Creating a Garden Hedge

Choosing the right shrubs and the best planting position

A hedge is a "fence" composed of plants. A hedge can serve either as a barrier or as a decorative garden component. As a barrier a hedge could serve both as a psychological and physical barrier. Psychological barrier hedges are from one to three feet high. They serve as borders to pathways and walkways that can definitely enhance any garden. Physical barrier hedges are from three to five feet over in height. These hedges can actually stop through-traffic as it would take a person some high jumping skills to jump over a five-foot hedge. Such hedge would also work well as barrier or protection from the elements and from the prying eyes of neighbours and passers- by.

Other Reasons for Planting Hedges

  • It can serve as a better element in reducing wind strength
  • It can filter and absorb noise and dust.
  • It is an effective visual screen for privacy.
  • It complements other plants in the garden.
  • It is more weather-resistant than regular picket fencing.
  • Cost-effective than most fencing materials.
  • Hedges, when properly taken care of, can last for decades.

Before you plunge ahead with your hedge garden you must know that hedges need to be maintained. It is not just planting and watering the hedge plants. You have to maintain a garden hedge in order to keep them in tip-top condition. There are two ways of maintaining a hedge garden aside from the usual watering and fertilizing.

  • Thinning - is removing some plant parts like twigs and branches. This process can reduce the vertical growth of the shrub so it would grow horizontally and densely. The shrub keeps it natural shape and is not sculptured.
  • Shearing - This is used for sculpturing formal hedges. When young shoot tips grow, the tips are immediately cut off for a denser regrowth. This technique is best suited for minute evergreen shrubs. Shearing plants that flower would make it lose its flowers the next season.

If you think you can deal with what it takes to keep and maintain a hedge garden then go ahead with creating a garden hedge.

Choose the Area to Plant the Shrubs

You can basically plant a hedge on any location of your yard. You can create the hedge at the back of your loan to shield your home from your neighbours. If your back lawn faces an open area then the hedge can serve as a barrier for possible intrusion. You can opt to create a hedge at the sides of the lawn for aesthetics. Lining up a garden path with hedges is also a wonderful idea. It would feel like walking the path trimmed with hedges on the way to visit royalties.

What type of shrubs will you plant?

There are two general types of shrubs: evergreens (coniferous) or seasonal (deciduous). Under evergreens the best area: holly, boxwood, mountain laurels, and yews.

  • Japanese holly has broad leaves but the English holly makes a better hedge plant because of its prickly leaves.
  • Boxwood is the classic plants for hedges. The same plant has been used in European gardens for centuries in their formal gardens.
  • Mountain laurels are also broadleaf evergreens that bloom in late spring.
  • Yew bushes are needle-bearing evergreens which make them hedge plants classics. However if you are in a hurry to have a hedge for a screen, don't choose as they are slow growers.


Some of the more often used deciduous shrubs are rose of Sharon, forsythia and lilac. These shrubs look great when in bloom but not so during the winter. These bushes are leafless part of the year so they are not really recommended as hedge plants for privacy or for protection against the elements.

Make sure that you choose plants that you would not have any problem concerning root growth. Avoid plants that can get too big for the intended area.

Creating your Hedge Garden

The best time to plant a hedge is in autumn. At this time, the soil is warm yet moist due to autumn rains. Buy your hedge plants from nursery that specializes in the production of trees and shrubs. Buying plotted plants would cost you more.

Before marking out the line for the hedge, make sure you have prepared the soil for the planting. Put compost before planting. Once soil preparation is done, mark the line of the hedge with a string. Make sure you have measured the length before buying the plants. As a general rule, plant four bushes per metre length.

Apply a handful of slow release fertilizer per square meter. If the area allows it, plant two rows of shrubs in a staggered way. If space is limited then plant a single row with 300 mm spacing (about a foot). Apply mulch at a depth of 75 mm to 100 mm (3 to 4 inches). The mulch could be grass, sawdust, leaves, or compost. You can choose the kind and type of mulch that you see fit. Mulch is helpful in retaining soil moisture and levelling up the temperature of the soil.

After planting the hedge plants prune the bushes by half to encourage dense growth. This would encourage an almost impenetrable growth all the way to the hedge bottom. Make sure that the plants are watered regularly during its initial year. Check the mulch and replenish them as needed. Prune the plants again by half in the next two autumns. Hopefully you still have a hedge to trim.

Be patient. It would take time for you hedge garden to grow and take form. If you have the tenacity and the talent you might even want to sculpt your garden much like the formal English garden.

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