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Hedges and Hedging Plants

by Guest Post on Jun 21, 2010

Hedgerows date back thousands of years. There is evidence that Romans planted thorn hedges to provide boundaries to estates.

Hedges were first introduced for privacy and security and they are still two of the biggest reasons for garden hedges today. Britain is a nation of gardeners. Britain has been passionate about gardening and tending to pieces of privately owned land.

Hedges frame a garden and provide privacy and structure. Hedges are not harsh like a brick or stone wall and can be shaped differently if required. They also allow airflow through a garden which a wall does not and without airflow plants can suffer.

The last few decades have seen the demise of many thousands of miles of established hedgerows and their associated wildlife. To help redress this balance we are offering four carefully selected mixtures of native species, these will grow together to form a dense rustic hedge that will be stock proof and encourage a wide variety of wildlife. Trim at any time from August onwards, ideally in winter. These well-balanced mixes are a more economical and convenient way of planting native species.

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 long-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 on 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 color 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 may spoil the view. O\verlooking 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.

Privet is the most common hedging plant found in suburban areas. It is dark green so provides a good strong border and is easy to cultivate. Leylandii is another very popular hedging plant but one that grows at an extremely high rate causing many a neighborhood dispute.

Evergreen mix native hedging would be the preferred choice of many homeowners and gardeners. Unfortunately, there are very few suitable natives or indigenous plants that are true evergreens so garden nurseries have had to adapt and use them. For example, leaf retaining Beech and Hornbeam for more variety. This mixture provides as good a degree of year-round privacy as is possible without using more ‘suburban’ evergreen plants.

The native Green Beech is a particularly versatile hedging plant, suitable for both formal garden hedges and more extensive country hedgerows. When trimmed as a hedge Green Beech can easily be maintained at any height from 2ft upwards. (The world's tallest Beech Hedge at Meikleour in Scotland stands at 100ft.)! The delicate wavy edged new foliage emerges light green in late spring and darkens to a rich bright green during the summer months. As autumn progresses these leaves often change to a buttery golden yellow before turning to a familiar rich copper in winter.

Green Beech is technically a deciduous tree however Beech Hedges will retain their leaves in winter, this can be encouraged by giving your Beech Hedge its annual hair cut in late summer. The retained leaves give year-round privacy making a Beech Hedge a good alternative to evergreen plants. The coppery brown leaves are also unharmed by salt spray and pollution making Green Beech an excellent choice for a roadside hedge.

Beech Hedging Plants may be grown successfully in full sun or part shade and will grow in any reasonable soil (including chalk) providing it is well drained. If the soil becomes waterlogged in winter, it is recommended by garden nurseries that Hornbeam is planted which is another similar native species that thrive in wetter conditions. Green Beech is a tough and relatively fast-growing plant (1-2ft per year) it will tolerate exposed windy sites and drought once established.

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