With a little help these plants can tolerate the dry, sometimes shady areas near a border or hedge.
In south-facing gardens, hedges can help shade plants that receive the full force of the summer sun almost all day. However, for both the hedge and plants to succeed, they need sufficient water. When planting, dig plenty of organic matter into the soil before you start, and mulch around the hedge annually with more organic matter. Select drought-tolerant plants for the beds, as a mature hedge will suck out much of the soil moisture. Plant about 18 inches in front of the hedge, and again dig organic matter into the soil and mulch to help it retain moisture.
Ornamental thistle and water avens are combined in front of a mixed deciduous hedge to produce an airy, informal effect (Image 1). Lavender tolerates the dry conditions in front of this smooth yew hedge, creating an elegant line of purple flower spikes in summer (Image 2).
Your choice of plants for borders in dense shade in front of a hedge will be limited, since only a few have adapted to the extremes of drought and darkness. When planning a hedge, try to site it where it won't shade the beds in front all day.
You will have a wider choice of plants for areas that receive sun for part of the day, but moisture retention will still present a problem here, so dig plenty of organic matter into the soil. In addition, you could lay a trickle hose (a perforated hose pipe that seeps water into the soil) around the border. In these damper conditions, many woodland plants, such as cranesbill, foxglove, bleeding heart and Japanese anemone will thrive.
Where space allows, a wide margin between the hedge and border allows a much better choice of plants and less maintenance because the plants won't require watering as frequently. Turf over the area between the hedge and the border, or opt for a paved, decked or bark-chip walkway to separate them. Another designer trick is to make a "fedge," which is simply a fence covered with ivy. Ideal for smaller gardens where a deep hedge isn't an option, a fedge will still draw moisture from the soil, but to a lesser extent.
This "fedge" (Image 1) is a chain-link fence with ivy growing through it, providing a super-slim screen to enhance the bright perennials in front. For larger gardens (Image 2) a border set about 3 feet from the hedge allows sun-loving shrubs and perennials to thrive.
Unless your border faces south, and is sunny for most of the day, select shade-tolerant plants to grow in front of hedges.
Check plant labels before you buy and select those whose foliage isn't exactly the same color as your hedge, or they will simply disappear into the background. Pastels and white flowers show up best against a dark yew hedge, and large-leaved plants work well with hornbeam or beech hedges that have a more textured look. Dark foliage creates a striking contrast when matched with golden privet or shrubby honeysuckle such as 'Baggesen’s Gold'.
Schmidt bergenia (Image 1), St. John's wort (Image 2), false solomon seal (Image 3), Bicolor barrenwort (Image 4), Serbian bellflower (Image 5)
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited