Hedging your bets

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Every home needs its boundaries, and hedges – “green fences and walls” – are a wonderful way of putting one in place and, at the same time, bringing a host of other benefits to the garden.

Hedges (sensible ones, please – not monumentally-high leylandii etc) provide a living shield between you and the world. Depending on species, you can have year-round foliage or just seasonal interest.

Wildlife can find refuge in hedges, which also filter wind without creating turbulence, which is one of the big problems with solid structures.

A thorny hedge is an effective discouragement to unwanted visitors, and all hedges are a barrier against dust, dirt and litter.

For beautiful and practical garden boundaries, look at evergreens such as conifers, yews or box which are perfect for smart, year-round green boundaries.

For some seasonal plant magic, go for deciduous plants – for example, hornbeam or beech. Thorny plants like berberis or pyracantha will improve your security (some insurance companies now recommend them).

For flower-rich hedges, go for Rosa rugosa or fuchsia, their attractive, colourful blooms will be a source of pleasure every year.

Planting a hedge is straightforward . Dig a 90cm strip (150cm for boundary hedges). Fork in plenty of compost or well-rotted manure (a barrow load per metre is ideal and should help to avoid subsequent drought problems). Use either bare root or container-grown plants and plant along a string line about 45cm apart for deciduous and 90cm for conifers.

If your garden is in an exposed position, protect young conifers with a plastic mesh windbreak. Water all plants well, apply general fertiliser in early spring and water regularly throughout the next growing season.

If there’s space, a mixed hedge, perhaps including hazel, ash and blackthorn, will provide a suitable bridge between the garden and the ground beyond. You can let it grow a little wild – clematis climbing through a tangle of branches will create a wonderful splash of colour.

At the opposite extreme, box or yew hedges can make a very formal statement either neatly clipped or year on year transformed into a topiary wonderland. It’s a bit more work, but it’s well worth the effort for something different.