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What is a hedge?

A hedge is a row of trees or shrubs closely planted and regularly pruned to restrict their height and width.


Why have a hedge in the garden?
Hedges have various uses in the garden from functional to aesthetic.


Boundaries - Hedges are good natural boundaries in contrast to a wall or fence. They can offer security from their stature and width as well as thorns if you choose something like a Pyracantha.


Wind break - If your garden is in a windy situation, a hedge can act as a good wind break, much better than a solid fence or wall which can actually make the effect of the wind worse. This is because a hedge can filter the wind and reduce its effect whereas a solid structure will create added turbulence.


Screening - A hedge can be useful for screening ugly views or to hide items in the garden you don't want to see like water butts and bins.


Dividing the garden - You may want to divide the garden into different areas for functional reasons e.g. to create a children's play area separate from the ornamental part of the garden, or you may want to divide your garden into different ‘rooms' to create an element of surprise and mystery.


Enhancing views - You could use a gap in a hedge to frame a view or use the hedge itself as a backdrop to a feature, a bench or planting. A dark Yew hedge is a good example as it looks stunning with an herbaceous border planted in front of it.


Noise reduction - Hedges, particularly Conifer hedges are useful to reduce road noise.


Wildlife - A hedge provides shelter to many birds and insects and you may find that it increases the biodiversity in your garden.


Some examples of suitable plants for a hedge


Formal hedges

Buxus sempervirens (Common Box) - a bushy, dark green evergreen hedge which can grow up to 5m in height.


Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam) - This is a deciduous plant but if trimmed in late summer may retain its dead leaves through the winter. It has lovely serrated ribbed leaves.


X Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland Cypress) - A vigorous evergreen conifer which creates a dense hedge but must be pruned regularly. (This is the one that has grown far too large in a lot of gardens and caused neighbourhood disputes.)
Ideally it should be trimmed 3 times a year.


Fagus Sylvatica (Common Beech) - Like the Hornbeam, if trimmed in late summer it may retain its dead leaves through the winter.


Ilex aquifolium (Common Holly) - A slow growing evergreen with dense thorny growth and dark glossy leaves. (You will need both male and female plants to get berries.)


Ligustrum ovalifolium (Oval-leafed Privet) - A fast growing evergreen, good for a formal hedge. The cultivar ‘Aureum' has yellow margins to the leaves.


Photinia x fraseri - A vigorous evergreen which can grow to 5m. The leaves are bright red when young.


Pyracantha coccinea - A bushy, spiny evergreen with white flowers in early summer and berries in the Autumn. It will grow in shade and is good for security as a boundary hedge.


Taxus baccata (Yew) - An evergreen conifer with dark green leaves ideal as a backdrop to other planting. It is highly poisonous so avoid it if you have children.


Informal hedges

Forsythia x intermedia - A vigorous shrub for an informal hedge with bright yellow flowers in early spring.


Lavandula angustifiolia (English Lavender) - A semi-evergreen shrub with spikes of fragrant purple flowers in summer. Good for a low hedge or edging. You will need to replace them about every 10 years as they become woody.


Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape) - Spiky evergreen leaves and yellow flowers in the spring. This is good for a low informal hedge growing to about 1m high. It is good for areas of dry shade.


Purchasing and planting hedge plants

Hedge plants can be purchased as container grown or bare root. Bare root plants are grown in the field and lifted as required. This can only be done between November and March so planting times are restricted, however, they are much less expensive than container grown plants e.g. for 100 Common Box plants you might be paying £300 more for container grown plants (£400 v £700 respectively) so think about this when planning your garden.


Examples of hedges

Click on any of the images below to enlarge.
Golden Privet

Ilex aquifolium (Common Holly) - A slow growing evergreen with dense thorny growth and dark glossy leaves. (You will need both male and female plants to get berries.)
Hypericum 'Hidcote'


More Plants
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