Hedging & Screening Plants: The Cutting Hedge of Style

Whether you are seeking privacy, screening an unsightly outlook, dividing different parts of the garden or simply wanting to define a boundary line or garden border, a hedge or living fence will be a stylish addition to your garden.

Hedging or screening plants are cheaper than fences or brick walls and add structure and form to a garden.

Box, which lends itself to regular trimming, is the most common planted formal hedge. English Box (Buxus sempervirens) and Japanese box (B. microphylla) are both used. Photinia, with bright red juvenile foliage, makes a striking tall hedge and an excellent screen. For a hedge-in-a hurry, P. ‘Superhedge’ is a fast growing form.

Murraya, Choisya and Osmanthus excel as medium height hedges and only need an annual light trim after flowering to maintain their shape. Sasanqua camellias look great as a flowering hedge.

A number of Pittosporum tenuifolium cultivars (such as ‘James Stirling’) have dainty, variegated leaves and make a suitable taller hedge. For a native garden consider lemon-scented tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii), which is a fast grower, salt tolerant.

Popular conifer hedging includes Bhutan cypress (Cupressus torulosa), Golden cypress (C. macrocarpa ‘Brunniana Aurea’) and various clones and cultivars of Leyland cyprus (x Cupressocyparis), especially ‘Leighton Green’.

Planting a hedge

Decide first whether you want a formal, clipped hedge or an informal planting. Take account of the style of the rest of the garden and the amount of time you are prepared to spend maintaining it.

Take account of your climate, soil and drainage, available sun, and the height you want the mature hedge to reach.

Since you are planting a hedge for the long haul, it pays to spend some time preparing the planting row. Dig over and improve the soil, getting rid of weeds, adding some general fertilizer and ensuring good drainage.

It’s a good idea to use string to ensure you plant in a straight line and markers to get the spacing between plants even. Use string as a guide for a curved hedge too, ensuring the curve is even.

Plants should be placed close together to form a dense hedge with no gaps. A planting distance of one fifth of the plant’s ultimate width is a good rule of thumb. Plant in the usual way, ensuring the plants are straight and in alignment and that there is a slight saucer-shaped depression around the stems to catch the water. Water and mulch well.


Hedge plants needs the same amount of attention as other garden plants. Regular watering and a good thick mulch will help keep them in condition and growing evenly. As they are planted close together, annual feeding is required.

Formal hedges need regular clipping to keep up a neat appearance. They should be clipped to be broader at the base than at the top, to prevent the hedge becoming top heavy and to allow light to penetrate.

Even informal hedges will benefit from an annual trim to promote fresh new growth.