blossom fragrance that cover the shrub in spring and early summer.  An added bonus to this fantastic shrub is the hard, Y-shaped thorns, making it an ideal security hedge.  The fruits can be eaten fresh or made into delicious jams and jellies.  Birds and butterflies will be regular visitors to your num-num hedge.

POMEGRANATE (Punica granatum)

  • Full sun  • Deciduous    • Drought-tolerant    • Heat-tolerant    • Plant 1m apart    • Height:  3m

Now here’s a blast from the past that’s been completely re-invented!  Everybody loves the healthy, juicy little surprises (arils) hidden inside the hard outer shell and they’re not always easy to come by.  They bear striking orange-red flowers from which the unusual red fruit develop. Pomegranates are very high in anti-oxidants and vitamins and have a long list of health benefits.

Recommended varieties:

‘Old Cape’:  An old-fashioned heirloom variety with tough skin, hard seeds and a sweet-sour taste.  Ripens from April.

‘Pazz’:  Rich, dark red and sweet and juicy arils with very soft seeds.  Ripens from early March.

‘Gose’:  Attractive pinkish-red, sweet and juicy arils with soft seeds.  Ripens from early March.

QUINCE (Cydonia oblonga)

  • Full sun    • Deciduous    • Hardy    • Drought-tolerant    • Plant 1m apart    • Height:  2.5m

Quinces are old time favourites making a comeback in the culinary world.  Used to be there wasn’t a farm without a quince hedge lining the path from the orchard to the house.  With their ornamental white-pink flowers in spring and summer and their lovely autumn foliage, they are ideal hedge specimens.  The quince fruit is very fragrant and the best way to eat it fresh from the tree is with salt as it can be very tart and astringent.  It really is more suitable to use cooked in jellies, jams, preserves and desserts.

Recommended varieties are ‘Cape Select’ which ripens from late March and ‘Portugal’ which ripens from mid-September.

ROSEMARY  (Rosmarinus officinalis)

  • Full sun  • Evergreen    • Hardy    • Drought-tolerant    • Plant 50cm apart    • Height:  1-1.5m

An obvious choice for all food lovers, rosemary has been a garden stalwart for centuries. It can be used as a hedge around your vegetable and herb garden, where it will protect tender plants and repel an array of pests (and evil spirits, I’m told) or it can be incorporated as a low hedge into the ornamental garden where it will fit in with ease.  Bright blue flowers will add cheer in summer and autumn.  Although the plant doesn’t bear fruit, the fragrant leaves can be used in stews, potjies, roasts and on the braai.

‘McConnell’s Blue’ and ‘Tuscan Blue’ are varieties that lend themselves very well to being shaped into hedges.  Rosmarinus ‘Ginger’ with its strong ginger-infused aroma and taste is another great contender.

BAY LEAF (Laurus nobilis)

  • Sun / Semi-shade • Evergreen    • Hardy    • Wind-tolerant    • Plant 2m apart    • Height:  Can grow more than 10m high over time, so trim as required.

How very rewarding it is to step into the garden and pick all the bay leaves you need for your favourite curry, stew, soup or rice dish.  The flavor of the fresh leaves simply surpasses that of the dry ones and, because the shrub is evergreen, you will have a year-round supply.  Bay trees with their dense, deep green foliage, make excellent hardy hedges that look good throughout the year and because they are slow growers, they are easy to maintain with only a light trimming needed once a year.

SPEKBOOM (Portulacaria afra)

  • Sun / Semi-shade • Evergreen    • Hardy    • Drought-tolerant    • Plant 1m apart    • Height:  3m

An unusual choice of edible hedge, but a fantastic, indigenous, carbon-absorbing option; the spekboom or Elephant’s food forms a very dense, impenetrable and attractively sculptural screen over time.  The succulent spekboom leaves have a slightly sour, zesty taste and is packed with Vitamin C.  It adds a fresh taste to salads as a sprinkle, can be added to your G & T in place of cucumber (use the ruby-red stem as swizzle stick!) and enhances the flavour of lamb and tomato stews.  From mid-spring to mid-summer the plant is covered in light pink, nectar-rich flowers which will attract birds, bees and butterflies galore!

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