It’s that time of year again when hedges become a focal point in the gardening calendar.
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 can provide a living shield between you and the world, and depending on the species, you can have year-round foliage or just seasonal interest.
Wildlife can find refuge in hedges, which also filter wind without creating turbulence – one of the big problems with solid structures.
A thorny hedge is also an effective deterrent 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, and for flower-rich hedges, consider Rosa rugosa or fuchsia, even potentilla whose attractive, colourful blooms will be a source of pleasure every year.
Planting a hedge is straightforward if you follow some simple steps. And autumn is the ideal time to do the job.
Dig a 90cm strip (150cm for boundary hedges). Fork in plenty of compost or well-rotted manure (a barrowload per metre is ideal and should help to avoid subsequent drought problems).
Use either bare root or container-grown plants and plant along a line approx 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.
Hedges don’t need to be made up of a single species. If there’s the space, a mixed hedge, perhaps including hazel, ash and blackthorn, will provide a suitable bridge between the garden and the ground beyond.
If you’ve don’t want things to be too regimented, 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 well worth the effort for something different.