How much thought do you put into your hedges? For some, hedges might be nothing but an afterthought – a boxy row of foliage that needs cutting back every so often. However, hedges can in fact become an integral garden feature, with a vast range of plants available to add flow and privacy, as well as colour to your garden. And some can even provide significant ecological benefits! Read on to find out more…
Help pollinators, birds and other local wildlife by planting eco-friendly hedging. Some hedges serve as food sources and habitats for wildlife, while some also help to reduce air pollution!
If you’re in a busy area, hedges also work to reduce noise pollution too. In cities and other urban areas, there are lots of hard surfaces that refract noise, making cars, people and machinery seem even louder. Choose dense shrubs and trees as hedges in these areas to help you create a more peaceful environment in your garden and home.
The RHS have recently released the news that Cotoneaster franchetii is at least 20% more effective at reducing pollution compared with other shrubs, making it the ideal hedge choice for eco-conscious gardeners.
A study by the institution stated that, in seven days, a metre of ‘well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500 mile drive‘. Not only that, but dense hedges like Cotoneaster franchetii are a haven for wildlife – birds and other animals can create homes within or under these hedges and, if fruiting, can use them as a food source.
This is a tough hedging plant suited to almost any type of garden – and weather! It’s frost and wind resistant, making it an ideal hom for winter wildlife. Plus, it produces fragrant flowers in the autumn and orange fruits in the spring.
Although Privet is a fast-growing hedge and will require regular maintenance, it suits a variety of soil types, and works well in full sun or semi-shade. It also works well with tight pruning for very neat hedges!
Hedges for landscaping
Some hedges are ideal for altering the structure of your garden, or adding privacy. Usually, these are shrubs that are closely planted and trained together to form a visible boundary – some gardeners use landscaping hedges in places of fencing. Buxus (box) and Taxus (yew) are popular choices for hedges, but both are susceptible to infestations and fungal diseases which are often fatal to the plant – Buxus blight and root rot in particular. If you’re really after a similar plant to Buxus without the disease susceptibility, you can try Luxus! However, there are also many other more unusual choices which can make great landscaping additions:
Holly is a hardy plant for hedging that provides colour in the winter with vibrant red berries and flowers in the springtime. For even more interest, choose a variegated variety!
This dense shrub produces leathery foliage and can be closely sheared to create neat hedges or topiary. As a bonus, it also produces white-to-yellow, orange-blossom scented flowers in spring!
Euonymus japonicus is a fast-growing hedge that comprises several interesting varieties for hedging, including variegated options! It can grow up to eight metres tall, but is perfect when pruned regularly to a height of between one and two metres.
Hedges for colour
If you prefer a looser style of hedge for your garden, there are plenty of flowering options that will add colour!
In early spring, Flowering Quince will burst to life with red flowers, followed by edible fruits which work well in jams!
Dwarf Korean Lilac
This hardy, deciduous shrub produces powdery lilac blooms with a sweet fragrance. It’s smaller and denser than other lilacs, growing up to five foot tall and seven foot deep.
Shrub roses are tough and easy to grow, as well as being ravishingly beautiful. There are dozens of varieties to choose from, in every colour preference! Some excellent choices are ‘Claire Austin’, ‘Harlow Carr’ and ‘Queen of Sweden’.
Light and airy hedging
Hedging doesn’t have to be obvious or in-your-face; dense, blocky hedging can even look out of place if the rest of your garden doesn’t match the vibe. Instead, opt for lighter hedging that still provides privacy and other benefits, while being less visually offensive.
Compact Magnolia varieties such as Magnolia ‘Starburst’ provide the wonderful spring flourish that comes with having a Magnolia tree, without the intrusive size!
Growing to between four and eight metres, this compact Acer brings stunning warm reds and browns to your garden come autumn. When mature, it will take on a dome-like habit that looks positively exotic.
Also known as shadbush, Amelanchier produce wonderful star-shaped flowers in spring and colour-changing foliage from spring through to autumn. Pick smaller varieties such as Amelanchier Alnifolia ‘Obelisk’ for screening on a petite scale!
There are so many hedge options for gardens of all locations and sizes; the above varieties are just a few that work well for most gardens depending on your preferences! You should also consider whether you want an evergreen or deciduous species, whether you are happy with the upkeep, and which hedges grow well locally.
Let me know which hedges float your boat in the comment section below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.