Mark your territory in style with a hedge that looks sharp and acts as a haven for birds while shielding you from noise and prying eyes.

There’s something very British about a neatly pruned privet hedge, a beautiful beech or razor-sharp row of conifers, standing like chess pieces. And hedges are also an effective, attractive and wildlife-friendly way of marking your plot.


They are a living barrier to your garden, providing a haven for insects and birds. Plus, they will protect your privacy and help block noise and dust if you live near a road.

There are several varieties that can create a half-decent hedge in a couple of growing seasons. And autumn is the perfect time to get new shrubs into the ground – so start planning yours now.


One word of warning – if you’re planting along a boundary, make sure you know exactly where your garden begins and your neighbour’s ends.

Because nothing can upset a friendly relationship quite like a boundary barney. First, peg out markers and measure your holes precisely so there can be no mistakes.


Then get them dug in advance so you can plant the shrubs as fast as possible once they are delivered. When it comes to picking a hedge, there are loads of varieties you can choose from.



Leylandii is increasingly popular hedge – and is evergreen for year-round protection. But they will shoot up unless you keep a tight rein on them. They are smashing if you need instant cover but not ideal for close neighbours because of their tendency to block out the light.

My choice

My favourite conifer is the lovely Thuja plicata ‘Atrovirens’ – an elegant, emerald green, glossy-leafed hedge. If you crush its leaves, your fingers will smell of pineapple. Also known as western red cedar, it is fast-growing – it will shoot up three feet a year in the right conditions.

On the beech

Classic beech makes for a beautifully shaped hedge, with leaves that turn a stunning coppery gold in autumn. And although deciduous, beeches will hold on to their dried leaves well into winter.

You should place the shrubs around a foot-and-a-half apart. They will thicken much faster if they are close together but you will need to plant more of them.



Laurel is a low-maintenance hedge shrub that is perfect if you’re looking for a mid-height barrier. It is relatively fast-growing but only needs clipping a couple of times a year. Hornbeam looks very similar to beech but is denser.

Privet is a British classic, with its small, dark green leaves, though perhaps a shade less popular than it once was. It has evergreen leaves and, although it may lose some foliage in cold winters, they soon reappear in spring. It produces little white flowers in summer and can be pruned to keep the growth dense.


For something that little bit different, try bamboo. It is versatile and incredibly fast-growing. It is fairly low-maintenance too, and creates height, shade and privacy with a dramatic backdrop. Plus it can provide a windbreak or a sound barrier to a noisy road or neighbours. Bamboo thrives in moderate soils – as long as they are not water-logged or arid.

Two kinds

There are two kinds: running or clump-forming. The former are known as invasive bamboos, producing long underground stems. So be careful as they can spread like wildfire. To avoid that happening, plant in a trench 60 to 120cm deep with sides lined with root barrier fabric or solid material such as paving slabs or corrugated iron. That should stop shoots spreading. It should protrude above soil level to stop stems arching over the top.


Clump-forming bamboos are more garden-friendly, forming tight clumps with little danger of spreading. Chimonobambusa bamboo likes a shady place, while phyllostachys suits direct sun. Pseudosasa, sasaella or bashania are fine for an exposed spot, though you may need a temporary windbreak while they are establishing themselves.


Simple bare-root necessities

If you’re thinking of putting in a new hedge, autumn is a great time to get shrubs, trees and hedging into the garden. They are naturally dormant then and the ground is also still soft and workable.


Bare-root plants establish themselves quickly. They have been grown in the ground at nurseries, rather than in pots. You buy them and they are dug up, their roots are wrapped and they are delivered to you ready to go straight in the ground.


They are the perfect choice if you’re putting up a new hedge because they are cheaper than containerised shrubs. But they should not be left out of the ground for long. Try to plant them as soon as you get them. But not if the ground is frozen or waterlogged. If you have to wait a few days, put the rootballs in trays or pots and cover with compost. Keep in a frost-free place like the shed until it is warmer.


They will look like a bundle of twigs with roots but don’t worry. After a couple of months, you’ll soon see the beginnings of your hedge.

While the roots are bare, be sure to keep them covered with damp rags or hessian. Just before you begin planting, soak the roots in a bucket of water for 20 minutes.

Dig individual holes or a trench for planting – remember to leave space on either side for growth. Square holes encourage roots to extend outwards rather than run round in a circle.

In dry soil, fill the hole with water and let it drain away so the earth is moist for roots. You’ll see a soil mark on the stem of your young shrub – do not plant deeper or you may damage it.



Create a soil mixture to refill the hole with nutrient-rich material. Use half garden soil and half general-purpose compost. You can also add fertiliser – but make sure it is well mixed in. It can damage the roots if it comes into direct contact with them.

Add some of this mix to the base of the hole to provide a cushion. Water well while it gets established and hold off pruning it for a year.

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