Best evergreen hedging plants

By Andy McIndoe

An evergreen hedge is more than a way of defining your plot, screening or blotting out the neighbours. It is a long term feature which should enhance your garden, provide structure and have year round appeal.

Unfortunately hedging plants are often seen as cheap, commodity items, planted with little thought, attention to detail and respect. Evergreen hedging plants are not the same as native hedging whips which can be planted bare root and seem to thrive, even in the face of adversity.These are valuable ornamentals with great potential. If you choose the right subject for the situation, buy good stock, plant them well, at the right spacing and care for them until established the finished result will be a feature of the garden for years to come.

Container grown plants are usually the best choice for most evergreen hedging subjects. The bigger the plant the more expensive it will be, however big plants do need more careful planting and aftercare until established. From late autumn until early spring root-balled stock of coniferous subjects and some evergreens is a possibility. Yew, thuja and laurel are particularly successful when field grown.

Yew hedges at The Laskett

In the open ground plants branch well and produce bushy, healthy growth. Lifted, root-balled and transplanted in winter they produce a mature hedge almost immediately. However they do require careful handling as root-balls can dry out or are easily damaged when dropped or badly handled.Damage to the root-ball breaks roots and can result in expensive failures. Leave the hessian or hessian and wire wrapping around the root-ball in place when planting and use mycorrhizal fungi to aid establishment.

Whether you plant large or small, remember the plants will grow. Some on-line hedging retailers can be misleading when it comes to this information. Always consider the proportions of a mature specimen: 60cm (2ft) apart (centre to centre) is an absolute minimum. 90cm (3ft) apart is a good guide to follow.

A few of the best evergreen hedging plants:

Griselinia littoralis is a bright evergreen, with leathery leaves on green stems, it grows quickly and makes a dense hedge. Griselinia does not like severe cold or alkaline soil, but it is excellent for coastal gardens and is wind tolerant. The cultivar Griselinia ‘Green Horizon’ is a little slower growing and bushier. The foliage is shiny and emerald green in colour; more attractive in most garden situations. Plant 60-90cm apart (2-3ft). Pot grown

Griselinia littoralis

Thuja plicata Western red cedar is an aromatic conifer with sprays of emerald green, shining foliage. It is a far better choice thanx Cupressocyparis leylandii and makes a more handsome hedge, ideal as a tall screen. It is tolerant or most soils, including chalk. It is a good alternative to yew for a tall, dense hedge. Plant 90cm (3ft) apart. It can be planted as a root-balled or pot grown stock.

Thuja plicata 'Atrovirens'

Taxus baccata, English yew is a lot faster than many imagine. Dark green foliage making a dense, dramatic hedge and wonderful backdrop for planting. It can be used for large screens, or kept low and formal. It grows well on most well-drained soils and loves alkaline conditions. Plant 75 - 90cm (3ft) apart. It can be planted as root-balled or container grown stock. It does not thrive in containers for long periods so large plants are best field grown.

Taxus baccata

Prunus laurocerasus, Cherry laurel is perhaps the most widely planted hedge. It grows quickly and soon produces a broad, bushy hedge. The large leaves are disfigured by a hedge trimmer and it can take up a lot of space. It is often discoloured and sulky on chalk soils and suffers from shot-hole in the leaves at the tips of the shoots. Loot out for the cultivar ‘Geolia’ which is more compact and upright and resistant to shot-hole.Plant 90cm (3ft) apart. Root-balled and container grown plants are equally successful.

Prunus laurocerasus

Prunus lusitanica, Portugal laurel. Deep green leaves with red stalks carried on a dense bushy shrub. Slower growing than cherry laurel’ but a better looking plant that makes a beautiful hedge. When grown as a loose hedge that is not trimmed to regularly the spikes of white flowers are most attractive. Good on most soils, shade tolerant and excellent on chalk. Both the varieties ‘Myrtifolia’ and ‘Angustifolia’ have narrower, smaller leaves and are slower growing. Plant 75 - 90cm (3ft) apart. Good as rootballed and container grown stock.

Prunus lusitanica 'Angustifolia

Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Spire’Compact and upright with deep green, shiny foliage, ‘Green Spire’ is ideal for restricted spaces where a narrow hedge is needed. It is Ideal as low dividing or boundary hedge. Good on dry soil and for coastal situations.Plant 60-75cm (2ft – 30ins) apart. Plant as pot grown stock. Pot grown

Euonymus japonicus 'Green Spire'

Pittosporum tenuifolium Small, bright shiny leaves on fine stems make this the perfect subject for a looser hedge on well-drained soil. It grows quickly but dislikes cold, wet conditions and is good by the coast. Always plant pot grown stock. Plant 75 - 90cm (3ft) apart.

Pittosporum tenuifolium

Elaeagnus x ebbingei Dark green leaves with silvery undersides on wiry stems. Fast growing and can be unruly when left to grow naturally, but excellent as a regularly clipped hedge. Excellent in coastal and exposed situations. Small, creamy flowers appear close the branches in early autumn; the fragrance is superb. Plant 75 - 90cm (3ft) apart. Pot grown stock only.

Elaeagnus x ebbingei

What about instant hedging?

Ready grown sections of some hedging in troughs, about 1m (3ft) long, offer an instant hedging solution. These are more expensive to buy, but are a possibility where a quick result is desired.

What about bare root transplants?

Small bare root plants of laurel and yew are sometimes offered. These can be successful if you are prepared to be patient’ but beware of planting too close together just to get a fast result.

Andy McIndoe

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