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Screens and Hedges


Hedges lend a formal quality to the garden and provide a living, ornamental screen from the outside world. They also provide an excellent backdrop or edging for ornamental gardens.

Hedges can be finely clipped for a formal look or can simply be the same plant, planted close together in a row, to act as a barrier. The plants you choose will depend upon the look you wish to achieve and the main function of the hedge.

The most popular plants used for screening are those which are fast growing and relatively inexpensive. Privet (Ligustrum sp.), white Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), arctic Willow (Salix purpurpea) and alpine Currant (Ribes alpinum) are some which spring to mind when a living fence or screen is the desired result. These will grow rapidly and may be clipped to form a tidy, green barrier in a short period of time.

Privet, arctic Willow and alpine Current are deciduous shrubs which can be easily kept to a height of 3-5 feet. Even though they lose their leaves in the fall, the dense branching structure will continue to provide the barrier you desire. Arctic Willow has a unique grey-green colour with purplish twigs in winter.

White cedar, often called "swamp cedar", is commonly available in loose clumps at the garden centre or farmer's market. Choose smaller specimens in order to clip the plants to form a well branched, dense hedge. This evergreen will provide season long screening and greenery. Over time and if left unpruned, the cedars will form a tall hedge over 60 feet in height.

To plant a hedge using these or with other small to medium sized shrubs, start by making a straight line, using two stakes attached by string. Dig a trench along the string line about 8 inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. Sprinkle bonemeal and compost or manure at the base of the trench and mix this with the soil at the base. If you are using bare root plants, keep the plants in a bucket of water until you are able to plant. Hold the plant in its finished location and replace the soil around the roots of the plant. Push the soil firmly around the roots ensuring that the plant is straight and at the correct soil level. Space the plants 12 - 18 inches apart in the row.

If the plants are in pots, remove the pot by turning the plant upside down while holding on to the base of the plant. Place the root ball in the trench, being sure that the soil is at the proper level. Fill around the root ball with soil and tamp down firmly. Water well for the first few days to settle the soil around the roots and then water with a water-soluble starter fertilizer, 10-52-10, to help establish new roots.

Prune the hedge soon after planting, using the shortest plant as the guide. Trim the sides of the plants also to encourage branching in all directions. Wherever you prune, the plant will re-grow and branch. After establishment, these hedges can be pruned at any time, except in early fall, to retain their shape. Trim the hedge so that the base is wider than the top to allow light to penetrate the lower parts of the hedge and form a dense, green hedge from top to bottom.

Yew (Taxus sp.), Boxwood (Buxus sp.) and emerald Cedar (Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald') are slower growing and more expensive yet much more formal in their appearance. The low growing boxwood adds a sculptural component to the garden and is often used to edge pathways, herb gardens or beds of roses.

Non-clipped hedges include shrub Roses, Bamboo, Weigela and Bridle wreath Spirea. At their time of flowering, these shrubs give a dramatic display of colour, and fall into the background for the remainder of the year. These should be spaced according to their size at maturity and the density of the screen you wish to provide.

Considerations must be made to the effect the hedge will have on air flow, wind speed and wind direction in your garden. A dense barrier, provided by an evergreen hedge, will reduce air circulation, stop the wind and even produce wind tunnels in other parts of the garden. The height of the hedge should be considered in terms of where it casts its shade.

They say that good fences make good neighbours. Choosing a living fence can be as effective, less expensive and most of all, can be an enjoyable and attractive part of the garden.


Daisy Moore, 1999.



Other summer garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Extreme Conditions
Growing Roses
Summer Lawn Care
Propogation by Cuttings
Sources of Native Plants
Making Sense of Fertilizer Labels
Annual/Perennial Combinations
Climbing Plants
The Dry Garden
Ornamental Grasses
Chooosing A Good Gardening Book
Companion Planting
Preparing the Compost for Fall Use
Getting the Most out of your Vegetable Garden
Repairing Lawns From Summer Stress
All About Grubs
All About Onions
Useful Herbs for the Home Garden
Screens and Hedges




Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005