Some people love hedges, others do not. But hedges can be the solution to a myriad of problems. Need a fence? Use a hedge instead. Or, if you already have a less-than-beautiful fence, you may wish to plant a hedge in front of it. Would your plantings look better with a green background? A hedge can complement your other plant’s blooms. Want to divide certain spaces? Hedges are great for that, too. Short hedges can also be planted in front of flowering plants to showcase them.
Many that state they hate hedges actually just do not like the look of a formally sheared hedge. But you can have a hedge that is informal, or one that uses a variety of plants, both evergreen and deciduous.
When you decide to implement a hedge, determine first whether you want a formal or informal look, the height you need, whether the site is in sun or shade, and whether you would prefer evergreen, blooming, deciduous, or a mix of plants for your hedge. Width is another factor. Usually, the taller the hedge, the more space you need in width, so plan accordingly.
For formally sheared hedges, boxwood is the go-to plant, although with boxwood blight spreading in the US, consider using dwarf yaupon hollies instead. Abelias make a nice informal hedge, and you can find cultivars in various heights to meet your needs. Forsythias, spireas, and azaleas bloom in spring, making your hedge a focal point for a short while.
Hollies can also make a beautiful hedge. Although dwarf Burford holly is probably the most common holly used for these purposes, there are several types of hollies in various heights you could use. Other plants you might want to consider for a hedge include flowering quince, pittosporum, pyracantha, or elaeagnus. Determine beforehand if thorns or sharp leaves would be a concern.
For a mixed informal hedge, plant close enough together that the plants will eventually grow into each other, but not overpower the other plantings. For a hedge of all one plant, they need to be planted closer than normally recommended as you want to see them as one plant instead of several individuals. It will take time for your hedge to grow to the proper size, so be patient. The wait will be worth it.
Before you plant, decide on the amount of maintenance you wish to give your hedge. Will you need to shear your plants or cut portions of them back to keep in check? On a mixed hedge, try to find plants that can be grown without giving individual maintenance to each shrub. Watering and fertilizing needs should also be considered when planting a mixed hedge. Also, when planting a mixed hedge, try to avoid repeating the same grouping of plants over and over. Use three or four types of plants, but use more of one or two then the others and place them in varying sequence. Draw it out on paper beforehand to make certain you obtain a pleasing pattern.
One last thing you may wish to consider. Since it can be hard to find the number of plants you need for a long hedge, and expensive to purchase, if time is not a concern, you may also want to use a plant that is not patented and propagate the number of plants you will need.