Hedges through the ages have constituted many things to many people – demarcation, design, luxuriance, privacy, colour, contrast – even a device to create anticipation. Used wisely in garden layout a hedge is a wondrous thing. Nothing is more suggestive of space and perspective than a hedge – it is three-dimensional gardening at its most attractive.
A hedge defined
A hedge is a uniform row of plants planted closely together. They are sometimes shaped or clipped and perform the function of a wall, fence, screen, wind or noise break.
Types of hedges
Plants with dense twiggy growth cut into a regular shape by constant clipping which suppresses most of the flowers and fruits. This type is used for borders or an alternative for a wall or fence.
Plants that are allowed to develop some flowering and fruiting wood. Usually this type is not subjected to quite such meticulous clipping. This type is also suitable as an alternative for a fence or wall.
The plants are allowed to grow almost naturally. They are clipped infrequently, if at all, and then only to keep tidy. This type is basically a line of shrubs to provide a screen.
Evergreen or Deciduous?
Most hedges chosen are evergreen for privacy. A compromise must sometimes be made to let in the sunlight in
winter months by using deciduous plants.
This is very important to give your hedge a good start. The most important task is to thoroughly weed the area. Compost, Mushroom Compost or Cow Manure should be liberally dug through the area to be planted. It should be well watered then left for a week before planting. Note that as the plants in a hedge are close together they compete for food and water. Good soil preparation is therefore essential to ensure a vigorous healthy hedge.
Spacing of the plants is necessarily close so as to form a dense mass of foliage and stems to ground level. A hedge with the plants too far apart may take years to grow together so spacing is most important. Most plants used for hedges should be one – fifth to one-quarter of the average width of a free standing specimen apart e.g. a plant width of 2.5m – 3m (8′-10′) will require a spacing of 0.6m (2′).
After planting ensure the hedge is thoroughly watered. It is a good idea to mulch the soil with a fine bark mulch to maintain an even soil temperature, to slow the evaporation rate and help control weed growth during summer. A mulch is particularly advisable in summer when establishing a hedge.
Clipping Formal and Semi-Formal Hedges
Clipping should commence during the first year. Shears must only be used lightly until the hedge has developed a bushy side growth. The general aim should be to make a short bushy hedge first then allow the height and width to increase as required. This method takes a little longer but the dense well-leafed result will justify the extra effort.
The edges of the hedge should be sloped outward slightly towards the base. This helps to keep the sides of the hedge from becoming sparse and open by allowing sunlight to all of the foliage.
Watering, Fertilising and Mulching
As hedge plants are planted closely together special attention should be paid to regular watering and fertilising. An application of a complete fertiliser should be given in early spring and mid-summer. Mulching is advisable during the warmer months of the year. This will keep the soil temperature down and help stop drying out during summer.
Pests and Diseases
An ideal hedge plant is long lived and relatively disease free. Any sign of insect or fungus trouble should be treated quickly as this can spread rapidly through the hedge.
Selecting plants for your hedge or screen
There are many plants which may be hedged. Here are just a few of the more commonly used ones.
Buxus sempervirens 0.8m to 2m Slow growing, evergreen, formal
Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa 0.3m to 0.6m Slow growing, evergreen, formal
Other Buxus 1m to 2.5m Slow growing, evergreen, formal
Luma apiculata 2m to 3.5m Evergreen, formal – semi formal
Myrtus communis 1m to 1.5m Evergreen, formal
Ligustrum undulatum 1m to 2m Fast growing, evergreen, semi formal – formal
Escallonia macrantha Rubra Nana 0.5m Fast growing, evergreen, semi formal – formal
Syzygium and Acmena spp. 0.75m to 10m Many forms available, evergreen, fast growing, semi formal or formal
Lonicera nitida 0.4m to 1m Very fast growing, evergreen, formal.
Murraya paniculata 1.5m to 2m Slower growth, evergreen, formal, semi formal or informal
Pittosporum spp. 2m to 5m Fast growing, evergreen, formal – semi formal
Cupressus Leightons Green / Castelwellan Gold 6m to 10m Faster growing conifer, formal, semi formal – informal
Thuja occidentalis Smargd 1.5m to 2m Slow growing, conifer, formal, semi formal, informal
Meuhellenbeckia complexa 2m to 3.5m Climber that requires support, evergreen
Cuphea hyssopifolia 0.2m to 0.8m Fast growing, evergreen, formal – semi formal
Rosmarinus officionalis and cvs. 0.6m to 1.2m Evergreen hedge, drought tolerant, scented foliage, formal – semi formal
Eriostemon myoporiodes 1m to 1.5m Fast growing, native, evergreen, formal – semi formal
Viburnum tinus 2.5m to 3.5m Evergreen, formal, semi formal, informal
Abelia x grandiflora 1m to 2.5m Evergreen, formal – semi formal