If you're planting a hedge, the chances are that you want it to grow quickly, creating privacy, a boundary or a windbreak, or dividing your garden into 'rooms'. A hedge is an excellent alternative to a fence, providing interest all year round and shelter and food for wildlife. A hedge also makes a better windbreak than a fence, as wind is able to travel through it rather than smack into it, which can cause damage.
The cheapest way to plant a hedge is to plant bare-root plants in the dormant season, between November and February. Many hedging plants can be grown in this way, including beech, hornbeam and yew. Evergreen hedges, such as privet, are best planted in early autumn.
Choose plants that will establish and grow fast, knitting together quickly. Here are some suggestions for fast-growing hedging plants, all of which should put on a minimum of 30cm growth a year.
Advice on buying hedging plants
- Make sure you have the right growing conditions for your new hedge before buying plants
- Ensure you buy enough plants to space them correctly when planting, this information should be provided to you when you buy, but as a general rule space plants 45cm apart or use 5-7 bareroot plants per metre or 4-5 pot-grown plants
- Make sure you are aware how quickly the plants grow as they will need regular trimming to keep growth in check
Where to buy hedging plants
Hazel makes an excellent hedge, also as part of a mixed native hedge with plants like blackthorn and hawthorn. It bears beautiful green-yellow catkins on bare wood in spring, followed by lush green leaves. In autumn, hazelnuts (or cobnuts) are produced. These are edible but the squirrels may get to them first. Hazel plants grow between 40cm and 60cm per year.
Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a dense evergreen with large glossy green leaves. It should put on at least 30cm in a year. In summer it bears fruits that resemble cherries, turning from red to black as they mature. Grow in sun or shade.
Fuchsia magellanica can be grown as an attractive and unusual flowering hedge in milder parts of the UK. It can reach 3m in height but can be pruned after flowering to keep it at a more manageable height if desired. Grow in a sheltered spot, in partial shade.
Griselinia littoralis is an attractive evergreen that has oval, apple-green leaves and is especially suited to sheltered sites and seaside gardens – avoid northern or exposed situations. You can expect griselinia to grow around 30cm in a year. Grow in a sunny spot.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) forms a dense, attractive hedge that should put on at least 30cm of growth per year. It's deciduous but if you clip it in autumn, it will retain its coppery leaves over winter, before they are replaced by new, fresh green leaves in spring.
Hawthorn makes a fine, wildlife-friendly hedge with pretty blossom in spring and bright red haws in autumn. The haws are popular with birds. Hawthorn grows between 40cm and 60cm per year.
Bamboo makes a contemporary, evergreen hedge. Choose with care as some varieties can reach 6m tall, and some have invasive, spreading roots – be sure to contain them within a solid barrier. Different varieties grow at different rates, from 30cm-1m a year. Grow in moist soil.
Viburnum tinus is a dense evergreen shrub that makes a lovely, informal flowering hedge. It has dark green leaves and clusters of strongly scented flowers from late winter to early spring. It grows fast when young (at least 30cm a year); more slowly when mature.
Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' is a popular choice for an evergreen hedge. The new growth in spring is an attractive red, before maturing to a glossy, dark green. Expect it to put on 30cm in a year. Clipping it in summer will give it a more formal look.
Privet (Ligustrum) is a very popular hedge choice, popular in front gardens. It's evergreen and grows at a rate of around 30cm per year. Trim it a couple of times in summer to encourage it to form a dense, formal, neat hedge.
Western red cedar
Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) is a good alternative to leylandii (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) which can become problematic. It grows at a rate of 45-60cm a year, so bear this in mind when considering it. The leaves release a fragrance when crushed or rubbed against.
Portuguese laurel, Prunus lusitanica, is another good choice for an evergreen, formal hedge. It produces small, fragrant white flowers in summer, followed by dark berries which are popular with birds. It will put on between 30cm and 60cm a year.