Beginners Guide to Hedges
Hedges offer many solutions to a garden and home. They are great at providing privacy, colour, design, background, visual barriers, borders, luxuriance and screens.
Used correctly and with the right plants they are fantastic at portraying a sense of space and perspective, and increasing the design potential of your garden, after all the outdoor space is an extension of your home.
There are multiple styles from neatly clipped to more natural un-kept means.
Formal – Suitable as an alternative for a fence or wall. Meticulous clipping to keep a tight/dense hedge which suppresses flowers and fruit.
Semi-formal – Pruned occasionally but allowing seasonal flowering and fruiting.
Informal – Allowed to grow naturally, clipped infrequently t look tidy. Typically used to provide a screen or privacy.
Pleached - neatly clipped trained large shrubs or small trees by structural training and manipulating branches into a tree like hedge.
PRUNING YOUR HEDGES
For formal hedges the tip is to clip little (tip prune) and often and make sure you prune constantly when plants are young for a dense hedge. Plants with smaller leaves are great for the classic formal look. The aim should be to make the hedge dense and then allowing the height and width to increase.
Formal hedges require the extra effort and you can set up a string line just above the hedge as a guide. In comparison to a semi-formal hedge which is pruned only to keep its desired shape and size but allowing annual flowering, so best pruned after flowering or/and fruiting if they are ornamental.
Hedges should also be trimmed wider at the bottom with slightly slopping sides to allow light onto lower leaves to promote low level leaf growth and density.
Pleaching is also a great tall screen option (hedge on stilts), by creating tree like hedge without blocking light from coming into your garden and provides a neat, architectural and formal feature to any garden. This option requires patience and precision.
ESTABLISHING YOUR HEDGE
Preparation before planting will repay you long term and make sure investment in your garden rewards you with amazing hedges.
Make sure all weeds are remove and dig the area over by at least 300mm deep, adding in well-rotted organic matter throughout. Let the area rest two weeks prior to planting so yu can come back through and remove any weeds the pop up. Once plants are in the ground make sure you mulch to help keep the soil moist and prevent weeds.
Regular watering will be required until plants are established. Best time to plant is during autumn in warmer climates or late spring in cooler climates unless your susceptible to frost, then wait until mid-spring.
Smaller plants should be planted 30cm – 50cm apart, with larger growing shrubs and smaller tress ideally planted 1m or more apart.
Make sure you also feed your plants regularly to promote leaf growth and prevent deficiency’s and diseases.
PLANTING SELECTION FOR HEDGES
There are many options for hedges with the following being some of my favourites. The most important and critical feature of a hedge is that it should be hardy and long-lived so you’re not needing to replace plants and gaps in between your hedge do not develop. Your climate and the soil type your working with also needs to be considered in the success of your hedge long term.
Photina x traseri – Red Robina
Mostly evergreen with feature new growth coloured pin to red. Produces small cream flowers with a slight perfume. Great for areas that require tall hedges/screens, can be pruned once a year with more formal hedges requiring pruning 2 – 3 times a year. Each prune produces a new flush of red leaves. Tolerates short drought but prefers fertile well drained soil with reliable moisture. Prefers full sun but can tolerate semi shade.
Rhaphiolepis spp – Indian Hawthorn
Dense leafy evergreen shrub, spring flowers of white to pink clusters. Used as a smaller hedge as it grows 2 – 3m tall. Grows in full sun to semi shade. Can tolerate salt and pollution so great near pools or busy roads. Tolerates short drought, slow growing and only needs to be pruned 2 – 3 times a year to maintain a formal hedge or shape.
Abelia x grandiflora – Glossy Abelia
Evergreen shrub and great if you’re looking for a bun shaped hedge. Flowers are white flushed with pink mostly produced in summer to autumn. Best grown in full sun and prefers fertile well drained soils. Once established they can tolerate periods of drought. Great background plant for a shrub border, low maintenance and reliable with neat foliage.
Buxus microphylla – Japanese Box
Evergreen shrub growing 2 – 3m tall. Bright green foliage maturing to lush mid green in colour. Small perfumed flowers in spring, requires full sun to semi shade. Tolerates frost, pollution and wind. Tolerate short drought and great for formal gardens, hedging and suitable for planter boxes. Will require clipping every 2 months to maintain neat formal hedge.
Viburnam odoratissimum – Sweet Vibrnum
Evergreen with thick trunk, and larger leaves compared to the other plants mentioned above. Foliage is dark green and leathery. Flowers appear in late spring to summer if hedge is not pruned. Requires fertile well drained soil with irrigation. Fast growing and establishes as a hedge quickly but will need regular pruning 3 – 4 times a year to keep the size restricted. The foliage is commonly seen in florists.
Murraya Pariculata – Murraya
Evergreen large shrub with glossy green foliage. Strongly perfumed white flowers produced in spring and late summer. Common hedge seen in Sydney both popular for residential and commercial landscapes. Prefers warm, humid and frost-free climate, Hedges will require bi-monthly pruning in warmer months but will tolerate a hard prune.