Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld



and Topiary

Hedges in their various forms have many advantages for the home gardener. They can be used to create an inexpensive privacy screen or boundary division (especially if you buy cheap plants or propagate your own) and are more attractive than most walls and fences. They also reflect less heat and glare than many hard surfaces.

On the downside, you may have to wait a considerable time for the hedge to grow enough to provide the desired screening. A hedge also takes up more space than a typical fence. In some cases In these days, the water needed to maintain a healthy hedge has to be a consideration in addition to the maintenance required.

Where to buy hedging plants in Qld

Most nurseries should have a reasonable selection of common hedging and screening plants suitable for your area.

If you're having trouble locating a particular species or variety, see if there's a dedicated page which might have a supplier listed (Plants Menu).

If you want to buy plants in large sizes for instant hedges, you may need to find a nursery which specialises in large container stock. Check the Advanced Plants page.

If you have a very long hedge to plant out you may be be looking for cheap plants, but be aware that this may mean starting from tiny tubestock and/or buying in bulk. Try the Budget Gardening page.

Hedge cutting services or tools

Want to hire someone to cut hedges? Try:

More interested in DIY? For hedging shears, powered hedge trimmers, etc, try:

Formal Hedges

The hedges requiring most work are "Formal" hedges are the tightly-clipped, geometric blocks of foliage with which most of us are familiar with from pictures of great gardens of the northern hemisphere. They can vary in scale from great walls of foliage down to decorative garden edges and knot gardens (with appropriate choice of species, of course).

Formal hedges aren't seen very much in Qld these days due to the work needed to keep them tidy, especially as the climate encourages vigorous growth. Furthermore, the number of species suitable for hot climates is somewhat limited. The conifers that are very popular in cold climates for formal hedging (yew, cupressus etc) are not suitable for tropical and subtropical climates. Small-leaved privet, which was once popular for formal hedges, is now considered a weed in Queensland.

Naturally compact species/cultivars will be better suited to hedging than those with a loose growth habit. Uusually, woody shrubs with small closely spaced leaves that come back thickly after pruning make good hedging subjects.

Many flowering species can be clipped regularly as a formal hedge, but at the expense of flowers. If you want flowers, a semi formal or informal hedge may be a better option (see below).

Many Australian natives can also be used. Once clipped and trained into a hedge, the effect will be essentially the same as exotic species.

of the natives lily pillies have proven most popular for formal hedging, particularly tight-foliaged cultivars such as Lillipilly 'Tiny Trev'. Westringia has also been used for smaller hedges. No doubt experimentation with native species in the future will reveal other hedge-worthy species.

Semi-Formal Hedges

Generally better suited to the Qld climate is the semi-formal hedge. This is still kept in shape by cutting, but with a softer, more naturalistic shape the demands of regular pruning are less onerous. While species with with small, closely spaced leaves are essential for good formal hedges, plants with a looser habit can be adapted to a semi-formal hedge e.g. Acalypha, Murraya, Hibiscus, Plumbago and others.

The semi-formal hedge or informal hedge is also more suitable for a flowering hedge, as you can wait long enough between prunings to allow allow for the development of flowers. Nevertheless, some knowledge of the flowering habits of the species concerned with help the gardener time prunings if flowers are desired (note that flower buds may be formed some considerable time in advance of the flowers appearing).

Whatever species is employed, regular pruning from the early stages will encourage the bushiness that is essential to an attractive hedge, and many species not typically thought of as hedging plants may be adapted to this form of cultivation. Bougainvillea, for example, can be formed into a hedge with rigorous pruning, although flowers may be sacrificed. Obviously, some cultivars may be more amenable to this treament than others.

In the USA, chemical plant growth regulators (PGRs) are being used to slow down the growth of hedges, reducing the cost of labour-intensive trumming (Ref: Is it Really Possible to Stop Plants from Growing?, Pinecrest Garden Guy blog, Miami).

Informal Hedges and Screens

The most informal forms of hedges are formed from shrubs are left to grow close to their natural shape, although occasional pruning will nevertheless help encourage bushiness and keep them from taking up too much space. Choice of varieties with naturally dense, upright growth will obviously be an advantage. As gardens become smaller and homeowners more time-poor, we can expect to see more breeding and selection for such charactertics in new hedging plant varieties.

Screens can also be created from plants such as clumping bamboos, clumping palms (e.g. Golden Cane palms) and assorted shrubs and small trees. The view might not be totally blocked by the less dense types of plants, but it will be enough to at least "camoflauge" the view and provide a distraction. While choosing plants with a naturally with an upright habit will help save space, informal hedges and screens tend to take up more space than regularly pruned formal hedges.

