Hedges/Hedging: Planting and Maintenance
Nothing can possibly give a garden an air of good grooming more than a well-kept hedge. It can be grown to provide shelter by forming a screen, or to make a boundary or an impenetrable barrier; it can comprise deciduous or evergreen plants, some of which may bearor fruit, or have colourful foliage; and it can be anything from 1 to 15 ft. or more in height.
Hedges of such plants as raspberries, artemisia and rosemary are often used to divide one part of the garden from another, and are known as internal hedges. Lower-growing plants, like lavender and dwarf box, are used as borders for driveways or flowerbeds, while taller and more densely growing plants, such as laurel and yew, can be grown to form a boundary or screen.
Select plants, therefore, according to requirements and the site.
Choose evergreens to provide a year-round wind-break and screen, and flowering or coloured-foliage plants for an attractive background.
PREPARATION OF THE SITE
The site should be prepared at least a month before planting.
Clear a strip of ground 1-½ to 2 yds. Wide along the line of the proposed hedge; it is most important to remove all perennial weeds. Double dig the ground the length of the strip, incorporating well-rotted compost or old manure at the rate of two bucketfuls to each trench opened. If the land is badly drained, place brushwood over the bottom spit ofbefore replacing the top spit.
NUMBER OF PLANTS REQUIRED
Estimate the number of plants required by measuring the length of the proposed hedge and allowing for plants spaced according to the planting instructions given in the following list. Order about six extra plants, and plant them together in a group at one end of the row so that they can be used as replacements in case of any failure among the young plants in the hedge. They will grow to be the same height and be used to the same conditions as the rest of the plants in the hedge.
Stretch two garden lines down the centre of the prepared strip of ground to mark the sides of a trench 1 to 4 ft. wide. Dig the trench 1 ft. deep, throwing out the soil on either side. If there is a lawn on one side, place the soil on sacking to protect the grass, or throw all the soil on the other side of the trench. Fork over the base of the trench, and sprinkle it with a well-balanced fertilizer, such as National Growmore, at the rate of 1oz. per sq. yd.
As the plants are put in, the correct distance apart, replace the soil round the roots little by little and firm it with the heel. Firm planting is essential. Rake over the top-soil so that it looks neat and level.
Newly planted hedges should not need support if the plants are small enough, and if the ground has been well firmed during planting. But wire meshis sometimes helpful as temporary support in exposed places, or wires can be stretched taut between posts at either end of the hedge.
Take great care of newly-planted hedges for the first two or three years. Water whenever necessary, and mulch with leaf mould or well-rotted compost. Replace any dead plants with those from the group at the end of the hedge.
Trim young plants only when necessary for shaping, and always use secateurs on large-leaved plants, such as laurel, to avoid damaging the leaf blades. Once established, other plants can be trimmed with shears or a mechanical hedge trimmer. Deciduous hedges will need more clipping in the early stages than evergreens, although all will need more frequent clipping when young than when they are established. Privet and Lonicera nitida, in particular, should be prevented from growing too high when young, otherwise the base of the hedge will be bare. Individual clipping requirements are noted in the list that follows.
Always keep the base of the hedge clear of weeds. Brambles and wildcan be a serious threat to established hedges. A mulch of well-rotted leaf mould applied to clean soil helps to stifle weeds and keeps the ground cool and moist.
Apart from conifers, most of which are in any case short-lived, overgrown, straggly hedges can be cut back in March to encourage the plants to break lower down and become bushy again, or they can be laid in February or March. This is a skilled job and consists of cutting away unnecessary growth and half-severing the rest at ground level. These branches are then laid at an angle of 45° to the ground and woven back and forth between stakes driven into the ground at intervals along the length of the hedge.
Fill small gaps by putting in a short stake and fastening to it young growth from the hedge, thus encouraging it to grow across the gap. If the gap is a large one, insert a new, young plant.
SHAPING AND TOPIARY
Train and shape the hedge according to individual taste and requirements. Keep it broad at the base and, ideally, taper it slightly towards the top; never allow the top to become wider than the base. Box, yew andparticularly lend themselves to shaping, and also to topiary, the ancient art of clipping shrubs into ornamental shapes. This is an artificial way of growing otherwise attractive shrubs, and there are still many intricate examples in Great Britain and many adherents to the art.