Far more interesting than a fence, a hedge can last many years, providing security and privacy, shelter for wildlife, as well as beauty and interest. What’s more, hedges filter wind better than hard structures, reducing its velocity. Hedging makes a wonderful foil for other plants and can even make your garden look bigger.
Before choosing plants for a boundary, consider your priorities. Do you want a single-species hedge such as an elegant copper beech or hornbeam? Or would a mixed, native hedge work best for you? Do you want thorns and tangles to ward off intruders or do you need something fast-growing to quickly cover an unsightly wall? Wildlife can make a home in virtually any hedge, but will favour plants that offer fruit, seeds and host an abundance of caterpillars and other grubs.
Browse our selection of hedging plants, below.
Rosa rugosa makes an informal, flowering hedge. It’s perfect for a boundary, owing to its fast growth and dense, thorny habit. Unlike many roses, it’s resistant to virtually all diseases and can be grown on poor soil. It forms an excellent barrier to wind and is attractive to nesting birds. Varieties to try include ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’, which has rich, deep purple-red blooms, and ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ which flowers in white. In autumn its large red hips are a magnet for wildlife.
Height x spread: 2.5m x 2.5cm
Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’
With its glossy foliage in gorgeous shades of purple and dark green, copper beech makes a fantastic, formal hedge, which can be trimmed yearly to maintain is elegant shape. It’s a great alternative to an evergreen hedge, as its coppery autumn foliage remains on the plant until new foliage grows in spring.
H x S: 4m x 8m
Holly, Ilex aquifolium
Holly, Ilex aquifolium, can be trimmed to a very dense, impenetrable, prickly hedge. Female plants bear berries throughout winter, which are not only attractive but also provide food for birds and small mammals. It’s the foodplant for the holly blue butterfly, Celastrina argiolus, and makes an excellent windbreak, too. It can be grown as a single-species hedge or as part of a mixed, native hedge.
H x S: 6m x 4m
Yew, Taxus baccata
A British native, yew forms a dense formal evergreen hedge, perfect for warding off intruders, protecting wildlife and creating shelter. It bears fresh green growth in spring and red fruit in autumn. Slow growing, it’s easy to maintain.
All parts of the plant are toxic except for the flesh of the fruit.
H x S: 10m x 6m
Barberry, Berberis spp.
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea
Barberry makes a fantastic hedge. There are many different cultivars to choose from but most offer dense prickly foliage, gorgeous colour and autumn fruit. They’re easy to grow and, unlike many shrubs, will thrive on poor soil. The dense, thorny nature of the plants makes them ideal for warding off intruders and providing nesting shelter for birds and other wildlife. Pictured is Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea. Cut back annually to retain its purple colouring.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Ivy, Hedera helix
Ivy makes a fantastic, versatile hedge. Fast-growing, it’s perfect for small spaces as you can simply erect a frame for it to climb up and clip it as tightly as you see fit. Ivy is a fantastic wildlife plant as it provides shelter for nesting birds, autumn flowers for late-flying insects and berries for birds and small mammals in winter. It’s also the larval foodplant for the holly blue butterfly, Celastrina argiolus. With regular clipping, it’s easy to cut back and keep under control.
H x S: 10m x 10m
Leyland cypress, Cupressus × leylandii
Leyland cypress is a hybrid of the Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa, and the Nootka cypress, Xanthocyparis nootkatensis. It’s incredibly hardy, evergreen and fast growing, so is therefore a good for creating privacy and providing shelter. However, due to its fast growth habit and dense habit, it can be a controversial choice for gardens as it can quickly grow unmanageable and cause conflict between neighbours. It’s best to grow if you have a large garden and you’re prepared to cut it back regularly, as any break in the pruning regime will result in a very large hedge.
H x S: 15m x 5m
Cotoneaster horizontalis is another hedging plant perfect for small spaces, as it can be clipped to neatly sit against a hedge or wall, where it retains a shallow depth. Its branches and stems grow in a striking herringbone pattern. Its pink spring flowers are a magnet for bees and its winter berries are enjoyed by blackbirds. In autumn its dark green leaves turn wonderful shades of red and orange. While not suitable for growing without support, it makes a fantastic addition to a wall or hedge, and is a great choice for growing up the side of a house.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.8m
Privet, Ligustrum spp.
Both garden privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium, and wild privet, Ligustrum vulgare, are common hedging plants, perfect for creating fast-growing privacy and shelter at garden boundaries. Only wild privet is native to Britain; garden privet is native to Japan and Korea. The latter is a more popular choice for hedging as it can be clipped well into a formal hedge and is very tolerant of pollution. This makes it suitable for growing in very urban areas. However, wild privet has more value as a wildlife plant – its flowers are adored by bees and its leaves are used by the larvae of several moth species.
H x S: 3m x 3m