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Hedge And Hedging Plants Information

The information further down on this page may help you choose but please call or e-mail if you are not sure. Links to further information on the main groups of hedging plants and the most popular hedges we sell may be found on the left and right hand menus.

HEDGE VERSUS FENCE AND WALL?
Hedges, Fences and walls can all serve similar purposes – marking and maintaining boundaries, keeping children or pets contained or to provide a greater sense of privacy. It is fair to say we are a little biased! But here are some good reasons for choosing a hedge.Hedges have greater ‘kerbside appeal’ offering beauty and interest in all seasons while softening the lines of buildings making houses look more in keeping with their gardens. Hedges reduce strong wind by filtering them, solid fences and walls cause greater turbulence. Well grown prickly hedges provide better security than a fence or wall. Hedges filter dust, pollution and noise. A well maintained hedge will last hundreds of years, longer than any fence or most walls and at a fraction of the cost. Hedges provide a better quality of privacy, fences and high walls can give a sense of imprisonment. Hedges provide shelter and food for wildlife and are environmentally friendly.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A HEDGE
‘Which plant makes the best hedge’?…one of the most common questions asked. The answer is a matter of both personal taste and the growing environment (soil, climate etc) in your garden.
It can be helpful to look around to see the hedges that do well in nearby gardens with similar conditions to your own. We are very happy to identify and match any mystery hedge you might like, just e-mail a photo or post a few leaves with your name and phone number.

These are some of the more important points to consider when choosing a hedge:
SITE AND SOIL
A newly planted hedge will need to thrive in its environment to grow and develop. Most hedges will grow in any reasonable soil but some have dislike of extreme conditions, for example Beech and Yew hate boggy wet conditions, Photinias and Pittosporum may suffer damage in very cold exposed gardens. All of this information may be found in the pages of our website and catalogue but please call or e-mail if you are not sure.

FUTURE MAINTENANCE. Fast growing hedges will cover quickly giving privacy and screening in the shortest time. Often there are situations where fast growth is of prime importance but these vigorous hedges will require more frequent clipping in future years. There is often a strong case for using less vigorous hedging plants for example planting a Thuja hedge instead of Leylandii.

TOXICITY AND SAFETY. Parts of some hedging plants are poisonous or may be very thorny making them unsuitable for some situations especially if you have young children.
ROOT DAMAGE. The roots of some more vigorous hedging species have the potential to damage drains, driveways and foundations if planted close by. Professional advice (e.g. structural engineer) should be sought and followed if you think this might be an issue.

PERSONAL CHOICE AND BUDGET. With the issues above covered you may have a ‘shortlist’ of suitable hedges. All that remains is to choose your favourite (or the plant you dislike the least!) and choose the size that best suits your budget.

Below are details about the many different types of hedge and some recommendations of suitable hedging plants for these purposes which you may find useful but please call or e-mail us if you have any questions.

BOUNDARY HEDGES
Boundary hedges are by far the most practical way of marking the limits of your plot containing pets/children and keeping out unwanted visitors while adding character and value to your property. Boundary hedging is not just cheaper than a fence or wall, it will be longer lasting and a more effective filtering barrier to wind and noise. A hedge will provide a higher quality of privacy bringing a sense of seclusion to your garden.

There are many hedge species suitable for boundary hedging. The photo shows a Leylandii hedge in the background with an English Yew hedge in front. Many other hedge species are suitable for boundary hedges for example Laurel, Privet, Beech, Hornbeam and Thuja. All of these hedges are either leaf retaining or evergreen therefore providing year round privacy.

SECURITY HEDGES
Security hedges will often perform similar functions as boundary hedging but with a greater priority placed in keeping out intruders.While many species will provide security, hedging plants with thorns will always be the most effective deterrent. While they are undoubtedly more hostile many of these hedge plants may also provide a beautiful living tapestry of colour for much of the year.

