A hedge—a row of shrubs planted close together—is a useful way to establish boundaries and create privacy in the garden. If you are planning to create a hedge on your property, plan carefully to ensure you get the look you desire. Consider your home’s style, the sun and soil conditions in your garden and the amount of maintenance you are willing to do. Here are some need to knows to help in your consideration:

Types of Hedges:

A formal hedge is a row of identical plants, closely clipped so they seem like a single long green line. Most often, this kind of hedge is flat-topped and squared off. It’s typically maintained by regular shearing with a power hedge trimmer.

An informal hedge is a line of shrubs that are allowed to keep a more natural form. This kind of hedge is kept tidy by selective pruning, meaning that individual branches are trimmed to remove dead wood and keep the plants’ size under control.

Since its form is not so rigid, an informal hedge generally only needs to be pruned once a year, usually in winter when the plants are dormant. A formal hedge will need to be sheared at least twice, and often three times, during the growing season. That’s because the shearing stimulates the plants to send out dense new growth. Then you need to shear again to remove the new growth, stimulating another flush of new growth.

This cycle stresses plants. Many shrubs can’t tolerate repeated shearing and will start to decline. So if you’re planning a formal hedge, it’s important to choose shrubs that can handle being sheared. Yew, juniper and boxwood are often used for sheared hedges. The right plant for your yard will depend on the climate, soil and other conditions in your region.

Hedge Planning Considerations:

Know your conditions. Since different shrubs have different needs, it’s important to assess your soil type and the amount of sunlight the hedge will get. A long hedge may well stretch from a full sun area into the shade. Many full-sun shrubs will struggle in the shade, causing thin spots in your hedge.

Want privacy? Consider evergreens. Bear in mind, though, that not all evergreens can tolerate shearing. If you are planning a hedge near a road, driveway or sidewalk, know that evergreens can be damaged by salt spray from melting snow in the winter.

Allow enough room. Whether your shrub is formal or informal, it may take up more space than you expect. It’s not a flat fence; the shrubs’ branches and roots need room. When you are researching plants, consider their mature width as well as their mature height.

Not too close. It’s tempting to plant shrubs very close together so the hedge fills in sooner. But that means you will have to buy more plants. And in the long run, plants that are too close together will compete for water and sunlight and none of them will thrive.

Consult a pro. A good landscape professional can advise you on appropriate plants for your chosen style of hedge and figure out how many you will need. Consider hiring a professional to install a long hedge; even though the plants will be young and small, it’s a big job.

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