Vines and scramblers trained on a suitable support may be an alternative approach. You're likely to get faster screening and save horizontal space. A downside is that if you don't already have a fence suitable for growing a vine on, you're going to have to install something. Another problem is that narrow spaces between houses, where space is most likely to be a limitation, may have insufficient light for a vine (or a hedge, for that matter), to retain foliage right to the ground. The amount of soil to retail an adequate root sytem might also be limited in these situations. If you start with an attractive trellis, you might be less concerned if plant coverage is incomplete, and you should get at least some camoflauge ofthe view if not total blockage. See Climbers for more on such plants.


Topiary is the sculpting of plants into geometrical shapes like balls or cones or spirals. Some topiarists shape shrubs into animal forms or other fantastic shapes. The approach is similar to that of formal hedging, and indeed may be incorporated into hedging schemes, although the creation and maintenance requires special skill and extra dedication.

More Online Information

The following links are for general information, research and ideas - some particulars may not be appropriate to Australian conditions or species.
There are green alternatives to a chain link fence. Discusses many tropical species. University of Florida
Good Hedges Make Good Neighbors University of Florida
The Living Wall Hawaii Horticulture
Happy Hedges Charlotte County UF/IFAS Extension Service, Florida (PDF)
Formal Hedges Filioli Estate, near San Francisco (PDF)
Topiary in Europe and its Future in Florida Reproduction of a 1976 article, Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society (PDF)
Functional Uses of Plants in the Landscape Overview of how plants can provide practical benefits around the home, like screening or shading. Ohio State University
Live Fences from The Overstory, an agroforestry ejournal
SR67: Windbreaks Increasing Crop Growth on the Atherton Tablelands Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation
Multipurpose Windbreaks from The Overstory, an agroforestry ejournal
Trees as Noise Buffers from The Overstory, an agroforestry ejournal
Tips for topiary Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture
Topiaries Iowa State University of Science and Technology
Costa Rica's Señor Scissorhands National Public Radio, USA
Azaleas with a Difference Illustrated post about "cloud pruning" of azaleas at the GardenDesignOnline blog
Knot Gardens Filioli Estate, near San Francisco (PDF)
Mazes of Penance, Pleasure, Lessons Post about mazes and labyrinths at The Human Flower Project
'Samban-Lei Sekpil' the tallest Topiary in the World Created from Duranta repens in India


A wide range of species can be trained as hedges, or used as informal screens, but here's a selection including some of the most popular types of plants used in Qld, with links to more information.

Link indicates a dedicated page
Notes, Other links
Includes assorted links to other websites if no dedicated page on this site
Acmenasee Lilipilly
GossiaFormerly Austromyrtus. Included on Lilipilly page
Waterhousiasee Lilipilly
For dwarf hedges (garden edging, parterres)
Abelia(dwarf cultivars e.g. 'Kaleidoscope')
Gardenia(dwarf cultivars)
Lonicera nitida 
Malpighia coccigera 
Murraya(dwarf cultivars)
Santolina chamaecyparissus North Carolina State University
Santolina chamaecyparissus Royal Horticultural Society, UK

Bougainvillea hedge
Bougainvillea hedges in the grounds of QEII Hospital, Brisbane. A few pink, purple and white blossoms suggest that this planting originally contained a greater range of colours than the lavender and orange that now dominate. This illustrates that even cultivars of one type of plant can differ in vigour, and a mixed hedge may evenually be taken over by one or two components. The effect is still attractivem and the hedge may be more successful in this difficult location (under established trees) than if only the weakest cultivar had been chosen.

Although flowering shrubs can be adapted as hedges, cutting will probably mean sacrificing of the flowers. The Murraya pictured above is flowering on the untrimmed parts but cutting it along the footpath has resulted in mostly foliage on that side. Species with a predictable flowering time can be managed by refraining from pruning for several months beforehand, but the resultant hedge maybe more informal than one pruned more frequently.

Dwarf hedges can be used to edge garden beds for a formal look (illustrated above with central standardised feature shrub and filled in with bulbs or perennials)
Dwarf hedges can be used to edge garden beds for a formal look (illustrated above with central standardised feature shrub and filled in with bulbs or perennials). Regular trimming will be required, but it is impressive.

Large containers with suitably dense shrubs can provide a green screen where it is not possible to plant in the ground. Plants can be moved elsewhere if a more permanent solution is eventaully installed. Large grasses, bamboos or clumping palms might be alternatives
Large containers with suitably dense shrubs can provide a green screen where it is not possible to plant in the ground. Plants can be moved elsewhere if a more permanent solution is eventaully installed. Large grasses, bamboos or clumping palms might be alternatives

Containerised shrubs can be trimmed into a formal hedge
Containerised shrubs can be trimmed into a formal hedge

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