Alternatives to the Classic Hedge

The Dividing Line – A Mini Hedge

Winter months is the time to plant up a new hedge and that is what I intend writing about this week however I purposely did not title the column ‘planting a hedge’ as the word  ‘hedge’ conjures up an image of a sky scraper of green, generating a see-through-proof protection, for the Englishman’s Castle – his home. It will usually be either privet or leylandii.

If one just requires a ‘dividing line’ between two neighbouring gardens or between a garden and the pavement  people do not always need or want a high ‘hedge’ with hours of maintenance work, they tend to opt for a low wooden fence or the likes of, but this often does not do justice to the rest of the garden and I would like to offer a few options of ‘a dividing line’ which is easy to contain, can be low growing, is of low maintenance and enhances the green of the garden.

Now, anyone can grow a line of shrubs and say that it is a hedge, when the plants end up to be of different heights and sizes, the owner will claim that he always intended planting an ‘informal hedge’! But truthfully a hedge informal or not – should be a constant line of a levelled  and themed planting scheme. The important decision to make before planting is to decide if you prefer a broad leaf or a small leaf variety, if you (or your garden!) are more of a regimental type I would advise a hedge with smaller leaves as it is easier to prune these into a straight and neat line, the broader leaf varieties will never  make  a knife edge line and are more suitable for the less regimental mind.

Varieties of Smaller Hedging Plants

LAUREL:  Latin name Prunus

low growing laurel hedge
low growing laurel hedge

This is a broad leaf plant. It is reasonably common as a larger hedge but one can keep it in check at any size. There is a very similar shrub named Aucuba which is usually found with variegated leaves. This is an even better choice for a slow growing hedge.


griselinia hedge
griselinia hedge

I feel that this is a very much underrated plant. This fact makes it a plant with little demand and therefore it can be difficult to obtain. The leaves are around the size of an egg, many have lovely cream markings and they are robust and shiny. Like the other plants listed here the pests leave it alone and it makes an eye catching display as a hedge.



There is also a similar shrub named ELAEGNUS. The leaves of these two shrubs are smaller than the above varieties. The beauty of these shrubs is their  variegated  leaves and their ability to withstand the winter without loosing any foliage. They can both be trimmed  to a very  low level, this is especially useful if you wish to have  a  low growing hedge.

YEW:  Latin name Taxus

lovely yew hedge
lovely yew hedge

The Yew makes a most interesting hedge . Its tiny, comb like leaves, mingle closely with each other  to form a mass of green. It is slow growing and of very low maintenance. If left unpruned in spring it will produce red berries – lovely looking but poisonous.


low growing buxus
low growing buxus

This is the bush that is enjoyed by the topiary specialist, the one that you see shaped into animal shapes, tea cups etc. in  stately homes or in gardens belonging to  people with a lot of time, as to make a good design the bush needs clipping weekly to get into shape. However, if we are just intending to create a standard straight hedge, the box shrub is a very low maintenance hedge.

Talking of box – lets think a bit out of the box. If you would like to show your garden neighbours that you are a real allotmenteer, why not plant a row of kale between you and your neighbour. It will grow to around 50cm. and the leaves will stay right through the winter.  An added advantage is that it can be used by you (and your neighbour) in the kitchen when necessary.

kale dividing allotment!
kale dividing allotment!

You can now discard your electric hedge trimmer because all the above varieties will only need a trim once or twice a year which can be done with a pair of secateurs or a pair of hand held shears!

Planting and Buying Tips for Small Hedge Varieties

All the above shrubs are available at garden centres but when planting a hedge this will work out very pricey. It is advisable to look for a hedging specialist, they are listed at the back of gardening magazines like Gardeners World, they have special prices for bundles of 10 plus. A very good website is who have a many varieties at around £2 a plant.

As a rule, plant the shrubs around 45cm. from each other. It is always cheaper to buy bare rooted specimens and as long as the ground is not frozen, now during the winter  is the ideal time to plant.

Good gardening,


Boris Legarni .

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