Andrew Steele

Notes on Hedgerows

This page features some notes on plants suitable for hedgerows in the British Isles.

Please remember that shrubs should not be cut when birds are nesting. It is important to check hedgerows for any nesting birds before beginning work.

Large Hedgerows

Taxus (Yew)

Taxus Baccata is a type of conifer that is native to the British Isles. It is excellent for hedging as it can grow very densely, and is notable for its longevity with reported ages of some shrubs being around five hundred years. The common variety to plant is Taxus Baccata, also known as the English Yew, Common Yew, or European Yew.

The plant is suitable for any soil type as long as it drains well.

When Yew has been planted, the tops of the shrub should be allowed to grow until they reach the desired heights. Clipping the tops too early in their life will severely impact the speed at which the shrubs increase in height. The sides however can be clipped as necessary.

Fagus (Beech)

Fagus hedges are quite common for use when privacy is not a concern, due to their deciduous nature, though this is somewhat mitigated by the retaining of the brown leaves from the previous season throughout the colder months. They provide homes for various birds including House Sparrows. Green, yellow and purple forms are available, though the purple leaved-type requires full sun.

Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a commonly used shrub for hedging, and can often be found lining fields and roads in rural areas. It is long-lived, and provides flowers attractive to bees, and berries which are enjoyed by birds. It is however better suited to hedges where privacy is not a requirement, as it is both deciduous and can sometimes grow in a way that leaves gaps.

Carpinus (Hornbeam)

Rhamnus (Blackthorn)

Prunus Lusitanica (Laurel)

Prunus Lusitanica are often used as hedging due to their dense, evergreen appearance which provides a bright-green look all year around. They can grow fairly tall, though pruning each year will be required to keep them tidy and retain the required height. When the shrub flowers, bees are particularly attracted to it, and in dense bushes birds will often make nests.

Tolerant of most conditions except deep share and exposed locations.

Privet

Privet are considered a shrub from yesteryear, having been relatively common in gardens as hedging during the post-war period. They are however seen as relatively boring, with masses of small green leaves.

Buddleja / Buddleia

Buddleja is a shrub which will need to be maintained carefully to grow as a hedge, and is better suited to informal situations. Leaving them unmaintained, due to their vigorous growth, will cause an unkempt appearance. However, they are rewarding due to the mass of flowers which are attractive to bees and butterflies in summer.

Ideally suited to full sun, though will tolerate part shade.

Ilex (Holly)

Ilex are commonly used for hedgerows, and are particuarly well known for their prickly leaves. They grow densely, and are ideal homes for birds due to the protection afforded by the leaves and on some varieties, berries. Be aware that not all species are evergreen.

Planting is possible in positions featuring full sun to full shade, and even in exposed conditions.

The rate of growth is relatively slow at around fifteen centimetres a year, so care will be needed in selecting for the desired height.

Small Hedgerows

Buxus (Box)

Buxus are commonly used in formal gardens for low-height shrubs which line paths, or provide a boundary on borderes.

Lavandula (Lavender)

Lavandula is suitable for the creation of low-height hedgerows, and has the added benefit of silver-green colouring, as well as flowers which are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. It requires a site in full sun, and care in pruning after flowering has finished. It is important however to ensure that the soil drains well, to ensure it lasts as long as possible.

Hebe

Hebe come in two general types, small-leaved and large-leaved.

In particularly cold areas, care will be needed for large-leaved variants as they can be damaged by frost. This could mean covering with a fleece or other insulating material, or ensuring planting is made in a sheltered location. Although, the damage may be pruned out and regrowth will occur relatively quickly, this may be leave unsightly areas until the plant repairs itself.

Santolina (Cotton Lavender)

Santolina have silver or green foliage depending on the variety. They have a use as dwarf hedging up to one metre in height, but the plants can be short-lived.

They must be planted in full sun in a sheltered location, and the soil must be well-drained.

Fuchsia

Fuchsia is a shrub which can be planted for hedging in warmer parts of the country, though attempts in colder areas will almost certainly result in failure. A large number of varieties are available, so care will need to be taken to choose one which grows into a bushy form.

Fuchsia require a site in full sun. Some protection via a heavy mulch should be provided for winter as well as protection from cold drying winds.