Plant a Formal Hedge
A tidy, clipped hedge is the standard border for formal gardens. Here's how to get one started.
Yew, hornbeam and beech make excellent closely clipped hedges and you can reduce the cost by buying young bare-rooted plants from late winter to early spring and growing them yourself.
When to Start: late fall to early spring
At Its Best: all year round
Time to Complete: 4 hours or more depending on hedge size
Using Pot-Grown Plants:
When to Start: any time; early autumn or spring is best
At Its Best: all year (evergreen), spring to autumn (deciduous)
- young bare-root hedging plants (yew shown here)
- composted organic matter
- garden fork
- garden string
- watering can or hose
- all-purpose granular fertilizer
- pot-grown holly plants (Ilex aquifolium)
Prepare the Site
Six weeks before planting, remove all weeds from the site and dig a trench the length of the hedge and 3 feet wide. Fork in organic matter, and refill the trench. Set out a line to mark the edge of the hedge.
Mark Planting Intervals
Dig a trench twice as wide and as deep as the plants' root balls. Using a ruler or guide, lay stakes at 18–24 inch intervals along the string line to mark the planting distances.
Check Planting Depths
Check that the plants will be at the same depth as they were in the field when planted — you'll see the soil line just above the roots. Place one plant by each stake and backfill around the roots with soil, removing any air gaps with your fingers.
Firm In Well
When in place, check that the plants are upright and then firm in around them with your foot. Create a slight dip around each plant to act as a reservoir and water well. Add a thick mulch of compost or manure, keeping it clear of the plant stems. Water for the first year and feed plants annually in spring.
Use Pot-Grown Plants
Some plants, such as lavender, boxwood, holly and privet, aren't generally available in bare-root form and are grown and sold in pots. The planting technique is similar to that for bare-root types but pot-grown hedging can be planted at any time of year, as long as the soil is not frozen or very dry.
Dig Planting Holes
Prepare the soil and mark out the area as before. Either dig a long trench or individual holes for each plant — holes need to be as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
Tease Out Roots
If planting in spring, add some fertilizer to the excavated soil. Tease out any congested roots before planting at the same depth as the plant was in its original pot. Firm in with your foot and water well.