If your garden is exposed, suffers from wind damage to plants, now is the time up to the end of March to plant a hedge. A hedge can provide you with warm sheltered areas where you can grow tender plants. Hedges are a living feature, more attractive than concrete walls, they allow wind to filter through them and support many forms of wild life. Hedges can be used to define boundaries, give privacy, sub-divide the garden into regions or provide a background to other plants. If you are very adventurous you might like to try the complicated geometric patterns used in French and English gardens using box hedge. We inherited an old hedge, 200 feet long, which provides shelter from the North and gives privacy from the road. This mixed hedge, planted over 100 years ago, contains seven different varieties of plants which fit in very well with the local hedgerow of our rural garden. We have sub-divided our garden into many regions using hedges which makes the smallest garden look bigger.
When planting your hedge, put in a combination of different plants to provide a contrast of dark green foliage with golden or flowering shrubs. This provides a more interesting hedge than a continuous green line. Be creative and design your own hedge. Plant some spring flowering bulbs near your hedge, there are many bulbs that will thrive under or near a hedge.
To get your hedge off to a good start dig out a trench 2-3 feet wide and add in well rotted manure or compost. Place your plants 18-24 inches apart, water well and trim lightly the first year. There are many plants you can use in a hedge and each one has different strengths and weakness.
Berberis darwinii, has a prickly leaf with yellow or orange flowers in spring, needs little trimming. Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’ has red purple leaves, ideal as a dwarf hedge.
Escallonia macrantha, a dark green leaf with pink flowers, fast growing so it needs regular trimming. We have planted this hedge under Leylandii that were burned with the wind, the escallonia has thrived to fill in all the blank spaces. Escallonia ‘Gold Brian’ is a lovely golden shrub, very hardy. Mixed with the green escallonia it makes a very interesting hedge.
There are a variety of euonymus plants with green, yellow or variegated leaves to choose from, all are very hardy against salty winds. Fagus (beech) forms an attractive hedge with pale green leaves that fade to brown leaves in the autumn which persist over the winter.
Beech is slow to establish itself, spending the first few years developing a root system, once established it only needs to be trimmed once a year. Fuchia is a deciduous colourful hedge for the mild region, can be seen growing wild in the hedgerows of west Kerry. Griselinia is a plant widely used for hedging, available in green or variegated leaves, can be killed by severe frost.
Griselinia ‘Bantry Bay’ is a beautiful golden variegated plant, being a native of Garnish Island, it is very tender. Ilex (Holly) contains a number of varieties to pick from, with green prickly leaves or variegated yellow leaves (Ilex ‘Golden King’). Berries are produced on the female plant if a male plant is present in the garden. Ligustrum (privet) is quick growing so it needs to be trimmed 2 or 3 times a year, also available with a golden leaf.
Oleria is a plant useful for coastal gardens, has a greyish green waxy leaf, it will tolerate wind and salt but not severe frost. Lonicera Nitida (Chinese honeysuckle) forms a dense hedge with small dark green leaves, needs regular trimming, also available with a yellow variegated leaf.
If allowed to grow over 4 feet high it needs support, like a chain linked fence in the middle, to prevent it breaking open in the wind. Baxus (box) is ideal as a dwarf hedge for edging along paths, lawns or borders. Lavandula Spica (Lavander) has lovely silver-grey leaves and fragrant mauve flowers in the summer, suitable as a dwarf hedge.
To add more colour to your hedge plant some rambling roses through it. Plant hedges now to provide your garden with shelter from cold winds over the coming weeks.