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Hi Louise, laurel is a possibility, but not the fastest growing to that height. It also is best trimmed by shears/loppers, not a mechanical cutter, to save brown edges to the cut leaves, so to maintain in the future you may not want that.
There are Escallonias that grow pretty quickly, IME, are evergreen & also have flowers. Taller varieties of Mahonias are quick growers, prickly if needed for security & also flower in the winter. Pyracanthas too, flowers, berries & thorns- again can be pruned to 'hedge style'. Holly is slow but can become a good hedge in time.
You can use conifers, as long as you are prepared to keep them trimmed to the height allowed/wanted. Dont forget the width too, they dont just 'go up'. Any hedge will dry out the adjacent soil with its' roots.
Having a path next to the hedge will allow easier access for maintenance to it, so although it initially feels as if you are losing some garden, true, it does make life easier in the long run. Trying to trim a hedge whilst not damaging emerging/growing bulbs/plants isnt easy!
A mixed hedge eg different plants, evergreen & deciduous could also be a possibility- hawthorn for instance is wonderful for wildlife & again has thorns if needed. BTW thorns wont be ideal with young children in the garden.
Are you sure that you will be allowed a high hedge? Your council may insist on 2m/6' 6''. Also if the boundary adjacent to a public area eg footpath/road then thorns, although a security help, are a 'no no' in this day & age of compensation etc. J.
You can keep Escallonias pruned hedge-like. Just wish I'd thought to do that here!
I think it's only big/forest-type trees that have roots that spread a lot further than we realise. Could be wrong. Cherry a pest in that the roots are shallow, so pop up in lawns- easy to trim every time it's cut- & in my case a greenhouse bed!
If your soil is clay then I'd certainly find out as much as possible re the root habits/spread of anything being planted fairly close to property- yours & neighbours! Also the age of your property will dictate the probably depth of drains, foundations etc.
If there has been a tall hedge there previously then you may have an idea already of the root run it had. The soil there will also be depleted of nutrients too so try & get as much improvement into the area before you do fresh planting.
Sorry not being more specific. J.
Both laurel and conifers are IMO dull and depressing. It's that expanse of dark green all year round. Though I like holly. Beech is nice, keeps its leaves through winter if kept to a hedge.
Hi, have you thought about a pergola or some other framework, then you could grow climbers, and you get a space you can use. Your gardener may know about the regulations, but i believe a wooden structure is classed as temporary so might not be a problem, or maybe someone on this forum will know
Have you not thought of willow or bamboo fencing its immediate coverage for screening no worries for maintenance or roots, I put in new delphiniums this year I kept them watered in and thought with this horrendous wet weather they didn't need any more from me but on checking them yesterday there's one sad one left. The soil by the hedge is tinder dry and that's with a bark mulch.
I have had to deal with a major privacy problem following our neighbours removing an entire row of screening conifers very suddenly and without warning! We have replaced with a mixture of smaller upright decidous trees (much more attractive than anything evergreen it seems!) and laurels with one conifer for good measure! We also have a small garden and am planning to keep everything well pruned and upright in order to maximise the space below.
If I'd had the money I would have considered a stilted hedge or pleached trees which would have solved the problem really well. It is an expensive option but would look neat and leaves you with more space for planting below.
When I first moved in this house my neighbour planted 2 conifers and kept them smallish. Then she moved. I've had 3 subsequent neighbours in the last 10 years. none have trimmed the conifers. They are now about 20 feet tall and block light out to several neighbours gardens. I gather they're about to complain to the council.There is something called the "Hedge height" rule (http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/hedgeheight.pdf)
Mixed hedges are very good, and good for wildlife too. Escallonia is also a good choice especially for encouraging bees, and on my way to work there's a house with a pyracantha hedge. If you get the timing of the cutting right - which they do - it can have a profusion of flowers and berries. Conifers belong in forests in my opinion, and yes they are dull and boring.
Copper beech hedges can be grown quite tall and thin to provide privacy without taking up huge amounts of space in a small garden. They only lose their old leaves as the new shoots burst in spring and woul dbe far more beautful in sunlight than dull green laurels of conifers. You could also consider photinia Red Robin which I've seens grown as 2 metre high hedges. Every time it's trimmed it produces vibrant red new growth.
I'm not sure 12 ' is an acceptable hedge height any more so you may need to research local council rules about that and maybe just plant one or two strategic small trees to screen your neighbours with a lower hedge between them.
Dont forget that you can also grow clematis scrambling up/over evergreens. That could really brighten up a laurel or similar. I've even spotted someone growing sweetpeas up theirs this morning. As long as a climber is planted nearer to the edge of the canopy the soil there should be better for it.
Had a look at my laurel this morning- I cut it almost right back last year, various reasons, & now it's about 3-4ft already, so perhaps not so slow after all. J.
I would agree with obelixx. My Mum hasa photinia Red Robin hedge and it looks really nice.