Aug 2011 – ‘Hedging Your Bets’

HEDGES can be an invaluable element to anyone’s garden. They can give privacy, shelter and security, add a great backdrop to frame your beds and borders or they can just be elegant plants in their own right. So what’s the best plant to choose to create your hedge? It all depends on what you want your hedge to do and there are lots of different plants to choose from.

Laurel hedge

For a formal look then box or yew can create an elegant and classic low hedge which is evergreen and easy to maintain. If you are worried about box blight, a devastating fungal disease which is becoming increasingly prevalent, then Ilex crenata is a good alternative and looks very similar. If you want something which is a bit cheaper and very fast growing then English laurel (Prunus lauroserasus) could be for you or even a conifer such as western red cedar (Thuja plicata) which creates a nice dense hedge and both are evergreen. As for deciduous hedges you can’t go wrong with either hornbeam or beech, which if clipped regularly can look amazing. You often see them gracing the gardens of stately homes. Hornbeam does better on heavier clay soil and beech seems to do better on lighter sandier soils.

 If you are in a more rural setting, then an informal hedge of native shrubs works well. A mix of hawthorn, field maple, spindle, blackthorn and even dog rose (Rosa canina) can look great and also provide good habitats for wildlife.

 For security, you can’t go wrong with firethorn (Pyracantha spp.) or barberry (Berberis spp.) both of which are particularly thorny and will create an impenetrable barrier. These, along with privet, are all traditional hedges which are very reliable and widely grown, but why not try something a little bit different to get the neighbours talking.

Bamboo Hedge Phyllostacys nigra

First up, there’s bamboo. This is great for a contemporary garden, especially the golden bamboo (Phyllostacys aurea), which sounds great rustling in the wind and responds well to trimming. If you want a low boundary hedge around your property for security you could try a spikey Yucca. You could stagger plant a double row of Yucca gloriosa, about 1 metre wide. It wouldn’t get very tall but it would take a brave man to walk through it. Not recommended if you have children or pets.

 You could try a hardy hibiscus hedge (Hibiscus syriacus) mixing it with blue, pink or white flowered varieties. This time of year it would look amazing.  For sunny sites then rosemary or Pittosporum tenuifolium do well. Rosemary will soon form a dense medium sized hedge if trimmed regularly and you have the added benefit of scent.

 If on acid soil why not try a camellia hedge, which will give an evergreen hedge with pink, red or white flowers in the middle of winter when you most want cheering up.

 The best time to plant a hedge is autumn/ early winter when you can buy many plants bare rooted which will work out cheaper. It’s also easier to establish and you don’t have to worry so much about watering.

 Hedges can be a bit of a contentious issue between neighbours so be sure that you keep your hedge regularly trimmed. Most hedges should be trimmed at least once a year (sometimes twice depending on how quickly they grow) and now (August) is an ideal time to do it.