Why should I plant a hedge?

Tamsin Westhorpe is all in favour of replacing fences with hedges – here’s why...

Hedges create a wind break and divide the garden Image: Tamsin Westhorpe
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At the time of the summer local council elections a candidate came calling at my door. After chatting for a few minutes, I somehow manoeuvred the conversation onto hedges (always a better topic than politics!).
I’ve watched many new housing developments go up recently and I’m distraught that the gardens are all enclosed by 6ft. fence panels. I fully understand that these panels are the quick way to mark a boundary and create privacy but I’m hoping that in time some will be replaced by hedges. As I explained to the councillor, hedges have so many advantages and if only people were prepared to be a little patient, they would reap the rewards. It’s time to hedge your bets.

A low hedge is an attractive garden divider
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

Here’s my manifesto for the hedge: A hedge offers a soft boundary to a plot and although you could argue that planting one might take up space, they do in fact make a garden feel larger. Although cutting hedges is a task, I can assure you that it’s less messy that trying to stain a fence panel decorated with climbers. They’ll also never blow over in the wind or rot!
Hedges will encourage wildlife to share the garden with you as they offer a place for birds to nest and an easy route for hedgehogs to travel from garden to garden.

Security hedge

A prickly hedge such as holly or berberis can be great security in a front garden. All this and they’re brilliant at filtering the wind, muffling sound and creating a boundary of your preferred height. Plus, if you grow the right hedge, you’ll have seasonal interest and you might even be able to forage from it. The most important benefit of all is that hedge plants filter the air and if we keep planting, they’ll help to protect our delicate environment. Are you convinced yet?

The hedge of reason

I’m not blinded to the fact that some people have terrible problems with their neighbour’s hedges. The infamous lofty leylandii can quickly pinch light from a plot but there are so many other hedge plants to choose from.

Train a climber up the hedge to add colour and interest
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

I will just add that one of the best hedges I’ve ever seen is a leylandii (if clipped well from the start they can be stunning). In an ideal world we would all live in harmony with our neighbours and come to an agreement as to how high the boundary hedge should be. It’s not unheard of for neighbours to keep their hedges low so they can chat over them.

Plant a hedge

The perfect hedge planting time is October when plants are available to buy bareroot, however now is a great time to look at hedges in their summer finery. For the best advice head to a specialist nursery as they’ll be able to match you and your garden up with the right plants. Decide before you go shopping what style of hedge you desire. If you favour evergreens, yew is a favourite for a formal look but be warned that it is a poisonous plant or how about Prunus lusitanica (Portugal laurel) or Photinia ‘Red Robin’? For flowers try escallonia or choisya.

Some hedge plants have attractive young foliage like this Photinia ‘Red Robin’
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

An evergreen hedge might seem the most sensible option, but deciduous plants offer far more seasonal interest so don’t discount them. I for one enjoy a beech hedge (Fagus sylvatica) for its wonderful autumn colour. A mixed hedge is the best for attracting wildlife and the addition of a few Rosa rugosa plants adds some summer glamour.
I hope that my pitch for the hedge has got your vote.

Tamsin Westhorpe

About Tamsin Westhorpe

Tamsin Westhorpe is well known as an editor, garden writer and lecturer. However, she prefers to be known as a gardener. She was previously Editor of The English Garden magazine and lecturer at Kingston Maurwood College in Dorset. Tamsin started her gardening career at the age of 16 working for her great uncle John Treasure of Burford House Gardens in Worcestershire. Alongside her freelance work and being a mother Tamsin runs Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire with her uncles and is currently training to be an RHS judge.
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