Using Hedges and Screens in Your Garden

by Fiona Rodgers
(Leeds, UK)

Under this heading come some major items which provide a link between your garden, the outside world and the areas within your garden. Let us consider first the perimeter boundary to your property. In most countries, garden boundaries are considered of far less importance than in Britain.

As a nation we do seem to value our privacy very highly: the 1.8m (6ft) overlap fence panels and the Leyland cypress hedge are regretfully our most popular defences. Both are quick to establish and temporarily satisfactory but the former rots and falls down, and the latter grows to become a menace to restrain and a financial burden.

Brick walls are of course permanent and effective, but due to expense may need to be limited to short distances. Near to the house and sitting area walls can form an excellent transition from the house to the garden and also provide space for a variety of climbing plants. A good, solidly made fence will have similar uses to a brick wall.

The Leyland hedge does have a place where a tall screen is required and there are few faster growing evergreen trees. However, where height is not of a primary concern there are many types of hedge far more suitable than the Leyland. Some of the traditional hedge plants have been sadly neglected as the result of the popularity of cypress hedges. For example, both beech and yew produce fine hedging which are effective throughout the year and much easier to clip.

Given good preparation, including ample farmyard manure dug into the bottom of the planting trench, these will produce an extremely good rate of growth. For example, a beech hedge four years after planting can be 2m (61/2ft) tall and will have already been cut back by 90cm (3ft).

There are many other shrubs suitable for hedging, all having merits, the main considerations being hardiness, being evergreen (no leaf shedding),ease of cutting and, most important, their overall height.

Tall Screens

Fast growing evergreen conifers tend to be the first choice when considering tall screens and these may well be the answer to many requirements. However, depending on the surrounding countryside these can look out of place.

As there are few native evergreen trees in Britain, apart from the Scots pine, it encourages the planting of deciduous trees. Although not evergreen, a densely branched group of trees in winter will often quite successfully achieve the screening required. It is not always necessary to have a completely dense block-type screen. Shade tolerant evergreen shrubs planted beneath deciduous trees will achieve the screening at low level.

The planting of deciduous trees also has the advantage that large specimens up to 4.5m (15ft) or more may be transplanted instantly. Conifers do not move well as large plants and are generally only planted at less than 1.20m (4ft) in height as anything above this tends to be checked in growth, if they do in fact survive at all when moved.

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Updated: October 18, 2013 — 12:36 am

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