Hedges offer unimagined possibilities for designing a garden. They tend to be long-lived and acquire more and more beauty with age. Of course, this only works if you choose the appropriate varieties for the given conditions, i.e. location, plant substrate and enough space. The demands of the plants and their growth characteristics must also be taken into account. It is important to select the right hedge plants for the given garden situation.
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It is important that the plants are sufficiently hardy. What good is the most beautiful hedge if it freezes over every few years in winter? Unfortunately, this often happens with the cherry laurel hedges. It is just as important to pay attention to quality when buying the trees and shrubs.
You can choose between deciduous and evergreen hedge plants. The choice is great. Many garden owners want a fast-growing hedge. There are also suitable plants for those in a hurry. When making your selection, you also have to keep an eye on the maintenance work that needs to be done. There are hedges that have to be trimmed three times a year, otherwise they grow immeasurably. If you don’t want that, you have to be careful when choosing. Some hedging plants require minimal maintenance, at least once they’ve settled in properly. I have put together a selection of hedge plants that I think are very versatile. So, read through if you are looking for a suitable hedge.
Fast growing hedges
Most garden owners are looking for a fast growing hedge. It should not be forgotten that the trees do not only grow until the hedges are two or three meters high, but throughout their lives. That means you have to cut a lot, up to three times a year. If the hedge is long, you have work and hedge cutting without end. It is often better to choose a variety that is not quite as vigorous.
Kirschlorbeer (Prunus laurocerasus, syn.: Laurocerasus officinalis)
The cherry laurel is a great hedge plant if you don’t live in regions where the winters are really cold and long. Then frost damage often occurs and it can also happen that there are total failures. Otherwise this plant is ideal. You just have to be careful when choosing the variety and choose the one that gets along best with our winters. Otherwise, cherry laurel does not need much care. In addition, the wood is evergreen, so there is privacy all year round. The laurel cherry is a bit tricky when it comes to location, it needs a sheltered location to have protection from frost and wind. In addition, the plant needs good soil, rich in nutrients and capable of storing moisture without being wet.
- Cut – once a year
- Length growth per year – up to 40 cm, depending on the variety, width growth rather weak
- Advantages: evergreen, absolutely fast-growing, decorative with beautiful leaves and flowers
- Disadvantages: susceptible to frost, parts or the whole plant die off in cold winters, location requirements are rather high
Liguster (Ligustrum vulgare “Atrovirens“)
Privet is also evergreen, although it can happen that the plant sheds its leaves in a cold winter. An “old” privet hedge is almost impenetrable and opaque. In addition, the plants are absolutely undemanding and constantly sprout. Privet is considered an all-rounder. Purchasing a privet hedge is inexpensive, especially compared to other hedge plants. The plants get along with almost every location.
- Length growth – 30 to 50 cm per year, width growth – 10 to 20 cm
- Cut – up to three cuts a year. Those who are not so picky can get by with two cutting measures, but they have to be.
- Advantages: very fast regeneration, no demands on soil or location, very frost hardy, tolerates shade well, almost evergreen
- Disadvantages: pruning and poisonous berries, when pruning there are no flowers, but no berries either
Leyland cypress is often recommended as an alternative to thuja. The cypresses do not bare from the inside out as much as is usually the case with the trees of life. In addition, they do not turn brown in winter, which makes the Thuja unattractive for many plant lovers. The tree, also known as bastard cypress, grows quickly and the growth can literally degenerate if left uncut. That is why pruning measures are important, often up to three times a year.
- Length growth – up to one meter a year, in any case 50 to 60 cm, width growth 10 to 20 cm
- Pruning – it has to be pruned up to three times a year, starting in the second year
- Advantages: evergreen, quite tolerant of pruning, does not need nutrient-rich soil, very dense and stable growth, forgives miscuts, can be pruned well into shape
- Disadvantages: cut, is better cut by hand and not electrically, takes a little longer for width growth
Evergreen hedges have the advantage of providing year-round protection. However, the green walls often appear very dark and take away a lot of the sun. Not much thrives in their shadow. You have to take this into account when planting. It is best not to let such a hedge grow too high. Two meters is often sufficient. Evergreen hedges include many conifers such as the Leyland cypress described above. The cherry laurel is also evergreen and the privet mostly too.
Yew (Taxus bacatta – native species)
Yew hedges look very picturesque. The trees can be trained to form low and high hedges and look very beautiful, especially when they are old. Yew only needs to be pruned once a year. However, the desired location should be taken into account, i.e. a semi-shady or even shady location and a calcareous soil. If frost damage occurs, yew trees can be cut back far. In contrast to other evergreen conifers, they sprout again without any problems from the old wood. In addition to the native yews, the Irish yew is also suitable as a hedge plant. They only need to be pruned a little on the sides and have a very slender growth habit.
