A Brief Guide to Garden Hedges

A hedge that is well kept and attractive can also do much for your grounds. Used in the front of the house and on the sides of your lot, hedges are a barrier against traffic, noise and all things unsightly; at the same time they enhance the proportions and general appearance of your house and lawns. And within the boundaries of your property, hedges define paths and walks, demarcate various areas, and help to screen service areas and vegetable gardens.

The plant materials generally used include the tall background hedges of holly, thorn or wattle; the informal flowering hedges of rose, bridal wreath spirea or barberry; Such evergreens as mugho pine, globe arbor vitae, box or eunonymus (most of which are used as low edgings) and the colorful fruit and-nut hedges of thorn apple, hazlenut, cherry, beach plum, cranberry and quince. And, of course, there are the formal clipped hedges. Of these, the Amur privet is by far the most widely used. In fact, the privet is used so universally that it is original to choose any of the above for hedging.

very manicured hedge in a large garden

Hedge shrubs must be planted in the same manner as any other shrub, with soil preparation all-important to the continued life of the plant. The main consideration here is the spacing and planning of the plants in relationship to each other. Early spring is the most favourable time since it gives the plant a long spell of good growing weather to get re-established. In the milder sections of the country, however, transplanting may be done through the winter months.

Dry roots are the chief cause of planting failures, and steps should be taken to prevent this-i.e., balling and bur lapping, and heeling in. After receiving shrubs from a nursery, water as soon as possible; shade them from sunshine at first, mulch the ground around them, and prune back severely.

The older the plant you get, the more severely it will have to be cut back, so that in the long run, you come out just as well buying the less expensive, smaller shrubs.

Pruning of shrubs helps to keep them young and vigorous. Rather than cutting all branches off to an even length, prune out the older branches, even though they may be sound. Some shrubs need pruning every year, especially those which have dead branches as a result of winterkill.


One way to get a straight hedge is to dig a trench the length of your intended hedge, with one side straight and your plants set against this straight wall. The depth of the plant depends on what you are planting, but privet may be set 3 inches deeper than it was before being transplanted.

How far apart the hedge shrubs are set again depends on what shrub it is, as some hedging materials are spreading and bushy. Privet is usually set 1 foot apart; barberry, 9 inches to 1 foot; larger shrubs, 2 to 4 feet.

The way hedges are trimmed has much to do with their health. While a flat top is neat looking, it is easily damaged by snow and ice accumulating on top. A rounded top is better, therefore, for northern winters. And hedges should be trimmed to slope outwards from top to bottom so that the leaves on the bottom also get sun.

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