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Formal, evergreen hedges can be shaped and trimmed to create sharp edges and shelter for parts of the garden as well as a tidy, impenetrable boundary for your property. Deciduous plants can be used for a more informal feel and extra interest as the seasons change.
Autumn is the ideal time to plant evergreens; the soil is still warm and the roots can get established before the worst of the winter weather sets in. Prepare the soil well before planting and add some well-rotted garden compost or blended stable manure. A small handful of fish, blood and bone fertilizer can also be added to the bottom of each hole and mixed with the soil before planting. If the hedge is to be planted in an exposed position, you may consider putting up a low windbreak of netting to shield the plants until they establish and begin to grow away next spring. Complete the planting job by watering in well and do not let newly planted areas go short of water until they are established.
Evergreen cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) with its bold, shiny green leaves is tolerant of a wide range of conditions and can be clipped to a tight evergreen hedge as can privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium).
For a more informal feel, why not choose from the huge range of deciduous shrubs that give a changing scene through the year? Plants such as forsythia, with their strong, upright growth, make a good deciduous hedge smothered in bright yellow flowers through the spring and then covered with olive green leaves until autumn when they turn yellow and drop to reveal brown branches. Summer flowering potentillas make a charming low hedge that can be lightly trimmed after flowering. In winter, the shrubs are a mass of twiggy brown growth.
As well as a wide choice of shrubs, there are also countless roses suitable for an informal hedge, providing scent and beautiful blooms through the summer.
From the smallest miniatures to edge a sunny path, to tall, elegant shrub roses, many with a long flowering season and rich scent, their thorns will also act as a good security guard.
So rather than fences, make the divides in your garden more elegant.
David Hitchman, Notcutts Garden Centre, Stratford Road, Solihull, www.notcutts.co.uk/solihull/