Don't hedge your bets: here's my beginner's guide
The British hedgerow is a thing of wonder, isn’t it? I love to take country walks with my girls and see what we can find growing and sheltering in the verdant, century-old greenery along the lanes. It’s easy to see why you might choose to add some hedging to your garden – screening, decoration, or to create divisions in a plot – but whatever your reason, it’s important to get your selections just right for the best effect.
Remember, a hedge is for life, not just for Christmas – so choose carefully what kind of plant you’re going to grow as a divider. Whilst many hedge plants thrive with very little human interference, certain types take lots of maintenance and can grow rambunctiously. For this reason, if you have next door neighbours make sure you have had an open and honest conversation with them before you start planting thick hedges along their borders – it’s important to establish joint consent, and also responsibility for pruning now to avoid disputes further down the line!
In this article, I’ll help you get started identifying what you want from your hedge and to help you choose – remember to research your chosen type of hedge and speak to expert staff at garden centres if you feel you need a bit more detailed advice. Your location, planting site and soil type should inform your decision too, so take a look at which hedges thrive locally. I found this Royal Horticultural Society guide to choosing to be a really good starting point.
What hedge should I choose for my garden?
Best for birds: It’s always worth welcoming our feathered friends into your garden. Not only are they a pleasure to watch at the bird feeder, but they help to keep on top of pests too. Thick, dense foliage provides great protection and resources for small garden birds when it comes to building their nests, and berries provide an invaluable source of food. Hawthorn, wild privet, Dog rose and elderflower are just a few examples of bird-friendly hedges to choose.
Keep it native: If you live in a rural environment, or if you simply have a particular interest in keeping it authentically British, choose some beautiful endemic hedges for your garden. Hawthorn, Guelder rose, Spindle and Dog rose are all fantastic native species with wonderful foliage, and many have pretty blooms through spring and summer. Box and Yew are fantastic evergreen choices for year-round colour and screening. If you’re after a country hedgerow effect, mix things up a bit and plant these hedges randomly.
Enhance your environment: Evergreen hedges are the most natural form of year-round barrier, and are usually much better looking than a wall or fence. Whether you want protection against intruders, to stifle the sound of a noisy nearby road or to block out a less-than-pleasing view, hedging is your best friend. Dense evergreens like laurel (particularly Portugal and Common) and Leylandii are great for noise reduction and view obscuring, while thorny Holly, Barberry and Pyracantha look attractive whilst saying firmly, “Don’t pass!”
Nature’s bounty: Hedges that bear fruits, nuts and berries are a wonderful option for a satisfying year-round harvest. Combine berry shrubs like blackcurrant, raspberry and elder with rambling roses (rosehips are great in jellies) with small fruit trees like crabapple and wild pear that can be trained into a wild, laden hedgerow. I love this article from Growveg that gives some more details on planting up an edible hedge – just remember to protect your fruits from overfamiliar birds and pests with netting.
Hey, good looking: Looks aren’t everything, but you may just want to add a spot of class and beauty to your garden, in which case you’ll want to choose hedge types that are known for their pretty foliage. Viburnum with its cotton-puff blooms, architectural scarlet Dogwood and fresh green Beech are all beautiful options, and bright red Photinia provides glorious red leaves in the springtime.