Shrubs for Hedging
Besides serving a purely ornamental purpose shrubs have a considerable utilitarian value in their use as. Moreover, it is now realised that a hedge need not be simply a long line of green in summer, and a long line of brown in winter; it can have all sorts of colours if flowering shrubs are used and it can be , thus increasing its attraction both in quantity and quality.
You may want a thick, strong hedge to provide shelter and privacy at all times of the year — an evergreen like holly, yew or cupressocyparis would be suitable. Perhaps the hedge is required only for dividing one part of from another. For this escallonia, fuchsia or spiraea are all good. You should further consider whether it is to be formal or informal, ie. clipped to a rigid, smooth outline, or allowed to grow more or less as it pleases, removing the odd errant shoot only. This method of training suits the flowering hedges best.
Planting is carried out as a general rule from autumn through to spring forhedges; for the evergreens September—October or March—April are the best times. If the weather is at all dry after planting, water well in the evenings, particularly the evergreens, and spray the latter with every day. Cold, strong winds can also cause moisture loss through the leaves and in such weather extra water may be needed.
Preparation of the soil before planting is extremely important, and the same methods apply as are mentioned in Choosing and Planting Shrubs. Dig in as much organic matter as possible — this is vital, since the hedge is going to be such a permanent feature and it is rather difficult to improve the soil satisfactorily after planting. This soil preparation particularly applies to privet which is a heavy feeder.
Prepare the soil several weeks in advance and then, when the shrubs arrive, dig out a trench of such a width and depth as will take the roots comfortably without cramping. Where long hedges are concerned, it will be found easier and more convenient to do the planting section by section, digging out a short length of trench at a time, and heeling in the plants temporarily until actually planting. Staking a hedge is not necessary.
The tools to be used for cutting and trimming may be shears, secateurs, loppers or mechanical electrical trimmers. For hedges consisting of plants with rather large evergreen leaves, such as laurel, secateurs should be used; shears will cut the leaves which then die back and may result in the plant growing badly or dying. Secateurs can also be used where an informal hedge is being trained, merely to cut out untidy shoots here and there.
Instructions for training and clipping hedges after planting, as part of the routine aftercare, can be quite individual, but as a general rule cut all deciduous hedges back to 9-12 in. high in the spring after planting unless they are spring planted; privet and Lonicera nitida are two evergreens which can also be cut back, but on the whole evergreens should be left alone after planting.
Routine cutting is done at least once a year, but the top of the hedge is allowed to grow, and is not clipped until the height required is reached. Training the top of a formal hedge to the correct shape is important; it should be flat, roof-like or rounded, with the base broader than the top, and the sides sloping. This ensures that snow, wet and general debris do not collect in the top. This might seem a small matter but snow in particular can be a menace, as the weight of a heavy fall can break quite sizable branches and spoil the symmetry of the hedge.