Faster growing evergreen security hedging plants include Pyracantha (in the photo) together with Berberis Darwinii and Berberis Stenophylla, Hollies will also make an excellent prickly hedge albeit more slowly. Suitable deciduous hedging species include Quickthorn, Blackthorn and most Roses. A mixture of plants can be equally effective, Mixed Native hedges are excellent for security as are simpler mixes such as Hornbeam and Quickthorn which combined are prickly and leaf retaining for winter.

SCREENING HEDGES
There are many situations where a screening hedge would be desirable, ugly or out of keeping buildings may spoil the view, overlooking windows may compromise privacy or a busy road may require evergreen hedging not just to improve the view but to filter noise and pollution. Visual screening hedges should give good coverage all year and may be trimmed in a way that preserves the desirable part of a view. High level screening can be achieved with ‘monster’ hedges but the maintenance is likely to be difficult and expensive. If space allows it is better to keep the hedge at a manageable size and plant a belt of trees and/or large shrubs away from the hedge to achieve high level screening. Hedges to screen noise and pollution should be deep and dense, the best species are Leylandii or the broad leaved Cherry Laurel hedge ideally planted in a double or triple row if space allows.

SHELTER HEDGES
There are many reasons for providing shelter, strong winds may damage frames, glasshouses and other garden structures. A garden sheltered with effective hedging will have a stable micro climate and plants are unlikely to be damaged by wind rock, broken stems and leaf scorch. Windy exposed gardens are colder and drier, slowing down plant growth and development. Solid structures such as fences and walls obstruct airflow deflecting the wind causing even greater turbulence. A hedge provides far greater shelter by filtering and reducing wind speeds. Generally a well established hedge will provide shelter for a distance of around 10 times its height. Hedging may also be used to provide shelter from sunlight, many well conceived garden designs use shade to provide contrast and to allow shade loving plants to thrive.

The photo shows an Italian Alder shelter hedge growing here on the nursery. This species was selected as a hedge because Alders harbour few pests and diseases, although deciduous the leaves are retained into December. The structure of deciduous hedges still provide effective shelter after leaf fall. Other suitable hedge species for windy exposed sites include Beech, Hornbeam, Holly, Privet, Quickthorn, Yew and all types of Mixed Native hedging.

INTERNAL HEDGES AND GARDEN ‘ROOMS’
Well placed internal hedges can make a valuable contribution to garden design. Formally trimmed hedges make beautiful living architectural features, hedges may be used to sub divide a garden into separate ‘rooms’ or to ‘frame’ focal points such as a sculpture or an attractive view which can be within or beyond the garden. Internal hedging invariably make the garden of any size appear larger.

Well maintained hedges are frequently used to temper the sharp contrast between buildings and their environment, allowing homes to blend into their garden surroundings. The garden ‘rooms’ formed by well placed hedging allow different themes or colour schemes to be created within the same garden. As the whole garden cannot be seen from a single vantage point it entices the visitor to explore further, particularly when ‘windows’, ‘doorways’ or archways are incorporated into the hedges giving a taste of what lies beyond.

PLEACHED HEDGES AND STILT HEDGES
For the dedicated gardener there are few projects more rewarding than creating your own avenue of pleached trees. As with Topiary, pleaching is a long established garden craft. Immaculate avenues of pleached Limes were status symbols used by landowners to showcase the number of gardeners in their employment. Stilt hedges are similar structures, as the name suggests the hedge is ‘lifted’ clear of the ground, growing on clear stems of between 1 and two metres with a further 1-2 metres of hedge. Stilt hedging offers screening at high level without the sense of ‘imprisonment’ that a wall of such a height would bring.

The phrase ‘time is money’ rings clear and true in the price tags of £400-£1,000 that come with ready pleached trees and hedges. They reflect the years of dedication of the nurseryman in the form of pruning, shaping and training. Growing your own pleached avenue or stilt hedge is much cheaper financially but will involve the same considerable investment of time. A strong well made form of support will be required together with excellent soil preparation. For stilt hedges the best species by far is Hornbeam although Beech may also be used.

