Hedges – they’re not just for protection and privacy! Read Catharine Howard’s guest blog on the best uses for the humble hedge.
Different uses for a hedge
WHY does the word hedge always make me glaze over? Hedge, bush, shrub. There now, the awful trilogy of boredom has been spat out. As a designer, gliding along on perennials has always been the obvious option. All lovely, you can pack in as many as you like. Tick them off on your fingers to make sure each season is there. A jostling chorus of ready colour.
Outside it’s blowing a gale, snowing a hatful and grey as an oil slick. My own plot looks more like the set from Slumdog Millionaire than a garden. Now is prime hedge-planting time and I venture out, prejudices swallowed.
A hedge is an ancient invention, planted to keep stock in and safe from the wolf. Take this consideration on for your boundary hedge. It is more than likely to be there for protection and privacy. Spiney and evergreen are top qualities.
But inside your garden, the uses for a hedge begin to take a more interesting turn. An obvious design trick is to break up the space into different compartments. The principle behind this is to slow down the journey round your garden. Neat clipped surfaces and different textures add to this. And where a barrier or break is useful, who said that the top had to be regimented and straight? Wild curlicues and waves are in. Or what about a clipped look like a jelly-mould or cumulonimbus cloud?
What about cutting holes in the hedge for doorways to beckon the visitor in? Or you might even consider cutting a window to look through. Edging beds round a border are an immaculate way of keeping orderly appearance. Box is the most popular choice but at David Austin roses they clip yew to less than 20cm high and keep it rigorously tidy.
A mature hedge becomes a part of the hard landscaping but at fraction of the cost. If you buy bare-rooted plants right now they will cost you little more than 50 pence per plant. So return on invest is high. Don’t let maintenance slip out of your mind in the excitement though. Hedges need regular clipping.
If you have space and the will to train and prune with care and want to work on the grand scale, have a look at pleaching. This is hedge on legs which is achieved by careful training and pruning of the branches on clean stems. Lime and hornbeam are the most commonly used trees.
Please visit my blog at www.catharinehoward.co.uk/
Catharine Howard is a designer, garden coach, the gardening editor of Essential Suffolk Magazine, and garden writer. Topics are anything to do with horticulture and the inspiration behind design. She lives and gardens in Suffolk. Catharine also contributes to ThinkinGardens, Guardian garden blog and IntoGardens.