Garden design with hedges: 7 reasons garden designers love hedges
Ah, the humble garden hedge. Often overlooked and rarely celebrated, hedges can have a really important role to play in a successful garden. Yes, we probably all know the merits of a hedge at the edge of a garden’s boundaries, but how many of us also recognise the value of a hedge as a structural element within our gardens?
Here are our top 7 reasons why garden designers love a hedge (or two!):
1. Hedges are so versatile
Dark or light, high or low, narrow or wide, hedges come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. For garden designers like us they are an incredibly versatile method of dividing a space, for adding interest, and for creating a sense of direction and purpose.
Some hedges are used simply to mark the edges of a plot, to act as a barrier to noise or wind, or simply as a means of keeping pets or children within a defined area. There are alternative methods of course- whether that be a wall, a fence or a trellis screen, and whilst all have their merits and their place, none offer quite so much as a hedge. Apart from anything else, how easy is it to change the height of a man-made partition? A hedge, in comparison, can be simply left to grow a little bit taller, or cut a little bit lower than usual.
2. Designing internal ‘screening’ for the garden
Internal ‘screening’ or sub-division is a tried and trusted device used by garden designers to create interest and intrigue. In all but the smallest of spaces, a garden in which everything can be viewed from one position is rarely satisfying. We seem to have an innate need to explore and discover, and a garden which encourages you to ‘want to know what is around the corner?’ often appeals to this side of our personalities.
Just as a path (whether that is a simple strip of lawn or something rather more ‘landscaped’) is an invitation to 'come and have a look', so too can a hedge be an invitation to ‘come and see what is behind here’.
Sure, if it is our garden we will know what is hidden behind the hedge, but we might still choose to go and have a look so that we might see how the planting beyond it has developed since we last took a moment to go and see.
3. A hedge for every design of garden
Hedges don’t have to follow straight lines (unlike most fences and walls we see), and so they are much more suited to a more informal free-flowing style of garden. Conversely, a beautifully manicured hedge, crisply trimmed to straight-line perfection can look simply magnificent in the right setting.
Few things provide more of a sense of tradition and formality than a well-maintained clipped box (Buxus sempervirens) hedge or parterre, and few things look better in a frost or with a dusting of snow.
4. Hedges to lead the eye
Hedges can be a brilliant option for helping to lead the eye towards a particularly splendid view or much-loved focal point. They can also be a very good device for screening something we’d prefer not to see, such as an oil tank or a neighbour’s unsightly garage wall.
A hedge is far easier on the eye than most solid man-made structures, and is usually considerably more cost-effective to install. Yes, there will always be some on-going maintenance involved in keeping a hedge to a preferred size and shape, but this investment of time is usually rewarded by the rejuvenating aesthetic pleasures provided by a freshly trimmed hedge- the garden never fails to feel tidier and renewed.
5. Formal or informal?
Hedges can also be an invaluable means of blending the ‘formality’ of a garden with the ‘informality’ of the countryside. A mixed hedgerow (perhaps containing beech, hawthorn, blackthorn, quickthorn, field maple and holly) is a brilliantly naturalistic way of demarcating where a garden stops and the fields beyond begin.
Originally intended to contain livestock, a mixed hedgerow is also a haven for all sorts of wildlife. A remarkably diverse collection of birds will nest, forage and hide in it, whilst quietly providing much to interest anyone who cares to take a moment to enjoy watching them.
6. The perfect backdrop for ornamental planting
Sometimes a well-designed hedge can make all the difference to a mixed-planting scheme. It might serve as ‘container’ or edging to a perennial border (think low hedging surrounding taller and softer planting), or it might be as a neutral backdrop for a larger planting display.
A hedge of small, dark leaved plants will always appear to recede, and provides the perfect foil for larger, more texturally ‘showy’ plants. Yew (Taxus baccata) is the quintessentially British hedge for providing a backdrop traditionally, and with its finely cut matt dark green leaves it is not hard to see why. Plant something with a white or red flower in front of a yew hedge and something magical happens.
7. It's all about the structure and scale
A good hedge can be a definite asset to a garden throughout the year, but as autumn fades and winter sets in they can really come to the fore. No longer distracted by the exuberance of summer or the fiery colours of autumn, we can begin to appreciate the ‘bare bones’ and structural qualities upon which our garden succeeds or fails.
Hedges help us to define areas, lead the eye and provide height and texture. Used carefully, they can also create a sense of scale and intimacy. A large space can be sub-divided into more 'comfortable' areas by a well-positioned hedge and, if required, provide welcome shelter and protection from prevailing winds.
So, whether we’re looking to add a new element of structure to our garden, or are simply looking to replace a tired and unsightly fence, isn’t it time that we considered a new hedge for our garden?
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.