Plant an Informal Hedge
A mix of shrubs that provide cover and food for wildlife is easy to take care of and provides decades of beauty.
If you prefer a relaxed, rustic style of garden, opt for a hedge that contains a mix of species. This style of hedge is good for wildlife, as it provides food and somewhere to live. It's also relatively easy to look after, needing just one trim per year in late summer.
When to Start: Fall
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: 3 hours, or more for long hedges
- hedging plants (blackthorn, dog rose, hawthorn, hazel, holly)
- garden fork
- string and pegs (or stakes)
- well-composted organic matter
Prepare the Site
Hedges are permanent structures, and fare best in well-prepared soil. Dig over the area, removing all weeds, especially the roots of perennials. Fork in some organic matter deep into the soil to improve its structure.
Use your weight to compress the soil, shuffling slowly over the entire area. Then repeat this at right angles. If planted immediately after it has been dug over, the soil will settle and plants will not be anchored properly.
Mark Guide Lines
For a deep hedge, set out two lines of string, held taut by stakes or pegs, 14 to 16 inches apart. These form the planting guides for your two rows of plants. For a narrower hedge, you will need just one line of plants.
Plant in Trenches
For a really straight hedge, dig out a long trench rather than individual holes. Plant one line at a time and position the plants along its length, about 14 inches apart. Alternate the different plant species for a mosaic effect.
Check Planting Depths
Hedging plants suffer when planted too deeply or shallowly, so take care to ensure that they are at the same depth as they were in the nursery, or in their pots. The stems will be darker where they previously touched the soil.
If planting a double row, stagger the second line, so that the plants grow in the gaps between those in the first row. Water in all plants well, and mulch with organic matter, keeping it clear of the stems. Water the hedge regularly throughout the first year.
An informal wildlife hedge can also double as a barrier to deter intruders because many wildlife-friendly plants are covered in vicious spikes and thorns. Deer will avoid barriers thatlook tricky or painful to negotiate and are more likely to go elsewhere for easier pickings. Many roses also make beautiful but fearsome hedges.
blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
dog rose (Rosa canina)
field maple (Acer campestre)
guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)
hazel (Corylus avellana)
holly (Ilex aquifolium)
redleaf rose (Rosa glauca)
Site and Soil
Most hedging plants, including roses and the other plants used here, prefer a sunny site with well-drained and fertile soil. If your soil isn't perfect, spend some time preparing the ground by digging in plenty of organic matter down to a shovel's depth.
Plant Species Roses
Species roses, which are ideal for hedges, don't have a graft union, so they're planted at the same depth they were growing at in their pots or in the field.
Once plants have started growing in spring, cut them back by about a third to encourage bushy growth from the base. Keep them watered throughout their first year and regularly remove any weeds around their base. This will prevent your roses from having to compete for nutrients and water while they are in the process of becoming established.