Green Garden Guides: Do Hedges Give An Edge?
Going Over The Hedge?
Those of us with tiny urban gardens don’t have many opportunities to ponder how to mark the boundaries of our properties…in most cases a trip to the local home improvement super store for a basic stockade fence is all that is required.
But travel to the south shore of eastern Long Island or through the horse country of New Jersey and you may get inspired by estates graciously enclosed by verdant towering hedges.
These green living fences can border gardens large and small. Is it time choose a hedge instead?
Hedging Your Bets
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding between fence and hedge, including:
Geography. The condition of the land may dictate whether you use a fence or a hedge. In New England and northern Britain, for instance, the soil is rocky. There it makes sense to build stone walls rather than plant rows of shrubs.
Aesthetics. Depending on the plants you choose, you can have seasonal variations such as spring flowers or fall color. Hedges can be softer, more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing than fences.
Property Lines. Hedges are a flexible solution where the borders of your garden are irregular: curved or crooked.
Your environs. Urban? A tall, dense hedge can serve as a barrier against street noise and exhaust fumes. Rural? A hedge planted up on a ridge or near the ocean can lessen the effects of high winds.
Environment. A hedge is a natural barrier, unlike many modern fences which are frequently made of plastic or chemically treated wood.
Time. If you need to enclose your property quickly a fence is the way to go. Even if you start with large plants, a hedge takes time to grow to fill in the gaps between shrubs and get tall enough to provide privacy.
Maintenance. Hedges must be maintained like anything else alive and growing in your landscape. Pruning, weeding, fertilizing and irrigating will most probably be required on a regular basis.
Safety. If you need to keep small children or pets securely inside your yard, a solid fence is a more reliable barrier. This is also true for enclosures around swimming pools.
Security: A hedge made of plants with thorns such as Hawthorn and Pyracantha can form a dense barrier and discourage intruders.
Pest Deterrent. Deer and rodents are best excluded from your yard by a fence. On the other hand, some other creatures such as birds like the natural habitat that a hedge can provide.
Pick a Hedge! Any Hedge!
Picking the right plant for your hedge is an important and difficult task, so here are 5 of the most common Hedge options that you can choose from depending on what you're going for:
Boxwood: This versatile evergreen hedge plant is a popular border plant for both formal and informal gardens, or you can use taller varieties to create a dense living wall to block out undesirable views.
Glossy Abelia: This flowering hedge plant naturally forms a tall arching mound, but you can prune it in late winter to early spring to create a lower hedge.
Flowering Quince: This deciduous shrub is equipped with sharp spines that make it an effective barrier plant or privacy screen.
Dwarf Golden False Cypress: While Japanese or Sawara false cypress tends to grow into a large tree, there are several dwarf varieties with threadlike, golden foliage and shrubby forms that make excellent evergreen hedge plants.
Japanese Euonymus: This fast-growing hedge plant can reach towering heights, but it's easy to prune it back to grow it as a lower hedge.
Where the Hedge Starts and Where it Ends
Now that you've picked your plant, it's time to get down and dirty! Hedging itself is pretty simple and usually takes a day or two to get done.
1. Buy the Right Kind of Shrubs
2. Mark the Area
3. Remove Plants and Weeds
4. Space Plants in a Line
5. Dig One Hole at a Time
6. Plant the Shrub
7. Water the Hedge
8. Add the Mulch