Hedging has often been used as a method to mark a boundary. Seemingly uninteresting and purely fit for purpose. In recent times, a more unorthodox approach has been taken to offer colour, foliage interest and if encouraging wildlife at the same time even better.
Crataegus (Hawthorn), often found in the countryside, is fairly common as is Ligustrum (Privet). These can be taken back quite harshly. Both flower if not pruned but provide generous habit for birds and animals in the winter months. The foliage tends to become denser the more it is pruned. Although the flowers aren’t particularly the feature of the plant, Hawthorn is highly scented.
Another common choice is Conifer, although the growth habit differs hugely. A major problem can be when the hedge becomes too thick. The growth doesn’t regenerate in the same way. A conifer needs to be shaved periodically so it never becomes overgrown. To take this back too quickly will kill the hedge. This is why you see brown conifer hedges. They look very trim but aren’t very green. The level of cut has been on a par with a privet and unlikely to fully recover.
The term Conifer is used generically at times (wrongly or rightly) and linked to relations in the larger group from Junipers to Cypress, Cedars, Pine, and Larch. Some more suitable than others and some species are low growing and more popular as a free standing shrub. This is in particular to Junipers, P. mugo – dwarf pines, both available in a number of greens including a blue. Standard pines can certainly die from below if suffering from a fungal infection, leaving them unsightly and not providing any habitat in the colder months.
Taxus baccata (Yew) another choice that becomes denser the more it is pruned. It is largely used in estates, I’ve most often seen it around the era of the Arts and Craft movement. It’s used in topiary as is Buxus sempervirens (Common Box). Common box is often used as a specimen plant and also as a parterre. Aphids can often be a culprit for these not performing.
Berberis (Barberry bush) is an evergreen and can come in green and purple varieties. They’re very hardy and grow in the most adverse of conditions. They provide foliage, flowers and berries and are almost trouble free. The berries usually orange/yellow. They have spiky stems and so good as a security feature. Pyracantha (Firethorn) too has the same characteristics although these berries are orange/red with white flowers.
Cotoneaster is an certainty for a successful hedge. These shrubs are incredibly resilient and offer berries and habitat whether it’s the shrub variety C. mycrophyllus or the ground cover C. horizontalis. So tough, it could live in a skip figuratively speaking.
An unconventional choice now becoming more popular are mixed hedges, these often can include Photinia and Elagaenus. These both offer interesting foliage. They are easy to keep trim and if necessary will take a bit of hack. Photinia will provide a fantastic array of colour all year round. Photinia coupled with Pittosperum variegatum will make the most striking of spring displays.