Like good fences, good hedges make good neighbors. And, hedges can bring many other benefits to your landscape.
A hedge is essentially a living wall of shrubs, woody plants that have several stems and are less than 10 feet tall without a central trunk.
In addition to creating a boundary, hedges can be used to guide movement of people in a specific direction.
At one time, and occasionally today, hedges were used to prevent livestock from wandering off. The first hedges are thought to have occurred accidentally when early farmers cleared their fields, leaving behind thick woodland areas that created a natural border — the first farm fence.
This makes hedges great windbreaks and can help reduce noise.
Other benefits include providing a habitat and food for small wildlife, birds and pollinators. Unlike fences, hedges also make oxygen and remove carbon dioxide and other types of particles or pollutants.
Hedges are grown by spacing plants so that they create a thick single-growth appearance. How close to place them will vary with the plants selected. The mature height and width should be the two main factors considered.
In general, the spacing is closer than how the plant is typically grown in the landscape. Consider the width of the plant at full maturity when deciding the spacing. The wider they grow, the further the spacing. As for height, select a plant that will achieve the height you want so it will be easy to maintain.
When choosing plant materials for hedges, always consider the amount of light the area will get as well as its soil, drainage and climate conditions.
For low hedges, plants are typically planted closer together. As a rule of thumb, for hedges under 5 feet tall, the spacing should be about two-thirds of the intended final height of the hedge. For a 4-foot hedge, plant them no more than 3 feet apart. Close planting can force plants to grow upward toward the light, meaning they will be slimmer.
Most hedges, but not all, are usually created with evergreen plants that retain their leaves year-round. Some commonly used plants for shorter hedges of 3 to 6 feet are American boxwood, abelia, azaleas, Chinese junipers, Chinese mahonia, dwarf yaupon holly, dwarf yews, dwarf sasanquas, dwarf oleanders, boxleaf euonymus, littleleaf boxwood, nandinas and rosemary.
For hedges 6 to 10 feet tall, consider cleyera, camellia, dwarf Burford holly, Florida anise, gardenias, Indian azaleas, pittosporum, oleander and southern wax myrtle.
If you want a taller hedge, consider using dense trees in addition to tall shrubs. Some examples are Green Giant arborvitae, banana shrubs, cherry laurel, dahoon holly, Italian cypress, Leyland cypress, pineapple guava, Nellie R. Stevens holly, needlepoint holly, Japanese yew, Russian olive and sweet olive.
Some plant materials can create hedges that provide added security with thorns such as barberry, English holly, dwarf Chinese or rotunda holly, hawthorn and pyracantha. These hedges can help deter both humans and wildlife from gaining access to specific parts of your lawns and gardens.