LOW HEDGING AND EDGINGS
Smaller internal hedges and edgings have many uses in a well designed garden, they create a defining edge to paths, flower borders and vegetable beds without obscuring other parts of the garden. These smaller hedging plants are generally between 1 and 3 feet (30-90cm) tall. Some species such as Common Box hedging may be clipped more regularly into very formal shapes, many other hedge species have a bushy but looser sprawling habit and make excellent less formal edgings.

Informally planted hedging species will not only define the edges within a garden, they often have a long flowering season. Aromatic hedges of Lavender and Rosemary are best planted along paths and around seating areas where passing feet may brush against them so releasing their scent, especially on summer evenings. Low informal hedges are easily maintained with an annual haircut in autumn or spring. Other suitable hedging plants include Perovskia, Spirea Anthony Waterer, Cotton Lavender and Wall Germander but few can compete with the Potentillas, the saucer shaped flowers come in succession from May until October.

TOPIARY HEDGES
The crafts of hedge making and Topiary have a rich and intertwined heritage, many fine examples can be seen in the garden of our stately homes. Few living garden features will give your plot a more distinctive sense of character or be more satisfying to create. Hedge Topiary can take the form of very intricate shapes, in a simpler version it consists of turrets, waves or undulations cut into the top of the hedging.

The potential for creating Topiary features within hedges is limited by the gardeners imagination, the main requirement is for hedging species with small foliage to facilitate the trimming and forming of intricate shapes. Ideally Topiary hedging subjects should be evergreen so the design may be appreciated at all times of the year. While Topiary features may be created within any part of a hedge, the effect will be most pronounced when they are used as ‘punctuations’ at the ends of hedging runs or at either side of openings. Topiary figures may of course be grown independently of hedging plants, as features incorporated into knot gardens or as solitary specimens within lawns etc.

The photo shows a large and intricately formed Yew Topiary hedge, while Yew is often considered the Aristocrat of hedging plants many other species are suitable for Topiary purposes. All varieties of Box hedging are ideal either as formal shapes or looser green ‘boulder’ formations. The faster growing but tiny leaved Lonicera Nitida is an excellent quick developing hedge plant that lends itself well to Topiary but will require regular clipping. Hollies and Evergreen Oaks give good results with patience, Portugal Laurel hedging plants are faster growing and one of the best for making cone shapes.

BACKDROP HEDGES
The use of hedging plants as a backdrop can take a number of forms, as an effective dark foil for the bright colours of a flower bed, bringing interest to more open grassed or paved areas or as part of more imaginative schemes where the various colours of a mixed hedge are mirrored by a lower planting arrangement in front. While island beds of flowers and shrubs are valuable additions to a garden, nothing is more effective than a rich, dark living ‘canvas’ to showcase flowering plants, especially bright ‘hot’ colours.

A living tapestry hedge of many colours can be created with a mixture of hedging plants, if the separate colours of the hedge are mirrored by the planting in a bed in front a very striking effect can be achieved.

WILDLIFE FRIENDLY NATIVE HEDGES
In the countryside hedges act as a network of wildlife corridors joining together wooded areas and ponds and are a valuable food source for a host of insects, birds and small mammals. All hedges have at least some wildlife value, many non-native hedging varieties provide cover for birds and insects. The fruits of garden hedges such as Laurel and Yew are popular with birds, many hedges will have flowers making them popular with bees and other pollinating insects. The most ‘wildlife friendly’ hedges are those with the widest possible mix of native hedging shrubs, Ideally the hedge should be quite wide and the vegetation at the hedge base should be left ‘rough’ to widen the corridor.

Two of the most common native hedging species are Quickthorn (Hawthorn) and Blackthorn, these are the ‘glue’ that knits country hedgerows together making them stockproof, collectively these two shrubs support more than 350 species. A typical native hedge would comprise 70% of these two species, as many nature birds have specific food plants, the remaining 30% should include as many different native hedging species as possible for maximum wild life appeal.

MAZE HEDGES
Hedge mazes have their origins in the Italian Renaissance, the trend having moved north as a source of entertainment for royalty in Germany, France and Britain. The traditional maze is a life size puzzle consisting of many pathways contained by trimmed formal hedges at least 6ft (1.8m) high so that the exits are concealed. It goes without saying the maze hedge in its usual form is suited only to very extensive gardens, the English Yew maze at Longleat consists of some 16,000 plants – if you are thinking of planting one we would love to hear from you!

