Different Types of Hedges for the Home Garden

A typical clipped European Beech hedge in Eife...

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Most gardens benefit from having at least one good length of hedge, whether to provide shelter from cruel winds, privacy, a background to a herbaceous border or quite simply because a good hedge well-kept is a joy in itself. The problem with hedges is, of course, that they have to be maintained, but with modern power-driven clippers this is very little trouble. Hedges should always be slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom, and the plants should be planted alternately   10  to   15 inches apart.

Privet is probably the most ubiquitous of hedging plants. It is cheap, easily raised from cuttings, and relatively fast-growing. It withstands clipping well, does not suffer from winds and will grow in practically any soil and situation. It’s disadvantages are that it is apt to lose its leaves in winter, needs clipping at least three times a year, preferably four times, and that it has greedy roots which rob plants growing close to it. Common privet is a dull green, but golden privet is cheerfully bright. 

The two can be intermixed, either planted alternately or planted two of golden privet to one of green privet, and hedges of this type are probably more colourful than hedges made of only one or the other type of privet.

Beech makes a more permanent hedge, and is usually recommended where a taller hedge is required. It will make a good hedge up to as much as eight or ten feet. It thrives in all soils, including chalk ones, and stands clipping well, normally needing clipping only twice a year. It is valued for the freshness of the green of the new leaves as they appear in spring, and for the russet colouring of its leaves in autumn. These are retained through the winter. Apart from the greenleaved form there is a purple-leaved form, and the well-known copper-beech, with leaves of a rather lighter colour than those of the purple beech. Beech hedges may be composed either of all green-leaved plants or of these intermixed with the coloured-leaf forms. Hedges made entirely of copper or purple beech tend to look rather heavy, but are very striking when used for pleached hedges. Another plant suited to almost all soils is hornbeam, which is often confused with beech: indeed, so like beech is hornbeam that many so-called beech hedges are in fact composed of hornbeam.

Evergreen hedges have the advantage of maintaining privacy throughout the winter months. They may be composed of either broad-leaved shrubs such as holly, or of coniferous shrubs such as yew or cupressus. Of the broadleaved evergreens there can be little doubt but that holly makes the most attractive hedge, particularly if it is allowed to grow tall — say to twelve feet. Such a hedge is practically impenetrable by winds or animals. Moreover, being a European native, it is absolutely hardy in even the coldest areas. The usual objection raised against using holly as a hedge is that the fallen leaves, with their persistent sharp spines, are liable to puncture tender fingers when weeding unsuspectingly in the garden. This is not a serious draw back: there are many forms which have only the terminal spine. The common holly itself has dark, shining green leaves, but there are forms with leaves variegated either gold or white, and these make more colourful hedges. It is not advisable to mix the green and the variegated forms since they have very different rates of growth.

Laurel, though often used, is really only suitable for gardens of the largest size. To look good it needs room to grow, and should be at least eight feet tall. Its main problem, apart from the space it requires, is that it needs to be trimmed by hand, each shoot being cut with secateurs: if it is simply cut with shears or with a power-driven tool the leaves that have been cut in half will turn brown and spoil the whole appearance of the hedge. And it has greedy roots: nothing worthwhile will grow within ten feet of a laurel hedge.

Yew makes a particularly attractive formal hedge. It is favoured not because of the slowness of its growth, but because it makes a particularly neat hedge and will stand trimming well. Yew hedges have great longevity, and the same hedge will look just the same in 100 or 200 years as it does today. Though that is a consideration that does not concern many people nowadays. It is extremely hardy and will grow on all soils including chalk, and makes an excellent hedge anything from 3 to 20 feet high. There are few other backgrounds that show off the colourfulness of a herbaceous border better than a well-clipped yew hedge. There are forms with golden leaves, and these look good used either mixed with the green form or on their own. Yew is poisonous to many animals, and this should be borne in mind when planting a yew hedge or disposing of the clippings.


07. September 2011 by admin
Categories: Hedging | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Different Types of Hedges for the Home Garden


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