Hedges in gardens are much nicer to look at than a wooden fence, they create a softer more wildlife friendly boundary and depending on variety they can provide a great seasonal display of flowers, berries and autumn colour. Hedging is also great for wildlife, providing food and shelter for native birds and mammals as well as winter visitors like waxwings and fieldfares that feed on berries.
Bare root hedging plants are relatively cheap, easy to plant and most will quite quickly form an attractive structural boundary around your garden.
Planting distances vary from 30-60cm (1-2ft) depending on the variety and the size of hedge required. For a denser hedge such as privet, plant a staggered double row with 38cm (15 in) between rows and 45cm (18 in) between plants.
Dig a hole 15cm (6in) wider than the spread out root system and to a depth whereby the soil mark from the nursery on the stem of the young tree will be just covered.
N.B. If your garden soil is on the heavy side, you will get better establishment by cultivating the sub-soil in the area where the young tree is to be planted. Take out a wider hole than normal (about 1m (3 ft) in diameter) and loosen the subsoil with a fork before planting the tree.
Add microrrhizal fungi to the bottom of the planting hole. The fungi form a two-way beneficial relationship with the tree roots so both fungi and roots prosper.
After placing the tree in the hole, spread out the roots and add layers of soil, firming down with your foot or an old log. The final layer should not be firmed however, as it could shed water away from the tree.
Water young bare rooted plants well. If you’re planting in autumn – an ideal time as the soil is still warm from the summer – yet the weather is not too hot, causing water loss from the leaves – Water well after planting.
Animals such as deer and rabbits favour young wood so tree guards may be a sensible option. Also check to see if they are growing strong and upright and that winds have not checked their growth.
If you’re cutting back hedges that are overgrowing their space or affecting the set boundaries of your garden, do this after the nesting season so you don’t disturb bird families – early August is a good time but check beforehand as some birds, particularly blackbirds, can have up to three broods of nestlings in one year.
Choosing other hedge varieties
They can be tightly clipped for formal boundaries with varieties such as Privet and Yew or informal such as Cotoneaster franchetii or Rosa rubiginosato give a more natural look for screening and windbreaks.
Prickly varieties such as Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Berberis make a great security barrier round your property. Cornus sanguinea gives a superb show in autumn when the leaves turn a brilliant red matched only by the brightness of the red winter stems once leaves have fallen. Hard pruning each spring produces the best winter stems.
Potentilla fruticosa is a pretty long flowering plant producing masses of bright buttercup-yellow flowers from late spring to autumn. It makes a lovely dense, informal flowering hedge, and thrives even in poor soil in full sun and is good for windy locations. For the best low formal or dividing hedge go for Buxus (Common Box) it is a slow growing evergreen shrub with small glossy dark green leaves. Its dense habit makes it the perfect plant for hedging and it is the ideal candidate for clipping as topiary too.