- Length growth – about 15 cm a year, experts advise buying yew plants at a height of 1.50 m
- Cut – once a year is sufficient
- Advantages: evergreen, the older they get, the better they look, get very old, location tolerance, survivors
- Disadvantages: fruits are poisonous, plants are expensive to buy
Bambus (mural fargesia)
Bamboo is becoming increasingly popular as a hedge plant. There are numerous varieties that can be used. You can choose between varieties with one or two growth phases per year. During these periods, which only last a few weeks, the culms literally shoot up. Every year they grow faster and taller. It is important to choose clump-forming varieties. The suckers must be limited by a root barrier. When selecting the varieties, you can choose between final sizes ranging from 0.30 cm to 10 m.
- Growth in length – between 1 m and 1.5 m per year depending on the variety
- Cut – one cut is usually sufficient
- Advantages: evergreen, fast-growing, opaque with the appropriate hedge width, if the hedge is trimmed, the leaves remain down to the ground, very easy to care for
- Disadvantages: frost damage can occur from -28 °C, but plants regenerate from the strong roots, does not tolerate blue corn
Tree of Life (Thuja occidentalis)
Thuja is a very popular hedge plant. The trees are quite tolerant of location and can cope with extreme climatic conditions such as drought and cold. The ‘Brabant’ variety is very suitable for trimmed hedges. It has soft green foliage, even in winter, and dense branches. The emerald tree of life also makes a good hedge. Its green is lighter, even in winter, with a beautiful emerald color. Uncut, the tree of life can reach a height of over 35 m and a trunk diameter of 1.5 m.
- Growth in length – around 20 cm per year, depending on the variety, growth in width is much weaker
- Cut – usually one cut per year is enough, sometimes it makes sense to cut twice
- Advantages: evergreen, grows quite quickly, opaque
- Disadvantages: need plenty of water, otherwise they will turn brown quickly. You must not cut into the old wood, the thuja will no longer sprout from it, so radical cutting is not possible. After about 10 years a lot of cutting waste and a lot to cut.
Deciduous trees usually remain lower and, depending on the choice of plants, reach a maximum height of 2 m. In summer, these hedges offer sufficient privacy, but they become more permeable once the leaves have fallen. However, the leaves on many hedges remain hanging for a long time, even if they are already brown. Deciduous hedges offer the advantage that they are generally very easy to cut. So you can deal well with strong cutting measures. They also quickly forgive cutting errors. However, the growth rate is usually lower than that of many other hedge plants.
Hainbuche (Carpinus betulus)
The hornbeam forms great tree walls. The robust and long-lived hedge plant comes mainly from the Caucasus and is therefore tough. Another plus is the beautiful autumn colors. The leaves turn golden yellow in autumn. Foliage often persists into spring, albeit more permeable. The hornbeam is extremely pruning-tolerant. This tree thrives on all moderately dry to fresh soil and loves sun to partial shade. The hornbeam is ideal for anyone who does not need year-round, absolutely opaque protection. Birds and other animals also use these hedges for nesting and hiding.
- Growth in length – up to 30 cm a year, sometimes even up to 40 cm
- Pruning – twice a year pruning is recommended. My neighbors only cut once and get there just fine.
- Advantages: looks very natural, especially with long hedges, opaque almost all year round, very robust, easy to trim, does not require much care
- Disadvantages: not completely opaque in winter, leaves to rake up
Blutbuche (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea)
This beech is a mutation of the common beech and is characterized by its red foliage. However, the leaves lose their color over the course of the season and turn green by autumn. The copper beech is extremely popular with insects. Birds also like to use the hedge as a breeding ground. The leaves remain on the tree for a long time, often until new shoots appear in spring. The location should be sunny to semi-shady. Shade is also well tolerated. The copper beech is robust, but cannot tolerate permanent wetness or drought. It is also sensitive to extreme cold. This wood is not as tolerant of pruning as the hornbeam, but can be pruned well.
- Growth in length – 30 to 40 cm per year, older copper beeches grow more slowly
- Pruning – a pruning in early spring, before the leaves sprout, is usually sufficient. However, it can be pruned again in the summer if necessary.
- Advantages: very beautiful foliage color, which changes over the course of the year, also suitable for shade
- Disadvantages: not so cut compatible, does not tolerate radical cuts well, more transparent in winter than in summer
Firethorn is a classic hedge plant . It is also impenetrable because it has dangerous thorns. Birds love the trees and like to use the hedges as nesting sites. Firethorn is easy to care for and impresses with its fiery red berries in autumn. The location should be sunny, the soil should be well drained. The firethorn can, but does not have to be pruned. It can be trained as a hedge, but not as strict as other trees. There are now many new varieties, and some are far less susceptible to fire blight, a common disease among these plants.
- Longitudinal growth – up to a meter depending on the variety, especially after a vigorous cut, grows in all directions
- Cut – at least once a year, more often depending on how dense the hedge is to be, pruning promotes branching
- Advantages: very frugal, withstands drought, heat and frost well, fruits remain on the tree for a long time, feeds birds, very dense and impermeable, especially if cut regularly
- Disadvantages: Risk of injury from the thorns, fruits are inedible and slightly poisonous, fire blight – dangerous disease – transferable to other trees – notifiable
A hedge must be well selected. It has to fit the location and you have to know how much maintenance is required. When planting hedges, i.e. when making a selection, you can do a lot wrong. It is essential to be well informed about the plants you want!