If you don’t like the idea of fencing as a garden boundary, a hedge offers a far better and more permanent alternative. Timber fencing, no matter how well constructed, will eventually need replacing. Although a hedge will take time to establish, the benefits are considerable. Not only is a hedge more resistant to high winds and wet weather, the wildlife in your garden can also benefit from extra food, shelter and somewhere to live.
Choosing a hedge species.
There are two main types of hedging to choose from, deciduous and evergreen. Both types of hedge are easy to plant and maintain so your decision will be based mainly on what species is best suited to your garden. Also consider the purpose of the hedge; thorny and spiny varieties such as holly and hawthorn are ideal for added security, faster growing conifers will provide a dense barrier for privacy and fruit bearing species such as blackthorn and hawthorn will attract certain species of birds.
Beech. The ideal deciduous hedge for well drained soil. Beech will retain its dead leaves all year providing a rusty brown screen during the winter. Best trimmed in late summer.
Hornbeam. Like beech, hornbeam retains its leaves during the winter. Very similar in appearance to beech but with more serrated leaves. Trim in late summer.
Box. A slow growing evergreen hedge ideal for smaller gardens. Will only need trimming once a year.
Privet. A common hedge species that retains its leaves in all but the coldest winters. Privet is available in green, golden and variegated forms. A prolific grower that will need trimming twice a year to stay looking smart.
Yew. A classic hedging species chosen for its dark glossy green appearance and resistance to close trimming. Ideal for topiary, yew is slow growing at first but speeds up once established. Bear in mind yew is highly poisonous, if you have children or livestock you may want to consider a different species.
Cherry laurel. One of the best evergreen hedges available. Large glossy leaves and highly tolerant of close trimming and severe reductions. Best trimmed with secateurs in summer. Buy larger plants and you can create an instant hedge.
Leyllandii. Although the leyland cypress is responsible for numerous disputes between neighbours, it provides a fast growing, dense hedge and won’t cause any problems if maintained regularly. When planting Lleylandii, allow the young plants to reach approximately 2ft above the desired hedge height, then trim the leader just below the required height. This will encourage side-shoots in subsequent years.
Elaeagnus. An attractive, fast growing species ideal for coastal areas. Often needs trimming twice a year. Available as an evergreen.
Thorny and spiny hedges
Holly is quite slow growing but does provide one of the best evergreen security hedges. A firm favourite with many species of birds and tolerant of shady positions. Trim at the end of the summer.
Blackthorn is a particularly vicious deciduous variety that when established will provide a dense security hedge only the very foolish will attempt to get through. Blackthorn is not suitable for a formal hedge but is ideal in a rustic setting. The fruit (sloes) will provide a welcome meal for birds in the autumn.
One of the most common rural deciduous hedge species, hawthorn flowers in the spring and produces red berries on the thorny stems. A fast growing species that can cope with heavy trimming at any time of year. An ideal security hedge that will also benefit wildlife.
A spiny, evergreen species that produces a mass of orange flowers in late spring. Trim after flowering.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash