With our modern life styles, our green spaces, gardens and nature around us are being swallowed by the concrete jungle. Gardens are getting smaller and with that – our privacy. Growing a hedge or screening plant is one of the best ways to ensure that your privacy remains intact whilst bringing a bit of nature into your (and even your lucky neighbour’s) life. Hedges have been used for centuries with the Ancient Romans having multiple uses for them. Hedges, tall and low growing, remain an integral part of formal landscaping due to their many uses.
Why grow plant hedges?
- They can be used to divide sections of the garden, essentially making little “rooms” to separate design elements from each other.
- Hedges can be used to increase privacy by placing them between you and prying eyes.
- They will help to dampen outside noises and create a more tranquil home.
- Hedges will protect one’s home and garden from the elements, for example hail.
- Planting a thorny hedge can make a great security feature in the garden. I really can’t think of anyone that would like to wade through a Barberry bush.
- Lower hedges can be used to define pathways, veggie gardens and adds depth whilst allowing you to change the style of the garden easily.
Establishing plant hedges
- The distance plants are planted apart depends on the types of plants being used and the time one has for the hedge to become established.
- Be careful to plant up against walls, space them about a 1m away from walls.
- Don’t plant hedge plants right next to each other. Even if it takes a bit longer for them to form a full hedge, rather space them out to prevent overcrowding and root competition.
- Plant with loads of fresh compost, and bone meal or superphosphate to get the roots going.
- Trim your hedge regularly to ensure bushy and dense growth at the base.
Maintaining your plant hedge
- A big part of looking after your hedge is to prune it back regularly to ensure fresh growth and allow your hedges to fill up quickly.
- Flowering hedges should always be pruned back after flowering as pruning before flowering can lead to no flowers.
- Mulch your hedge regularly to save on watering and to stop weeds from taking over.
- Feed your hedge with an organic fertiliser to keep them growing at a steady pace.
- Do not prune tender and semi-hardy hedges close to winter as the new soft shoots will be damaged by cold.
- Plants marked with an * need to be covered up in winter till they are established and will be able to withstand the cold better.
Low growing hedge plants
- Cuphea hyssopifolia* (False heather): A lovely small growing shrub with dense foliage and clusters of tiny flowers.
- Lavandula varieties (Lavender): Most lavender can be used for hedging purposes – just remember to trim them back frequently to encourage more blooms.
- Carrisa macrocarpa* (Cape num num): A water wise fast growing shrub with fragrant flowers and edible red fruits.
- Euonymus microphyllus (Box leaf): A tough low growing shrub available in different leaf colours.
- Portulacaria afra* (Spekboom): Make your very own carbon hedge with Spekboom. This is an exceptionally water wise plant and the best way to fight pollution.
Medium height hedge plants
- Abelia varieties: Abelias come in a stunning array of leaf colours and are easy and fast growing. You can stick to one colour or mix them up for contrast. This can also be used for a tall hedge.
- Duranta* varieties: Duranta’s have stunning dense foliage and blue/purple flowers that contrast perfectly with it’s yellow foliage.
- Buxus sempervirens (Boxwood): Probably the densest hedge you will be able to grow. It has been used for centuries,especially in maze gardens, grows a bit on the slow side though.
- Rhaphiolepis x delacourii ‘Kruschenia’ (Indian hawthorn): It is a water wise shrub with dense green foliage and pink flowers which is followed by purple berries and can grow as a tall hedge.
Tall growing hedge plants
- Freylina tropica* (Honey bell bush): Freylina’s are stunning tall growing indigenous shrubs with lovely little flowers. This is a water wise and fast growing shrub.
- Budleja varieties (False olives): False olives are one of the easiest plants to grow for hedges and screening. It is a fast growing hardy and evergreen shrub; it is also water wise with beautiful flowers.
- Viburnum odoratissimum (Sweet Viburnum): When you need screening and you need it quickly, Viburnum is the answer. Fast growing, hardy and evergreen with dainty white blooms, and out of all the hedge plants it is the fastest growing.
- Polygala myrtifolia* (September bush) A lovely evergreen shrub with stunning mauve flowers in summer.
Hedges for security
- Dovyalis caffra (Kei apple): Is an impenetrable indigenous shrub with dense growth and nasty thorns. Produces unusual fruit that can be used in making jam. Dovyalis means “spear” in Greek.
- Berberis thunbergii (Barberry): Barberry shrubs come in different colours but they have one thing in common, thorns and lots of them. Great for contrast planting and keeping sticky fingers out.
- Ziziphus mucronata* (Buffalo thorn/Blinkblaar-wag-n’-bietjie): Is a lovely indigenous shrub with nasty thorns – one straight and the other recurved. It can grow as a tree, therefore be sure to prune them heavily to ensure that it stays a hedge.
- Pyracantha hybrids (Firethorn): Firethorns are sure to give you an impenetrable hedge with bright berries in summer. Some Pyracantha’s are invasive, so rather use hybrids such as “Orange charmer” and “Santa cruz”.
Hedges have shown that they aren’t just for massive estates or the country side, privacy is priceless and a hedge will ensure no leering eyes can find their way into your sanctum. I’ll leave you with a lovely video showing some stunning maze labyrinths made from hedge plants.