Using Hedges in Your Garden Landscaping Layout
For centuries, in a quest for privacy, man has erected enclosures around his dwellings. The Romans were the first to use plant material, such as box and laurel, around their villas, in preference to stone walls. This idea spread quickly and hedges have been used throughout the world ever since.
Landscapers as well as home gardeners have long been inspired to include these magnificent living walls in their gardens, for aside from being extremely decorative, they also serve a number of practical purposes.
Hedges have numerous landscaping uses. Tall hedges can be planted to create privacy and security, to reduce the effect of strong winds or to dampen urban noise while lower hedges can hide unsightly areas or divide up the garden and provide interest. Very low hedges are used to define pathways, borders, herb gardens and vegetable gardens and are an essential element in the formal garden.
Types of hedges
The type of hedge you wish to grow will determine what plant material will be the most suitable, so bear in mind the size of the area where the hedge is to be established as well as the style of the house and garden.
Formal, clipped hedges generally take up less space but they require a lot of maintenance and need to be trimmed regularly if they are to form a lush, living wall. A well maintained formal hedge should be dense at the base. To achieve this, the plants should initially be trimmed low to encourage thick, bushy basal growth. Once this has been achieved, the hedge can gradually be trimmed higher. A well kept formal hedge is wider at the base than at the top. This encourages better basal leaf growth as the lower parts of the hedge will receive good light.
Informal hedges have a few advantages over trimmed formal hedges in that they only need occasional tidying up so are far less time consuming to maintain. They also tend to be more colourful as they grow naturally and the flowers or berries they produce are left on the plants. They do take up more space however and are not suitable for areas that have a geometric design.
Ensure that the plants you have chosen for your hedge are suitable for the climate in your area and care for them as per the particular variety's requirements.
Plants for high hedges
- Carissa macrocarpa (Amatangulu): a thorny shrub with glossy dark green leaves, pretty star shaped flowers and red fruit, forms an outstanding impenetrable hedge. Can be pruned or left to grow naturally.
- Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress): makes a sturdy, evergreen hedge which can be trimmed to formal shape. Excellent as a wind break.Hibiscus rosa sinensis (Hibiscus): makes a particularly fine hedge in larger gardens and will flower abundantly from spring to autumn, even if it is kept clipped.
- Pyracantha coccinea (Firethorn): a sturdy, impenetrable hedge that produces masses of scarlet berries in autumn. Can be pruned or left unpruned.
Plants for medium hedges
- Abelia grandiflora (Abelia): is a lovely, profusely flowering shrub with green or purplish foliage that looks good as a formal or informal hedge.
- Buxus sempervirens (English Box): this traditional, evergreen hedging plant has glossy dark green leaves and forms a beautiful, dense, clipped hedge.
- Plumbago auriculata (Cape leadwort): makes a lovely formal or informal hedge. This fast growing shrub is covered with masses of sky blue flowers in summer but will flower less profusely if kept trimmed.
- Duranta plumieri (Golden dewdrop): can be trimmed as low as 1m. If left to grow naturally, graceful stems of lavender or white flowers will appear in late spring and summer.
Plants for low hedges
- Buxus sempervirens suffruticosa (Edging box): this is the dwarf variety that makes perfect formal hedges of 30cm high. Use as an edging for pathways, flower beds and herb gardens.
- Lavendula dentata (French lavender): there are few plants that are as attractive as lavender when used as a low hedge. Clipped or unclipped, these hardy plants always look lovely.
- Portulacaria afra (Spekboom): grows in the most arid conditions and withstands severe frost. Makes a neat, compact hedge when trimmed.
- Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary): can be relied upon to form a lovely informal hedge of about 65cm and also looks really charming when trimmed down to about 30cm.