Although deciduous hedging plants such as Beech or Hornbeam can be used, evergreen hedge species such as Yew, Leylandii, Holly, Thuja or Portugal Laurel are more common. On a smaller garden scale, a maze can be planted with lower growing hedge plants such as Common Box in a variation of the knot garden theme. These smaller scale networks of paths and low hedging can be viewed from above and form the basis of some very successful garden designs. One of the best examples may be seen in the white garden at Sissinghurst, the Box hedges of the maze are little more than 2ft (60cm) high.

FLOWERING HEDGES
Many flowering shrubs will also make very worthy hedging plants, to be seen at their best flowering hedges should be informally trimmed with an annual hair cut, usually when flowering has finished.

Smaller flowering hedging hedge plants include Perovskia and Lavender, these are perfect as decorative edging subjects. Many of these smaller hedge shrubs have the benefit of a long flowering season together with the fragrance of both flowers and foliage.

Larger flowering hedge shrubs can often be used to form highly ornamental boundary or security hedges. The evergreen Berberis and Pyracanthas will both grow into a beautiful but formidable barrier, with careful trimming they can be maintained as semi formal hedging without compromising the flowers or berries. The long flowering season of a Viburnum Tinus hedge will brighten any winters day, Escallonias are a popular hedging plant with their long succession of flowers during the summer months. Using a mixture of hedging plants in different sections of a new hedge it is possible to plan a succession of flowers throughout the year. Many shrub Roses make excellent flowering hedges, we think Rosa De La Hey, Blanc Double De Coubert and Sarah Van Fleet are the pick of the bunch as they are all fragrant, repeat flowering and have good disease resistance.

HEDGES FOR FOLIAGE AND STEM COLOUR
Commonly grown hedging plants come in every shade of green, from the bright Apple green of Griselinia through to the almost blackish-green of an English Yew hedge. All of these hedge species can suit their environment perfectly whether softening suburban landscapes or providing contrast to brightly coloured flowers, they make a large but understated contribution to their surroundings.

Many hedge species are grown for their stem or foliage colour and they are an excellent choice where the hedge itself is the main feature . Evergreen varieties can form hedges that will brighten dull corners in all seasons while deciduous hedging species such as Dogwoods come alive after leaf fall with their dazzling winter stem colours.
The coloured evergreen hedging plants include Photinia, Spotted Laurel, Golden Privet, Pittosporum, Holly and Elaeagnus. Many hedging conifers have golden forms including Leylandii, Thuja, Lawson Cypress and Yew. The colouration of these hedges is usually at its best in winter.

One of the best deciduous hedges is the Purple Blaze Plum, the reddish-purple foliage gives summer interest (contrasting beautifully with grey leaved plants), after leaf fall the young purple stems are revealed which are clothed with pink flowers in early spring. Purple Berberis is a good alternative hedge if thorns are required. Winter stem colours are invaluable grown as hedges or shrubs, brightening winter days long after summer flowering plants have finished the red and yellow Dogwoods give the brightest display especially when planted in large swathes. Bamboos and Scarlet Willows are also recommended for winter interest in larger gardens.

FRUITING HEDGES
Plants that form effective hedges with the added bonus of ornamental fruits are well worth considering when planting a hedge. Fruiting hedges are often both colourful and popular with wildlife, especially birds. Evergreen Berberis, Pyracanthas, Cotoneasters and Hollies all have persistant foliage and highly ornamental fruits.

Mixed Native hedges provide a bounty of seeds, fruits and rose hips for wildlife, with a wide ranging mix of native hedge species these fruits are borne in succession through the seasons maximising the conservation value of the hedge. A number of native hedging plants produce edible fruits including Elder, Hazel, Quickthorn (Hawthorn) and Blackthorn.

About Author
Hopes Grove garden nurseries Kent have a wide range on hedges and hedging plants available online.

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