Planting a hedge in your garden creates a sense of space, direction and privacy. Hedges can be used instead of fencing along a border, and give definition in a most attractive way, if planted and nurtured correctly. Hedges require regular trimming to keep them looking presentable, so don’t plant a hedge if you are not prepared to do the ongoing maintenance. An unkempt hedge is not a pretty sight!
Most hedges are evergreen, retaining their foliage all year round. This makes for excellent screening and creates a permanent barrier which offers privacy. However, some hedges are deciduous providing added beauty to the garden when they lose their foliage in Autumn, and when they flower. Deciduous hedges are not usually established for privacy, but rather to define an area, and enhance the plant life within that area. The loss of foliage allows added light for the other plants in the cooler months, and presents a lovely backdrop of colour seasonally.
Hedge plants need to be planted quite close together in order to produce a nicely compacted hedge. A small hedge should be made up of plants with small leaves for a more compact, tighter look. Plants with a larger leaf have a more gappy or twiggy look to them.
The newly planted hedge needs to be pruned quite early, as it is better to shape the plants into a hedge when they are still small. By pruning when the plants are young, the plants do not have the opportunity to grow in the wrong direction, and can be trained to grow in the right direction, so there are no gaps in the hedge. It is much easier to train the plant to grow as a hedge than to force an overgrown hedge back into shape.
In order to trim a hedge successfully, it is wise to plan the line to which you want to trim by using string held tautly across the length of the hedge. This will ensure a straight hedge – if you follow the line! Use pruning shears or an electric trimmer to cut off about half of its new growth. Step back frequently for a good overview of the hedge – each plant must be treated consistently for a good overall effect.
The most common hedge plants in Australia are Buxus, Lilly Pilly, Murraya, Photinia and Viburnum. They are popular because of their hardiness, resistance to disease and ease of pruning.