Hedging your bets
Think about the kind of hedge that is best for your garden before you plant, allowing for conditions and environment
So it’s goodbye to those mellow, golden days of early autumn, which have been replaced by a swirl of baleful grey November skies and a cascade of falling leaves.
The latter signals the start of the bare-root/root-ball season, when nurseries and garden centres offer young, field-grown plants for sale, safe in the knowledge that once quickly transplanted into their permanent positions, these dormant or sleeping trees and shrubs have ample opportunity to establish a vigorous root system before spring’s rising temperatures and light levels trigger new growth.
If you’ve been contemplating planting a hedge – one of the most versatile, wildlife-friendly, economical, effective and enduring ways in which to radically transform the “bone structure” of any garden – then now is the best time to do it. Not only will you save money (bare-root or root-balled hedging plants are considerably cheaper than their container-grown equivalents), but planting at this time of the year, while soil temperatures are still high, also optimises the chances of success.
But first, a few words of advice. Begin by giving long and careful thought to the type and size of hedge you want, as well as to its position and function in the garden. Do you want it to define a boundary, to divide the garden internally, to provide a home for wildlife, to offer evergreen shelter and privacy, to screen an ugly eyesore, to filter wind and traffic noise, to deter unwelcome intruders or a mixture of the above?
Whichever species you choose, it should be in keeping both with the garden’s design as well as the wider landscape around it. Boundary hedges of native hawthorn or field maple, for example, are particularly suited to a country garden, as are hornbeam or beech.
In an urban setting, formal evergreen hedges such as yew, Portuguese laurel and low-growing box always look at home. The city garden is also best for brightly coloured hedges such as the evergreen (or should that be ever-red) Photinia ‘Red Robin’ and copper beech, both of which appear strangely alien when set against the backdrop of the rural Irish countryside.
Species for your garden’s
All that aside, is the particular species you’ve chosen suited to your garden’s growing conditions? The idea of a neatly clipped box or yew hedge might appeal, but if you garden on heavy, wet, clay soil, then neither is the wisest choice. Instead go for alder, blackthorn, flowering currant, hornbeam or hawthorn, while holly, Cotoneaster franchetti, yew, Portuguese laurel or hornbeam all suit a shady spot.