Podocarpus forms

This well manicured Podocarpus hedge disguises a chain link fence well.

I've been noticing Podocarpus lately. It has a temperate climate feel to me for some reason - maybe it's something to do with the leaves or the modern shapes one can prune it into or its temperate roots - that contrasts with common tropical plants in urban landscapes. 

It's a conifer and it makes a great hedge. I've seen one that is perfectly rectangular that hides a chain link fence so well that you would never know there was such a fence if you didn't inspect the hedge closely (above). This hedge makes a great privacy screen, as it has grown rather dense, but it is weed-wacked often to maintain the rectilinear form, and that causes some less attractive but temporary browning.

I spotted another such hedge (below), and have watched it fill in nicely. It used to be much sparser. There are still some thin spots, but it's looking better than ever. It's not quite as uniform in shape as the first hedge (maybe it will be one day), but it's much more attractive than a chain link fence.

Podocarpus can also be attractive in tree form. I used to think the plant really only looks good (either as a shrub or a tree) when shaped strategically, but its less manicured form is growing on me. They seem pretty low maintenance, at least once established, and don't seem to shed much.

This Podocarpus may be a different species than that shown in the other photos in this post, but I'm not sure which one. They're also more mature trees than the others.

Close-up of bark.

There are seed cones in there.

Podocarpus trees pruned in an urban landscape.

This planting grid reminds me of the Ground Zero tree arrays. I tested out the concept of approaching from an angle versus parallel to the rows, and got a neat sense of randomness becoming order as I changed my perspective.

If I didn't know what Podocarpus could look like in tree or shrub form and just spotted it as a small potted plant, I probably wouldn't be that impressed. The plant looks kind of lush in the photo below, but I've seen them a bit larger and they don't look particularly attractive at that stage.

Podocarpus gracilior, potted in nursery.

Podocarpus gracilior (fern pine) is the species I see most. I read it's native to East Africa. Pacific Horticulture has an interesting article about how this species ended up in California.

Apparently you can also bonsai Podocarpus (here's a photo of one).
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