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Fast Growing Hedging Plants
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Canadian Hemlock
- tall one of the fastest

- not so quick or so tall, more elegant

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- good for wind break or background

Hedging plants and hedges

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Hedge or fence?

Advantages of a hedge

Disadvantages of a hedge

An attractive living boundary that changes with the seasons
Requires regular maintenance Can be a part of a mixed border, doesn't have to be uniform. Takes time to get established (fast growing hedges) Height easily variable to suit requirements "Greedy" hedging plants often prevent other plants growing close by. Can be made intruder-proof by selection of plants Good at filtering wind

Advantages of a fence

Disadvantages of a fence

Instant barrier, no waiting.
Unattractive (subject to opinion!) Can plant right up to the fence More prone to wind damage than hedge, not such a good wind filter Fence can be used as a support for climbers or shrubs Will need replacing before a hedge does Effective noise barrier ( from roads etc.)

Which hedging plant to use?

Care must taken in selecting the kinds of hedging plants that you use, some types take a lot more looking after than others, they all grow at different rates and have a variety of advantages and disadvantages. Almost any hardy tree or shrub could be planted as a hedge but a few types are better than the others.

S - good for a security hedge or protecting a vulnerable position (lots of vicious thorns)

Hedging plant Planting distance Clipped height Number of times to clip per season and when Responds to renovation?

Formal - evergreen

Common Box, Buxus sempervivens 12" 1-2ft 2 - 3 growing season Yes
Lawson cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 24" 4-8ft. can be larger 2, spring and early autumn No
Leyland cypress, Cupressocyparis lleylandii 30" 6-12ft. can be to 20ft 2 - 3 growing season No
Escallonia 18" 4-8ft 1, immediately after flowering Yes
Holly, Ilex aquifolium S 12" 6-12ft 1, late summer Yes
Privet 12" 5-10ft 2 - 3 growing season Yes
Lonicera nitida 12" 3-5ft 2 - 3 growing season Yes
Yew, Taxus baccata 24" 4-12ft 2, spring and early autumn Yes

Formal - deciduous

Berberis thunbergii S 18" 2-4ft 1, summer Yes
Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus 18-24" 5-20ft 1, mid to late summer Yes
Hawthorn, Crataegus 12-18" 5-10ft 2, summer and autumn Yes
Beech, Fagus sylvatica 12-24" 4-20ft 1, late summer Yes
Hedging plant Planting distance Clipped height Number of times to clip per season and when Ornamental qualities

Informal and flowering - evergreen

Berberis darwinii S 18" 5-8ft 1, immediately after flowering yellow flowers, purple berries
Cotoneaster lacteus 18-24" 5-7ft 1, after fruiting white flowers red fruits
Escallonia 18" 4-8ft 1, immediately after flowering

white, red or pink flowers

Holly, Ilex aquifolium S 12" 6-12ft 1, late summer

white flowers, berries

Lavender, Lavandula 12" 2-3ft 1, after flowering purple flowers
Laurel, Prunus 2ft 4-8ft can be larger 1, after flowering white flowers
Pyracantha S 24" 6-10ft 1, after fruiting white flowers, red, orange or yellow berries

Informal and flowering - deciduous

Hawthorn, Crataegus S 12-18" 5-10ft 2, summer and autumn

scented white flowers, red berries

Potentilla fruticosa 12-18" 2-4ft 1, spring yellow flowers
Rosa rugosa S 12-18" 1.5m, 5ft

1, spring

flowers and red "hips"
Flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum 12-18" 5-6ft

1, after flowering

pink flowers


The soil for a newly planted hedge should be very well prepared as the hedge will be a long term permanent feature. It should be dug over thoroughly and have a #good quantity of organic matter added to the soil.

#Good quantity - an indeterminate amount, but usually much more than you first think. (if dug in - and it should be dug in)  to make about 20-30% of the volume of the soil it is added to. Think "copious"

When the hedging plants are planted, they should also be given a dressing of bonemeal or blood, fish and bone meal, alternatively inorganic Gromore or similar could be used. It is also good practice to give them a regular feed once established in the spring, again top-dressing with a balanced fertiliser. A mulch of bark chips or similar to prevent weed growth is advisable, this does not need to be replaced or topped up in later years as it rots away, as its function is to help the plants establish early on. Watering is advisable through the first spring and summer to ensure good initial establishment of the hedging plants.

It is sometimes suggested that hedging plants be planted in double rows rather than single. This is not necessary unless a hedge is required that is wider than about a yard or for purposes of establishing the hedge that little quicker. When overcrowded, plants tend just to produce the same amount of top growth spread between them as they would if planted more thinly with less plants giving the same amount of leaf cover. There is also the possibility of crowding and the accumulation of dead wood.

horizontal rule

Formative pruning of hedges

Left to their own devices, hedges will grow upwards and become relatively "leggy", that is thin at the bottom and thicker towards the top. Care must be taken in the first few years to prune the plants so that they develop into a thick and effective hedge.

On planting - cut deciduous plants back by a third of their height. Strong laterals (side shoots) should also be cut back by one third.

Second winter - Cut back again by one third.

The trick is to prune weakly growing shoots hard and strongly growing shoots lightly. Don't be tempted to "even up" the hedge, the result will often be the opposite.

Many hedging plants will form very tall trees or shrubs if left unpruned. In general they will respond to trimming of their vertical growth by producing side shoots. Sometimes it is necessary to trim verticals in order to promote bushy sideways growth even though vertical height is also required. It is all part of the process of establishing a well formed and effective hedge.

horizontal rule

Does size matter?

Hedges establish better and form dense bushy growth from the ground upwards more readily if planted as young, small plants. Many people look at the small bare rooted seedlings or transplants and imagine it will be years before they will achieve anything which looks like a 'hedge'. If larger plants are chosen the result can often be that the hedge is rather "gappy" at the base.

In a few years a hedge planted as small bare-rooted plants will soon catch up and even over-take a hedge planted as much bigger and more expensive pot grown plants. Larger plants are more likely to fail than smaller ones.

Any Questions?  Archive - Hedges and Pruning

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