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Barrier Hedging

Mar 2, 2008
Generally hedge plants define internal or external boundaries in gardens, parks, farms and estates. As internal markers, they can be used to divide fields, line paths, edge rose borders and to separate beds in kitchen gardens. Externally, hedges usually mark territorial rights, clearly defining what belongs to whom and they have a number of advantages over walls and fences.

Hedge plants are cheap, planting is much quicker than building and with very little maintenance a hedge will outlast wall or fence. Hedges are also much more difficult to move without it being obvious for years afterwards.

For these reasons, more boundaries are defined by hedging in England today than by all other forms of marker (walls, fences etc) put together. A large part of this length of hedge is peaceful, but there are times when some of it marks a battleground. Vandalism and barefaced housebreaking are at all time highs. Front and back gardens are used for any manner of abuse from littering to drug taking and mugging. People steal vegetables from allotments - the list goes on.

Although hedges are not a universal panacea, they can be extremely effective barriers. Just think about trying to get from one side of a blackberry thicket to the other. Not possible and certainly not a pleasant undertaking.

The art of barrier hedging has its roots in the time when humans first domesticated grazing animals and sought to keep them in one place. For high impact hedging (the stuff that stops charging bulls) the barrier needs to be planted in two rows with about 30-40cms between rows. There should be three plants to the metre in each row and the rows should be offset - so that if you joined up the plants you would have a zig-zag pattern.

Barrier plants should be sharp. At the cheap end, hawthorn and blackthorn are enormously effective. Rugosa roses come in shades of red and white, carry huge hips right through the winter, can be trimmed with a hedge trimmer and grow almost anywhere except in shade. Berberis is pretty - take a look at Berberis thunbergii Atropurpurea for royal purple leaves - and vicious. These can all be planted bare-rooted between November and March, and bare-rooted plants are very much cheaper than pot grown ones.

At the more expensive end, Holly works, as does Pyracantha. These should be pot grown as they do not do well when bare-rooted (which is why they are more expensive).
About the Author
Anna Stenning is an expert on hedging and regularly plants them to protect her garden plantation. For more on planting hedges, fruit trees and general planting tips visit http://store.ashridgetrees.co.uk/
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