How to Create an Imaginative Hedge
Standing out from the crowd
Carefully thought-out hedges make a garden look attractive and professional, whether they define the boundary or divide the garden internally. A hedge can be simply a decorative, temporary screen or a dense barrier.
There are lots of wonderful plants you can use to create hedges, apart from the familiar, tried-and-trusted privet and green-leaved beech tree.
Choose hedges of flowers, berries or colourful foliage. Or try shrubs, perennials and even.
Various deciduous and evergreen flowering shrubs can be grown as hedges. They generally grow wider than hedges that are trimmed to a formal shape, so allow them plenty of room to spread. Choose a hardy shrub, and consider what time of year it flowers before planting.
Flowering hedges are often used to divide a garden internally, creating several smaller areas.
Making the most of berries
Firethorn () is a popular hedging plant. It is evergreen, very prickly (ideal for keeping out animals) and produces colourful berries in autumn. Trim it lightly all over each year if you wish to shape it; it will still produce a hearty crop of berries. Good ones to grow are Pyracantha ata-lantioides and P. ‘Watered’. Plant 30cm apart.
Other popular choices include the partially evergreensimonsii, which has large red berries in autumn, and the sea buckthorn (Hippopliae rhamnoides), which has orange berries. It also has attractive silvery, deciduous leaves. Plant both shrubs 60cm apart.
Choices for a rose hedge
Various roses make goodand are very prickly.
• Cultivars of Rosa rugosa produce their pink, red or white flowers in summer.
• Hybrid Musk roses such as the varieties ‘Cornelia’, ‘Felicia’ and ‘Penelope’ have scented pink flowers from summer to autumn.
Plant both types of rose about 45cm apart.
Some shrubs with unusual-coloured foliage make attractive hedges and can be grown formally (clipped regularly into a definite shape).
• A mix of purple and green beech is an imaginative option. Try alternate blocks of the familiar green Fagus sylvatica and the purple F. sylvatica purpurea. Plant each individual 45cm apart.is deciduous but holds on to its dead leaves throughout winter, so the hedge never becomes bare. They drop just as the new leaves are unfurling.
• Purple barberry makes a stunning and totally impenetrable hedge with its dense, very spiny stems. Try Berber is thunbergii atrapurpurea, B. thunbergii ‘Red Chief or, for an extra tall and vigorous hedge, B. x ottawensis ‘Superba’. You could also mix different-coloured barberries. All are deciduous. Plant each shrub 45cm apart.
• For a bright gold hedge, try the evergreen Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’. Plant 60cm apart.
PREVENTING FLOWER LOSS
Do not trim flowering and berrying hedges apart from reducing in length any shoots which are too long or straggly. Trimming the entire hedge will ruin the natural shape and result in fewer flowers or berries. If necessary, prune individual shoots after flowering, or in spring for late-summer-flowering shrubs. Always use secateurs.
Hardy perennials as hedges
Various tall-growing hardy herbaceous perennials make unusual temporary summer hedges or screens. Grow any of these:
• Sunflower (Helianthus), with its bright yellow daisy-like flowers.
• Globe thistle (Echinops), which produces globular spiky flower-heads.
• Joe pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum), which has heads of pinkish flowers.
Cut down the dead stems in autumn.
Grasses as garden screens
Surprisingly, some tall perennial grasses make good hedges or screens, even if they are temporary. They are especially useful for dividing the garden.
The 3m-tall Amur silver grass (Miscanthus sacchariflorus) is a good choice. Cut down the dead stems in early spring. Plant 45-60cm apart.
Bamboo makes a good permanent screen, as it is evergreen. Choices include the arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica), Thamnocalamus spathaceus and Sinarundinaria nitida. Plant 45-60cm apart.
Climbing plants such as large-flowered clematis and climbing roses can be grown along low trellis screens or fences to form colourful ‘hedges’ in summer. Often, by training stems of climbers horizontally instead of vertically, they produce flowers along the length of stem instead of just at the top.
You can grow ivy in the same way. Particularly recommended are the variegated kinds of common ivy (helix). All are evergreen. This combination is also known as a ‘fedge’, derived from the words fence and hedge.
PREPARING THE SOIL
Prepare the ground well before planting the hedge to ensure the fastest, healthiest growth.
• Mark out a 1-1.2m wide strip of ground where you want to plant the hedge.
• Double dig it (dig to 2 spade depths).
• Remove all perennial, complete with their roots, while you are digging.
• Add bulkysuch as well-rotted farmyard manure, garden , leaf-mould or composted bark to each trench.
• Allow the site to settle for a few months, then add a general-purpose organic fertilizer just before planting.