April 2017 - How to Hedge...
by Pippa Greenwood
There is nothing better than a living boundary around or within your garden - bricks and fencing are all very well, but as far as lifting your spirits and keeping wildlife happy, it is difficult to beat a hedge. Hedges can take on many guises - they can look smart or informal, be neat and compact or thicker and sturdier, evergreen or deciduous and, if you want you can even include some hedging with pretty flowers. The options are many, the potential is huge.
First, prepare the area in the same way you would for any other long-term planting: fork the soil over thoroughly, removing large stones, debris and pernicious weeds. This will eliminate anything that might make establishment tricky or subsequently reduce hedge growth. This preparation also helps to break up any compaction and to aerate the soil, making it a better place for plant roots. If the soil is either very sandy and light or very heavy with clay, then fork in well-rotted garden compost, manure or proprietary compost, as this will help to improve the soil’s texture and its ability to hold moisture and nutrients to just the right extent. At the same time incorporate a complete fertilizer. A young hedge will not create a perfect barrier for the first few years, so if you anticipate problems with next door’s pets or children breaking through you may initially need to use a less attractive barrier such as galvanized stock fencing. Don’t be tempted to plant right up against an existing fence, as the plants simply won’t grow well.
At this time of year you can create a hedge very effectively using ‘bare-root’ plants, but if you want to plant a hedge at any other time you will need container-grown plants. If using pot-grown plants, water them thoroughly and then carefully remove each plant from its pot. If the roots are tightly packed, tease them out firmly before planting. If you’re using bare-root plants, plant them immediately.
It is essential to plant and space the plants correctly, to both achieve the desired effect and ensure the plants establish well. Once out of the pot, position the plant in the prepared soil at the same depth as it was in the pot; for bare-root plants only the roots should be beneath the soil. Firm the soil around each so that it is in good contact with the roots.
Hedging plants should generally be spaced about 30-45cm apart. For a thicker or denser hedge, plant two parallel rows, each with a 45cm spacing between the plants, but positioned so that the planting is staggered like bricks in a wall. Once the whole hedge is planted, water the soil thoroughly to help settle the soil around the roots and so allow the plants to establish. On windy sites or with larger plants use small, temporary stakes such as bamboo canes to stabilise the plants. Keep the hedge well watered, especially during dry or windy weather. The first 18 months is the most vital period.
• Yew - a formal, evergreen hedge.
• Thuja - a stunning conifer hedge for year round colour.
• Beech - a deciduous plant that gives a good effect for much of the year. Both purple and green-leafed forms.
• Hornbeam - great as a neatly clipped hedge, but more prone to mildew than beech.
• Cypress – excellent if kept well clipped and cut back regularly.
• Pyracantha - spiny evergreen with pretty creamy-white flowers and red-orange or yellow berries.
• Privet - the classic town hedge.
• Euonymus - evergreen, some variegated green and cream, others green and yellow.
• Hawthorn - deciduous and potentially thorny, good for wildlife.
• Blackthorn - deciduous and very thorny, with pretty white flowers followed by sloes – but can easily get too vigorous!
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