In The Garden with Jo: Hedging your bets

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

In The Garden with Jo: Hedging your bets

A beech hedge

It’s hedging season and the volume of rootballed and bare-root hedging going out of the nursery is amazing. We have a large range of hedging varieties and sizes to cater for all needs from rural options to city gardens and everything in between.

Hedging can create a strong framework for the garden, so that it looks good in midwinter and provides an attractive background to carry the colours of spring and summer. As well as providing structure to the garden, it can be perfect for wildlife, and particularly nesting birds.

Mature hedging gives you instant privacy and screening and is much more attractive and cost effective than a block wall. Mature hedging makes it possible to form an attractive, natural boundary more quickly than many people imagine.

One thing to consider when looking at the cost of your mature hedge is that normally a deciduous hedge costs less than the evergreen options for a number of reasons, but that you will not have the cover year round that an evergreen hedge gives you.

For some that is fine, as you may not be in the garden and require privacy during the winter months. If you can reduce some of your cover then consider a Beech or Hornbeam hedge that holds on to some of its copper autumn / winter leaves to give a moderate cover (unless there are very high winds).

Planting a mature, instant hedge has the following benefits:

* We have taken the time to grow the hedges, so you don’t have to!

* Shelter: reducing wind strength better than a solid barrier

* Reduces noise levels from roads or neighbours.

* Security: a prickly hedge is a great intruder deterrent, try Pyracantha, Holly or Berberis.

* Beauty and interest from seasonal changes, particularly deciduous hedging

* Background texture and colour complement other plants. Also try scented hedging like the Evergreen Jasmine

* Wildlife: food and shelter for a wide variety of native insects, birds and mammals, try Holly, Cotoneaster or Blackthorn.

* Weather-resistance: much better than man made fences or brick walls

* Economy long term compared with fencing and brick work

* Long-lived: hedges can last hundreds of years

*8 Can be planted to shape, such as a curve

Here are some good varieties to pick for your hedging:


Also known as Cherry Laurel or Common Laurel, is the fastest growing, evergreen hedging plant that isn’t a conifer. Growth in a good year of up to 60cm (2ft) per year, eventual height, if left up to 6m (18ft). It’s also the least expensive non-conifer, evergreen hedging plant, and the best hedging plant for shady sites. It’s also tough, not fussy about soil and hardy.

Laurel is the quickest and cheapest way of creating an evergreen hedge. Laurels will also provide the most instant hedging, as the mature sizes are bushy and can often create an instant screen when planted close enough.

Laurel hedges are dense and so provide a screen that you can’t see through. Laurel leaves are rounded, glossy and bright green, and look good all year round.

They can be trimmed into a neat solid shape or they can create a less formal looking hedge. You will need to trim a laurel hedge at least once a year which can be seen as a con but then you can’t have everything!


A beautiful dark green, evergreen hedge with glossy leaves that start a stunning orange to red colour when new, making a beautiful contrast. It is slower growing than the common laurel making it easier to maintain and although it is dense, it will not grow as wide. This hedge will only need cutting once a year. A beautiful hedging plant that when planted at this size are very wide, so the need for fewer plants.


Portuguese Laurel has a deep green leaf that is slightly smaller than the leaf of the common laurel, but with fragrant white flowers and attractive red stems. It is fairly fast growing, and the red stems when young, contrast well with the dark green leaves, adding interest. It forms an excellent evergreen garden hedge and can be kept to any shape or size. It is easy to maintain and keep it looking neat and tidy.

Growth in a good year 45cm (18in) per year, eventual height if left, up to 6m (18ft). Available in larger more mature sizes, Portuguese Laurel needs less maintenance than some of the really fast growing options. Not too fussy about soil but doesn’t like being waterlogged or in boggy ground Hardy to -20°C.


Prunus laurocerasus ‘Novita’ is a recently introduced variety of laurel selected for its exceptional hardiness. A fast-growing evergreen with large, glossy, rich green leaves, ideal for hedging or screening or as a space-filler under trees. Long, upright clusters of scented white flowers open on untrimmed plants in April, followed by glossy black berries.


The foliage of Photinia Pink Marble is extraordinary. Displaying three colours, this Photinia has very special variegated foliage displaying green, cream, pink and young red shoots at the same time. There is no other Photinia like it, which is sure to make it a winner for those gardeners seeking something a little different from the regular Red Robin variety. Evergreen Photinias are always very popular and this stunning one with stunning foliage will really brighten up the garden.

These are clipped columns so extra bushy and almost a cuboid form.


Splendid with green leaves that turn a rich copper in autumn. It does make a superb hedge, retaining the brown leaves through winter and only loosing them when the new foliage appears in spring. It will make a lovely formal hedge that also acts as an excellent windbreak.

It is slow growing so a little more patience is required but definitely worth the wait. Beech can be planted bare-root in the winter an ideal time to plant and this also keeps the cost of the plants down.

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