Hedging Plants as Garden Boundaries
If you are planting a hedge as a boundary, this will probably be your first task in your new garden. Here again, thorough preparation of thewill make all the difference to the health and survival rate of the plants. It makes sense to dig out a trench, about 90cm (3ft) wide and 60cm (2ft) deep, for large plants. Fork up the subsoil a bit and return half the earth to the bottom of the trench, adding and mixing to it as much compost and rotted manure as you can spare. Failing these, add a little peat and granular fertiliser, such as Growmore, under the roots of each plant as you go.
Space theplants out well, up to 90cm (3ft) apart for leylandii, and put them in position, giving them them a stake or wires if necessary. Then return the remainder of the top soil and firm the plants in. Give them a good watering and keep themselves clear of weeds, and fed and watered for the first few years, until they are well established. Remember that small , 90cm (3ft) or thereabouts, will be cheaper (with further reductions for larger orders) and get away better than large plants, as a rule. They will have time to form a good root system before growing high enough to be buffeted by the winds. If you are not sure how to space the plants, consult the catalogues, reference books or a good nursery.
Many people will choose an evergreen hedge both for the privacy it will provide and for the handsome backdrop it makes for other plants. For a tall hedge, of about 2m (7ft) upwards, Cupressocyparis leylandii, its golden form ‘Castlewellan’, and Thuja plicata, are all good bets and comparatively cheap. For a medium 1-2m (4-7ft) hedge, Yew is the noblest of them all, but no-one could call it cheap unless you are prepared to propagate the hedging plants yourself. Holly makes a great barrier and is boldly sombre in its green forms, cheerful in the variegated ones. Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Green Hedger’ is pleasing and Escallonia is a beautiful hedge for milder or seaside positions.
Cheapest of all the evergreens as hedging plants are the much despised privets and loniceras. Privet in particular is a greedy feeder, robbing the soil around it of nutriments. Certainly, when neglected and lanky, they are poor, miserable things, but well grown, fed and clipped (often), they make a neat enough hedge and a solid barrier. Both have golden forms which give a welcome brightness in the long winter months, especially in towns and suburbs, as well as providing useful material for winter flower arrangements. They grow fast, are cheap to buy and grow easily from cuttings. Incidentally, all the privets make splendid small trees and can be trained easily enough as single-stemmed specimens, or planted, three in one hole, to produce an instant multi-branched wonder.
For non-evergreen, but still fairly formal hedges, Beech in its green or purple forms makes a good choice. The dead leaves stay on the branches throughout the winter, which is a love-it or loathe-it effect, so look around you to help you decide. Cheapest of the deciduous hedges are probably Prunus cerasifera (cherry plum), Prunus spinosa (sloe), Hornbeam and Hawthorn. I am devoted to the latter, bringing as it does memories of a splendid 2.75m (9ft) hedge surrounding one of the gardens of my childhood.
For less formal hedges, the choice is wide, from the evergreen Pyracanthas andto the hardy and long flowering Rugosa Roses. Look around you again, and consult reference books and local nurseries. For internal hedges and screens, almost anything goes, if it takes your fancy and will not outgrow the available space, except those plants that are so noble in shape that they need to be seen in virtual isolation to look their best; the Magnolias are a good example. Look out for bargains in the press and local garden centres as prices can vary considerably. This applies to all plants, but particularly to hedging, I think.
With the boundaries and perhaps the internal hedging plants and screens planted, you can turn your attention to those trees or shrubs that are to provide the focal point (or points) of your garden; those, that is, which will, singly or in groups, attract and distract the eye, according to your plan. These will need the most careful siting of all, and on this, much of the success of your garden will depend.