Selecting Hedges

Selecting the right hedge improves your lifestyle, enhances our environment and does not require excessive maintenance.

Hedges provide many benefits such as privacy, wind protection, ornamental statements and flowers. Well-designed hedges and shelterbelts also provide valuable habitat and vegetation corridors for birds and native mammals.

New homeowners eagerly seek plants for hedges and screens. Most people select species that are quick growing and low cost as usually many plants are required. It is important to choose the correct species as hedges can adversely affect your lifestyle and future hip pocket from excessive maintenance or reduced solar access.

With the average block size becoming smaller and the neighbour peering in over the fence, privacy is a much sought after thing.

Many of the traditional plants used such as Lleylandii, Cherry Laurel, Photinia, Viburnum etc., I consider as unsuitable plants for hedging. I dismiss these plants when designing hedges as they either require high maintenance or are ecologically unsound. Some present a potential threat for neighbour disputes and legal litigation. Some pose a threat to our lo

Banksia marginata bright used as an semi formal hedge

cal ecology and are listed as environmental weeds by our local council.

When selecting hedges always select species that will thrive in your soil type and available sunlight. It is a good idea to check over the neighbour’s fence to see what type of hedge has been planted as solar access to your site might reduce when it matures and adversely affect your hedge if your chosen species requires full sun.

To me hedges can either be formal, semi-informal or informal.

Formal hedges are generally single species and are great when space is limited or a statement is to be made on the landscape. When I select species for formal hedges I choose species that have tight foliage and tolerate regular pruning. I also try to select species that have pleasurable fragrance and colourful foliage or flowers. I personally do not use English box as its fragrance reminds me of cat’s urine at different times of the year, it has boring foliage and insignificant flowers.

In larger gardens and country estates I prefer semi informal or informal hedges. Low maintenance, creative hedges and screens are used to create privacy, garden rooms, windbreaks, etc. depending upon the outcome required. Rather than creating solid single species barriers, informal hedges soften and add colour to the garden.

Westringia used as a formal hedge with regular pruning.

Semi informal hedges are created using different species and varying plant densities with some plants pruned regularly to achieve creative effects.

Informal hedges are great when plenty of space is available. They generally consist of different species with varied plant densities and curvaceous lines. Ideally they lead the eye to prominent vistas in the landscape rather than obstructing them.

The most commonly asked question by people when selecting a hedge is; “How fast will it take to grow”? Generally speaking fast growing plants are either short lived or require regular pruning to keep bushy at ground level.

When time is of the essence I advise clients to plant 2 rows if practical or be prepared to prune regularly to improve longevity or function. One row can be sacrificial and planted with a very quick species capable of growing 3 to 6 metres within 3 years whilst the other row is planted with a slower growing, long lived species which will grow naturally to around the required height without excessive pruning to achieve form and function.

When selecting hedges for your garden it is best to get it right the first time. Poorly selected species can result in reduced solar access, excessive maintenance and can be expensive to replace in financial terms and time lost to achieve privacy or other functions.

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