Throughout the year whenever possible, I regularly visit many of our most famous gardens in England and Wales.
These visits not only give me inspiration but also offer me creative tips and new ideas for me to try in my own garden. One of the most striking features in all of these gardens is the stunning way that hedges, both large and small, have been used to form structure, shape and to offer privacy.
The word hedge originates from the word 'Hegge', which means enclosure and the earliest hedges were grown originally to protect sheep and cattle and to define boundaries. These days, hedges tend to be used to offer privacy and to act as a sound barrier for us to escape from the pressures of modern day life. It is amazing how by using the right hedge, even the most inner city garden can be transformed into a little patch of paradise.
Many of us will plant a hedge in our own garden to act as a private boundary between our neighbours and ourselves. When choosing plants to use for a hedge, especially when neighbours are involved, it is best to give careful consideration to your choice, as a hedge should really be designed for life and not just regarded as a quick way of filling space. Your choice now, could seriously affect your neighbours in the future.
In the past, gardeners who have opted for a quick fix and planted Leylandii as a fast growing screen are now in some cases paying the price for their choice, as they could potentially have a hedge which is costly and difficult to maintain.
Therefore, although they take a little longer to grow to an acceptable height, I would recommend the following for a medium sized hedge of about two metres in height, which will not only be attractive but will also offer privacy.
Fagus sylvatica (green beech) and Fagus sylvatia purpurea (purple beech), offers a very attractive hedge, which although is deciduous will hold onto its old leaves well into the winter. Carpinus betulus (common hornbeam) produces a tough deciduous hedge that will grow well on clay soils and again retains its old leaves well into the winter. If you are looking for an evergreen hedge, then choose either Taxus baccata (common yew), which produces attractive deep green foliage ideal for shaded sites, or Prunus lauracerasus with it's attractive large oval mid-green leaves.
For low growing hedges, good choices include Buxus sempervirens (common box) or Lavandula augustifolia (English lavender), often seen used in stately homes and in herb gardens.
Before planting a hedge always ensure that you add plenty of organic matter and fertiliser to the soil, as this will feed your new hedge until established. When buying plants you can either purchase larger single specimens that will give you more of an instant established look, or young bare rooted whips that will take longer to establish but which are much more cost effective.
It may take a number of years for your hedge to reach the height you require, but by choosing more unusual varieties, you will eventually have an extremely attractive hedge in your garden, that is reasonably easy to maintain.