Hedges for particular purposes FAQs

What are the best evergreen hedges?

The most ornamental evergreen hedges, which will stand formal training and clipping, are yew and holly. However, hedges of cypress (Chamaecyparis) and cherry laurel (Prunus) come a close second; and privet (Ligustrum), provided it is trained correctly from the time of planting, will supply a satisfactory semi-evergreen barrier.

The honeysuckle Lonicera nitida is also dense, with small evergreen leaves, and can be trained easily into a variety of shapes, but it needs clipping several times a year; it can, indeed, be rather time-consuming to maintain, so it is better used as an internal hedge kept to about 1 m (3Vi ft) high.

We live in a bungalow near the seashore in Sussex, where the soil is rather sandy. Could I have suggestions, please, for some suitable hedging plants.

There is quite a wide selection, from which I would choose the following: Griselinia littoralis (any soil) with thick, yellowish-green leaves forming a dense hedge under a formal clipping; Escallonia ‘Langleyensis’, with red flowers in

June-July; E. macrantha, with deep red flowers in June-September, E. ‘Slieve Donard’, with large pink flowers in June-August; sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), with silvery grey foliage and orange berries if both male and female plants are grown; tamarisk (Tamarix pentandra), with feathery flowers in August, and the May-flowering T. tetrandra; Euonymus japonicus, with evergreen shiny leaves, available in variegated forms, which stands close clipping; and the honeysuckle Lonicera nitida.

We need protection from a fierce north-east wind in winter and from a south-west breeze which blows in from the sea most of the summer. What do you suggest?

Here are a few possibilities: elderberrry (Sambucus nigra), which grows rapidly to 6 m (20 ft), and its golden-leaved form, S.n. ‘Aurea’, which is less quick-growing; hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), which grows up to 6 m (20 ft); mountain pine (Pinus mugo), which grows up to 3 m (10 ft); Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’), which can be kept at the height required by annual clipping; Leyland cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii), which should be kept at a maximum of 2.7-3.6 m (9-12 ft).

Whichever plants you use, they will need to be protected against the winds during their first two years, while they get established.

We have recently bought an Elizabethan house, and want to plant a knot garden at the front, in keeping with the age of the house. Can you tell us what to use for edging the beds?

Knot gardens can look enchanting when well designed, with their geometrically shaped beds intensively planted (in the 16th century mainly with medicinal herbs), and edged with dwarf hedges. Plants to use which are in keeping with the time are sage (Salvia officinalis); hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis); box edging (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’); lavender; and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis); the last two are preferably kept clipped and formal.

I have a hedge of box edging, which is old and gappy; the cats have sat in it over the years, so it is now very straggly. I would like to replace it with a similar dwarf hedge, perhaps a flowering one. Do you think lavender would be a good idea?

Lavender (Lavandula) can produce an excellent low-growing hedge, about 600-750 mm (2-2 ½ ft) tall, with fragrant flowers in July. It needs careful clipping immediately after flowering, or in spring: be sure to cut back only the previous season’s growth, not any of the older growth.

Other plants you could use include Senecio greyi, which has grey felted leaves and yellow daisy flowers in July; southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), with aromatic grey, ferny foliage; Berberis buxifoiia ‘Nana’, an evergreen with yellow flowers; cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus), an evergreen with silvery foliage and yellow button-flowers.

I like the idea of flowering hedges, but I do not know what sort of plants I should use or how long they will go on flowering. Can you give me some information please?

Flowering hedges are essentially informal—that is, they are not close-clipped like formal hedges but are allowed to grow more or less naturally, although they need to be cut every year to keep them within the space available. This cutting (in effect pruning) is done in spring or summer, depending on the time of flowering , and it involves removing the old flowered shoots and cutting back any new shoots which have elongated beyond the selected line of the hedge.

Plants to use are preferably fairly close-growing and evergreen, as well as good for blossom. Some excellent examples are: the hybrid musk roses ‘Felicia’ (apricot pink), ‘Moonlight’ (lemon-cream), ‘Penelope’ (salmon-apricot), and ‘Cornelia’ (apricot pink); the hybrids of Escallonia, flowering in June-August; Cotoneaster franchettii, with white and pink flowers in June, and grey-green leaves: firethorn (Pyracantha x watereri), with white flowers in June, and brilliant red berries; Spiraea thunbergii, with white flowers before leaves in March-April; shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla ‘Katherine Dykes’), with primrose-yellow flowers in May-August; calico bush (Kalmia latifolia), with bright pink flowers in June-July (note: this one needs an acid soil); Hebe ‘Autumn Glory’, with violet-blue flowers in August-November; tamarisk (Tamarixgallica), with pink flowers in August-October.