Evergreen hedges ... Just conifers?
There is a terrific range of hedging plants to choose from. For evergreens, conifers are often the first thought most people have. The species and cultivars that are suitable for hedging generally fast growing quickly and therefore quickly produce a dense barrier. They also tend to be fairly inexpensive. Talk to staff at the garden centre or nursery about the choice of species, the required growing conditions and the growing habit of particular species. It’s all down to what you need for your particular situation.
Keep in mind that fast-growing species can become bare at the bottom sooner if the lighting conditions are not favourable and if they are maintained insufficiently or incorrectly. Another consideration might be that in the winter an evergreen hedge can prevent the winter sun from shining into the house. In that situation, it would be better to choose a deciduous hedge.
Popular hedging conifers:
- Chamaecyapris lawsoniana comes in many foliage colours.
- Cupressocyparis leylandii is the most commonly used species.
- Thuja plicata offers various suitable cultivars, including ‘Atrovirens’.
- Thuja occidentalis has excellent hedging conifers, including ‘Smaragd’, ‘Frieslandia’ and ‘Brabant’.
- There are various species of yew - a genus related to the conifers with distinctive characteristics such as bright red false berries - which are ideal for hedging, particularly upward-growing cultivars of Taxus baccata and T. × media.
Unlike most conifers, yew can be vigorously pruned. It grows green again, even from bare branches. Benefits of yew include the rich foliage colour which offers the perfect backdrop to a flower border, the slow growth (so less maintenance) and the fact that yews also grow in the shade. Remember that yew is quite poisonous, particularly to horses, but also to other livestock, pets and humans.
Other evergreen hedges
- Buxus: Perfect for clipping and shaping because of its dense growth habit and fine foliage, Buxus makes a superb hedge. There are some ten different species of box and many dozens of cultivars, including some which can grow quite large. Common box Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ is mainly used for low hedges and edging. If you like variegation, go for ‘Aureovariegata’ with yellow and green spotted leaves or ‘Marginata’ with a golden edge.
- Ilex crenata: This is Japanese holly which is very reminiscent of Buxus in appearance and is used in the same way.
- Ilex aquifolium: This prickly holly forms an impenetrable hedge with its dense branches and sharply spiked leaves. There are various (variegated) cultivars of which the female plants can bear berries.
- Prunus laurocerasus: The cherry laurel with large, shiny leaves. The size varies between cultivars. They can grow quickly into a substantial hedge and must be pruned carefully.
- Lonicera nitida: This evergreen shrubby honeysuckle is suitable for hedges with a height of up to a metre. ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ has golden foliage and is more compact.
A Buxus fact
Buxus was used in medieval monastery gardens to protect herbs from rabbits.