Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Maintain Open Public Landscapes

We in Southern Oregon have a fairly mild climate, but not as friendly to transients as in Arizona.  In Arizona, governments maintain their public landscapes for visibility, eliminating places where people can hide to sleep, smoke, drink, or do other things that they should not do in public.  Hedging is very rare.
These are not all desert landscapes, but even desert vegetation in parks can easily get thick enough to hide in.  Rather than allow hiding places, Arizona governments cut out undergrowth and limb up shrubs and trees for security and shade.
Here in Josephine County, governments and most businesses and homeowners tend to hedge, trying to maintain a static look with growing plants.  It doesn’t work well for the plants, beauty, shade, or security. 
Governments set the tone for landscaping in any city; businesses and homeowners tend to follow their lead unless they have their own ideas about proper maintenance and beauty.  Governments train the lowest among us in landscape maintenance through service on work crews; these people go home and start hedging their own shrubs and copying other bad habits from work crew, like leaving cuttings hanging on the hedge and small litter on the ground.
Hedges are a pain to weed, and many people don’t even try, including city landscape maintenance contractors who have little oversight.  This leads to the bad habit of ignoring blackberries, hedging them along with the rest of the shrubs and pretending that they are not ugly weeds, or simply allowing them to take over marginal areas.  It’s easy to hide behind or within blackberries in summer, and cardboard can provide sleepers protection from the thorns. 
Blackberries also attract and hold litter, showing it off more each winter as the leaves fall, while making it impossible to clean it up until the patch is cleared.  They are designated noxious weeds for a reason, and should be grown only where they are maintained for berry production, certainly not on public property.
Not only is hedging hard on the plants, ugly, and bad for security; it is a lot of work.  Any hedged plant has to be trimmed at least twice a year; 3 or 4 times to really keep up with the growth of many shrubs.  Once they fill their space, the older they get, the harder it is to keep them confined without leaving holes and dead spots. 
Hedges also attract litter and make it harder to clean it up.  So do evergreen trees allowed to keep their limbs all the way to the ground.  And pretty as they otherwise might be, they hide people.

Published at Yahoo Voices under The Natural Gardener.

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