Space for Limelight Hydrengeas

Kathy_k(5)July 28, 2014

I am looking for some advice on planting limelight hydrangeas in by back yard. I have just removed some arborvitaes that were getting too large for the space. I have already purchased the limelight's but am questioning my choice.

The space that they will go in is a retaining wall that is about 3 feet off the ground. The space of the retaining wall is 72 feet long but 3.5 feet wide. At the back of the retaining wall is my neighbor's chain link fence. I absolutely love the limelight's, but am now am concerned about the space between the retaining wall and the chain link fence. I would consider the little limelight, but do not think it will give me enough size to create the privacy that I want in this space. Houses are close and right now it feels like I am living in my neighbors yard!

Thoughts on if this could work. Can I prune in the future to keep these bushes in check or will I be sorry that I planted them. If this is not the shrub for this place, please feel free to make other suggestions. The bushes that I have waiting to go are good size already - 3 feet or so.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

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Springwood_Gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

Your scenario would likely work with no maintenance at first, but after five years the growth might get *slightly* out of control. Either way, these are extremely easy to prune in early Spring to control size in advance of the growing season. At maturity I'd cut branches to a clearance of 1 foot from the fence and to a height of 4 feet.

For planting, I'd allow a spacing of 4 feet from base to base. So you might need almost 20 shrubs to go the whole 72 feet.

Limelight growth tends to go straight up vertically so there aren't tremendous odds of them going through the fence (in the event your neighbor doesn't like that sort of thing).

As for height, these can exceed 8' tall so they'd certainly block the view of most chainlink fences.

Little Lime could potentially grow the height of a chainlink fence, but would probably take much longer to do so than conventional Limelight.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 11:30AM
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Thank you so much for your reply. I appreciate the information on spacing and pruning that you have provided. My greatest fear is that in a few years, the limelight will outgrow the narrow space that the retaining wall and fence provide. I have read so much conflicting information about the amount of room need versus the ability to prune effectively with the space available.

I think I am now leaning toward planting and pruning accordingly. Thanks again!


    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 6:42PM
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Kathy - do you have a picture of the area? That's not very deep for LImelights, even though they do grow more vertically than many shrubs.

I agree that they don't mind being pruned, but I think you'll end up with "flat backs" if you need to keep them anywhere near to 3.5 feet wide. That might work OK in the space you're thinking of. I love Limelights, and I'd probably try it if I were you, so I'm not trying to be negative.

One more consideration is the amount of sun and whether they're on the north, south, east or west of the yard (in case they'd be in a spot where they'd want to lean more towards the neighbor's yard for light).

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 8:00PM
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Hi Ruth,

Thanks for your comments! It is too dark to get a picture right now, but the space is really 3.5 inched between the retaining wall and my neighbor's chain link fence! They would be planted on the south side of my yard and receive sunlight for much of the day. Is that a good thing?

I love the limelights too and think they would be beautiful there! I do not want to plant them where they willl not thrive and have to pull them out in a few years! I could plant a bit closer to the retaining wall rather than the fence in hopes of keeping them in my yard. I also had thught of planting a few with something else so that I could replace if I needed to, but that would not give the hedge like look I am hoping for. Also do not know what else to plant with it or instead of?? It is a narrow space for many bushes!

As mentioned earlier, I am used to a privacy wall and am eager to get something in there that will fill the space.

Thanks again!


    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 9:24PM
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I guess if they're in mostly full sun, they won't be as likely to lean towards the fence or mostly bloom on that side. I have some on my south side, and most of the blooms face the neighbors' house. But they're in quite a bit of shade on my side.

I think planting them a little more toward the front makes sense. You'll want to read up on various methods of pruning, especially if you want to encourage height plus blooms toward the front/bottom. (I'd think this would be important given that they're 3 feet off the main ground level.)

I'd recommend Googling "Deborah Silver Limelights." She's a great designer, IMO, does a ton with Limelights, and writes a good garden blog too.

It would still be great to see a picture, because sometimes that tells a story that's more easily missed in a written description.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 9:50PM
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Another question I meant to ask is your zone. In a sense, you'll be growing this in a "container," so you'll need to consider hardiness. I think Limelight is zone 4 (I've read both 4 and 3), and it's usually recommended to add two zones for container planting. So you'd need to be in zone 6 or above.

Also, I should have added in my comment above that Deborah Silver has a post (or maybe more than one) on how to prune Limelights, which is the main reason I mentioned her. But you'd probably be inspired by her beautiful Limelight pictures too!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 6:02AM
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Hi Ruth,

Thanks for your reply. I live in Milwaukee, so the southern part of the state and in zone 5.

I am familiar with Deborah Silver's blog and have seen her beautiful pictures of the limelights! It just make me want a row of them in my yard!

I hope you can see the picture. I am not sure I did it correctly. You can see the space which still needs to have the stumps from the arborvitae removed and you get a glimpse of the limelights which are waiting for a permanent home! You can also see how close I am to my neighbor's yard and the need for a privacy fence.

Would you take a chance and see if it works out or would your choose something entirely different. I haven't heard anyone say absolutely no, but I realize it is taking a chance.

Thanks for reading and commentin!


    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 3:12PM
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Is the 3.5' wide measurement just the dirt portion? It looks more narrow, but it's hard to judge in a picture. Are you on good terms with the neighbor (in case the Limelights start growing through the fence)?

I guess only you can decide if you're willing to risk the hardiness issue. It looks like you got some very nice Limelights, so I can see why you're excited about them!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 4:00PM
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