If you’re planting a hedge, the chances are that you want it to grow fast, creating privacy, a boundary or a windbreak, or dividing your garden into ‘rooms’. A hedge is an excellent alternative to a fence – it provides interest all year round and can provide shelter and food for a wide range of wildlife. It also makes a better windbreak than a fence – it filters the wind, rather than creating eddies in your garden.
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. Discover how to plant a bare-root hedge. 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.
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.
Bamboo makes a contemporary, evergreen hedge. Choose with care – 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 – 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.
Hedges are best trimmed in summer. Wait until July, when any nesting birds will have finished raising their broods.