Hedge Your Bets

Many people think there’s nothing to do in the garden in Winter, but they couldn’t be more wrong. It’s the perfect time to plan and plant a hedge, here are some tips to get started…

WHEN planning what type of hedge you would like, there are some important points to consider:

Evergreen or non-evergreen:
You must decide whether you would like a hedge that keeps its leaves or one that loses them in the winter.

This may seem like an easy decision as most people prefer a hedge with leaves all year round, but it is important to note that non-evergreen plants are usually a lot hardier than their evergreen counterparts and in the past two particularly harsh winters many people have lost evergreen plants.

Formal or informal:
A formal hedge is clipped neatly on the sides and on the top. An informal hedge may just look like a row of plants more resembling a screen. The decision that you make here will determine the range of plants available to you.

Single or double row:
Many people think a hedge is simply a row of plants that have grown into one another to form a barrier, but that is only one form. Another option is to grow a hedge in double, staggered rows. The benefit of this is that you will have a much thicker hedge that provides more privacy. The downside is that you use double the number of plants compared to a hedge planted in a single row.

Wildlife interest: whether or not you wish to encourage wildlife into your garden will also have an impact on the choice of plant for your hedge. Plants such as Cotoneaster will provide berries for the birds during autumn and winter, whereas plants such as Ligustrum (Privet) have little or no wildlife interest at all.

Height and size: The dimensions of your hedge will also determine the range of plants available to you. It would be of little use planting a quick-growing hedge if you only want in to grow to a metre high. Height and size can also apply to the size of plants you wish to purchase. If you plant larger plants you will get more instant impact, but they will cost more.

Having answered these questions you are now ready to consider the plants available to you. Below is a selection of some of the most popular hedging varieties.

Evergreen plants.
Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland Cypress): The source of many horror stories and the cause of many an argument between neighbours. But it does not have to be this way. Problems occur when the plant is left to get out of control. If you trim this plant regularly — two to four times a year depending on the growing season — then they will not cause a problem but if you are not prepared to do this it is not the plant for you. However, if you can give it the attention it needs it will form a dense hedge very quickly. Another point to note is that it has very little wildlife interest.

escalloniahedgeEscallonia: Best used for hedges in coastal gardens as it will cope very well with salt winds. It is not suitable for planting inland or at altitude as it does not cope well with severe cold.

Ligustrum ovalifolium (Privet): This was once a popular plant for garden hedges but seems to have fallen out of fashion. It is important to note that in cold winters this plant may lose its leaves and, therefore, not be evergreen.

Prunus laurocersus (Laurel): A popular plant for hedges that has large, leathery, dark-green leaves. It will form a dense hedge relatively quickly and is one type of plant you may want to consider instead of Leyland Cypress.

Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn): An ever popular choice of plant, this will form a dense, spiny hedge. It is extremely hardy and will cope with severe cold and strong winds once established. It is also good for wildlife.

Fagus sylvatica (Beech): Can be hedges. An interesting point to note about this plant is that when grown as a hedge it will retain its leaves after they have gone brown up until the new leaves come out in the spring. This means it may be suitable for those people who wish to have an evergreen hedge but do not live in an area suitable for one.

Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn): A less popular choice of plant but one that is just as hardy as hawthorn. It will have a white blossom in spring before the leaves come out and will bear sloes in the autumn. Another plant that is good for wildlife. A final point to note is that many people let their plants get to the height they want without pruning or clipping them. This is the wrong thing to do. Plants grown as a hedge should be pruned from the first year after planting. If this is not done, then you will end up with a hedge that has all the leafy growth at the top and none at the bottom.

Article courtesy of The Inverness Courier