One of the most important functions of a hedge is its ability to combat air pollution by trapping harmful particulates among the foliage. Recent research has shown that hedges – especially in built-up areas – can significantly reduce the amount of pollutants in the air by trapping them on the surface of the leaves.
Hedges therefore act as filters and, as they grow at a lower level than trees, they make the air we breathe cleaner. Hedges can also reduce noise pollution and, by absorbing moisture, they reduce the likelihood of flash flooding after heavy rain.
If correctly cared for, hedges don’t need much maintenance. Fast-growing hedges may need trimming two or three times a year during the growing season, but this isn’t essential for all of them. In small gardens, it’s possible to choose trim hedges to a narrow depth, so they take up less space. Most hedges are at least 60cm deep, but there’s no reason why you can’t keep a hedge narrower than that, as long as it’s planted against sturdy post-and-wire supports to improve its stability.
More advice on growing hedges:
There’s a hedge for every space, from windy and exposed, to polluted areas and even narrow spaces. Browse our list of hedges for problem spaces, below.
Hedges for polluted locations
Privet – privet makes a tough and tolerant town or city hedge. If clipped two or three times a year, it’s smart and semi-evergreen. The gold-variegated type is bright and cheery. Semi-evergreen.
Hedges for windy places
Hawthorn – tough as old boots and valued not only for its ability to grow rapidly in a wide range of soils and situations, but also for its blossom and fruits, which are attractive to bees and birds. Deciduous.
Hedges for narrow spaces
Hornbeam – useful in damp soil, and it can also be pruned into a slender screen. Deciduous.
Hedges for poor, sandy soil
Berberis – there are many barberries and nearly all will tolerate poor, dry soils, provided they’re given enough water in the early stages of growth to establish their roots. The thorns make them a well-armed barrier. Evergreen and deciduous types.
Hedges for chalky soil
Yew – a great evergreen for all but waterlogged soils, yew can put on 30cm of growth a year. Old hedges
can be cut back hard into thick branches, which will quickly re-sprout. Evergreen.
Hedges for shady spots
Holly – Not the fastest-growing hedge, but it can put on a good 30cm a year if well fed and watered.
Thick, evergreen and impenetrable – it is useful for keeping out (or in!) small children and dogs. Evergreen.
Hedges for damp, heavy soil
Dogwood – the shrubby species and varieties of cornus love damp ground and grow rapidly, gaining a metre a year if hard pruned. Variegated Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (pictured) is delightful in leaf. Deciduous.
Hedges for coastal gardens
Griselinia– the rounded, bright green leaves are tolerant of wind and salt spray. It’s a fast grower that will soon thicken up to give privacy without an oppressive feel. Evergreen.