Looking through images on the internet, you’ll find photos of perfectly trimmed hedges with foliage from the top of the plant, all the way to the base. No gaps here! The reality is a little different in many cases.
Two reasons. Not getting it right from the time of planting through to maturity, and an emphasis on narrow.
Background of “Hedge Plants”
Hedge plants are so named because plants that fall into that category have certain characteristics. Our “Common” (or “Everywhere”) list of hedge plants are common for very good reasons. They all respond well to pruning, have a dense, leafy habit, not to mention looking good because of flowers, foliage or formality.
All of the above is well understood. What’s not well understood is that no plant grows naturally into a hedge shape. They all need human intervention to achieve that part. Murraya, Photinia, Buxus, Viburnum, Lilly Pilly and the rest require your help from planting through to maturity.
When Planting Your Hedge
- Allow enough space, especially width. Don’t think that you can get away with a 2m high Murraya hedge and keep it to 50cm wide. You’ll be able to see straight through it. Allow for the width at the time of planting, even if you’re not going to see it for a couple of years.
- Secondly, the old adage “prune early, prune often”. Especially the top. As soon as you’ve planted your hedge row, trim it to the same height.
- Don’t then wait a year to prune again. It’s an ongoing process that will require attention at least every month or so for the first year while the hedge becomes established. Pruning the top will encourage your plants to bush out laterally.
- Lastly, don’t space your plants too far apart or you’ll be able to see under the row. For more on spacing, see our How To page.
When Your Hedge is Mature
Give your hedge plants room to grow laterally. Let them bush out and save the hacking for your required height, especially if the required height is above the eye-line of your average passer-by.
Sacrifice a little formality (except maybe with Buxus) rather than sacrificing lateral foliage.
Is it Too Late?If you’ve cut your hedge back too hard at the sides, it will likely grow back and fill in the gaps, so never fear on that front.
If you have gaps at the base, either because of wide spacing or a failure to tip prune in the first year or so, the remedy is a little more difficult.
The first possibility is to cut back hard at the top (below the desired height possibly) and continue to tip prune regularly as the foliage grows back. This might encourage your plants to put more energy in to foliage at the base.
The second option is to underplant your main hedge with another plant. Something low growing like Buxus works given the right circumstances. Alternatively, mass plant some Agapanthus or a ground cover like Star Jasmine, especially the variegated varieties.
We’ll have an underplanting article in the next couple of weeks. Until then, happy hedging!