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Hedges have become a popular feature of both private gardens and the wider landscape for generations.
These naturally regenerative, living, boundaries can have both aesthetic and functional objectives. Hedges were first used in early agriculture to stake boundaries and contain livestock.
Traditionally these were planted with robust woodland species such as hazel, hawthorn and lime.
After the middle ages during the renaissance periods hedging became a more refined and formal feature.
Hedges were tightly clipped and used to bring structure and uniformity to both private and public gardens. Today hedges are still widely used in both an agricultural and an urban settings.
As the types of hedges have evolved their uses have become more varied and diverse. In this article we will look at the main types of garden hedges used today.
1. Physical Barriers
Most of the time hedges are installed to primarily create a physical barrier. This could be to prevent trespassing or keeping livestock in or out of an area.
Physical barriers do not always have to act as an impenetrable barrier to people. Low, border, hedges can suggest enough of a barrier to prevent pedestrian traffic from passing.
2. Visual barriers
Hedges can also be planted to create more of a visual barrier than a physical one. This can be achieved by planting evergreen hedging stock with fine, textured, foliage.
Visual barriers can also take the form of less traditional hedging. Cable systems can be erected for evergreen climbers to form a visual screening.
Tall grass species or bamboos can also be mass planted to create a visual barrier.
3. Shelter belts
Shelter belts were traditionally large hedges and tree plantings to create shelter to agricultural areas.
Long lines of shelterbelts were planted on the side of prevailing winds to provide better growing conditions. However shelterbelts today can be planted in a wide variety of situations.
From exposed, rural sites to private gardens with seasonal prevailing winds.
4. Acoustic hedges
Acoustic hedges are those which are planted for the purpose of reducing sound waves. This can be done to block out noise pollution from busy roads or noisy neighbours.
The most effective species for acoustic hedging are evergreen varieties with densely textured foliage. Species like Leylandii, yew, privet and Junipers make effective acoustic hedges.
5. Evergreen hedges
Evergreen hedges can provide both visual and physical barriers no matter what the time of year. Generally these are the most popular hedges for urban garden boundaries.
Typical species include Yew, Leylandii and laurel.
6. Formal hedges
Formal hedges are those which have been planted and maintained to create a regimented form. Such hedges are common place across private estates and formal garden designs.
Favoured specialities for these are box hedging and yew. Formal hedges are normally clipped several times a year to maintain a neat appearance.
Topiary is a practice of trimming hedging stock into elaborate shapes and forms. Technically this is not really a form of hedging but can be incorporated into a hedges structure.
Sometimes hedges are grown inside wire or cage moulds so there is a physical guide when cutting. Topiary hedges can pretty much be trimmed into any shape or desired form.
These include faces, teddy bears and even flying birds. Topiary requires a very fine textured foliage like box to work well.
8. Edible hedges
Although this is not a very common type of hedge edible hedges are gaining in popularity. The Idea stems from producing as much food from a boundary as possible.
Edible hedges are very popular with those who practice permaculture or sustainable gardening.
Edible hedges are great for wildlife and can include currents, chestnuts, hazels, elderberry and plums to name a few.
Hedgerows were some of the first hedges created by man to create enclosure to farmland.
Resilient woodland varieties such as Hazel and Hawthorn were used to form such boundaries. Hedgerows can last for many centuries and support thousands of species.
Species rich hedgerows have declined significantly after the introduction of commercial agriculture. However a recent recognition of their ecological value has led to many new hedgerows being planted.
10. Layered hedgerows
Layering is a system of cutting and laying hedgerow branches in a weave like pattern. The process of snapping over and laying trunks at an angle helps to regenerate the hedge.
The layering process also encourages the hedge to become denser with fewer gaps. Layered hedgerows can look extremely attractive when completed and is unfortunately a dying art.
11. Coppice hedges
Coppicing is the cutting of trees to the base to encourage multiple, robust, fresh shoots. Historically this was done to produce long, thin, pole like, timber for tool handles and charcoal making.
Trees would typically be coppiced on rotation every 3-10 years. This form of management can also be used as hedging. Trees can be cut higher at a height of 1 metre to create a consistent barrier of interconnected tree trunks.
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