HEDGES

It was probably in the seventeenth century that our native Hawthorn was first used widely to form barriers and hedges as we know them today. Since that time many types of plants have been introduced and used for hedge making until today the range and diversity of plant material available is enormous, providing us with colour and interest both in foliage and flower.

With the present trend for open plan areas around houses and estates less interest has been shown in planting and establishing hedges in recent years, but with the stresses of modern life people are realising they need privacy in their gardens, and the freedom to be able to do their own thing without intrusion from neighbours, and to this end the popularity of hedges and screens is on the increase.

The hedge may be considered the most important feature in the garden for it is the frame that surrounds the garden, and eventually bringing it all together to form a picture.

Consideration must be given to what is required from a hedge, and this will vary from person to person. Privacy from neighbours and traffic; shelter and protection from prevailing winds; and a boundary between properties; keeping out unwanted animals; blotting out ugly buildings and views; adding interest to the garden design by providing a background to a pool, patio, a garden ornament, or dividing the garden up into various areas of interest.

PREPARATION PRIOR TO PLANTING

It is important that the plants get off to a good start. Once planted they will remain in that position for a very long time, so adequate preparation is vital to their quick establishment and subsequent satisfactory growth. Dig a trench 1 8-24 ins deep and 3 ft wide, incorporating either well rotted manure or peat, supplementing this with a dressing of Growmore worked into the top 4-6 ins.

It is important to eradicate all deep rooted perennial weeds to prevent competition with the young hedge, which can result in poor basal growth.

PLANTING

The optimum times for planting deciduous hedges is from October to November, or February to March, provided weather conditions allow. Evergreen subjects can be planted a little earlier in the autumn – from September to October – and a little later in the spring, up until April. With Conifers such as Cupressocyparis leylandii, or Lawson Cypress grown in containers, they, of course, can be planted throughout the year providing the weather conditions are suitable for their quick establishment and growth.

Once the plants have been purchased it is important to ‘heel’ them in immediately to prevent the roots from drying out; with container-grown plants this will not be necessary. Most failures are caused by allowing the plants to dry out at the roots prior to planting and this must be avoided at all costs.

Before planting commences mark out the positions and distances between the plants with bamboo, using a garden line to keep the planting straight; this is especially important when dealing with long hedges. Plant at the same depth as in the nursery – this can be judged by the dark mark at the base of the stem. Conifers in ‘burlaps’, i.e., roots wrapped in hessian squares, need to have the knots untied from around the stem before covering with soil, firm plants with the ball of the foot and water copiously.

It is not generally necessary to stake plants after planting, the one notable exception being the Leyland Cypress. This is the fastest growing hedging Conifer and will need bamboo support for the first two-three years.

TRIMMING

The three most important factors in establishing a good hedge are:

(a) Adequate soil preparation.

(b) Selection of strong, healthy plants with a good root system.

(c) Subsequent trimming and cutting

Probably more hedges are ruined by incorrect trimming and cutting than by any other factor. The time of pruning will depend on the type of hedge planted, deciduous or evergreen, and whether it is going to be a formal or informal hedge. Newly planted deciduous hedges,

such as Hawthorn and subjects like Privet and Lonicera nirida, can be cut hard back to within 1 2 ins of ground level in March. Notable exceptions to this are Beech and Hornbeam, these take some time to establish, and may not need trimming until two-three years after planting. Evergreen subjects such as Holly, Leylands and Lawson Cypress only need their side shoots lightly trimmed during July/August.

When trimming a hedge it is important that the base of the hedge should be wider than the top, so aim to trim to a general wedge shape.

This will provide stability to the hedge and also cut down the risk of damage caused by any heavy falls of snow during the winter months. Allow the hedge to reach its maximum height before the leader is taken out.

WEED CONTROL

For the successful establishment of a new hedge it is important that weed growth is swiftly and effectively dealt with. It has been suggested that somewhere in the region of 25% of the growth rate of a new hedge can be lost by unfair competition from weeds. They can be eradicated by hoeing, or by a combination of hoeing and chemicals. The pre-emergent herbiĀ­cide Simazme can give satisfactory control of all annual weeds, and will remain effective over a long period.

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TRIMMING GUIDE

Mature hedges may only need clipping annually.

New hedges need trimming 2-3 times per year

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