Over the last couple of weeks most of us have got a fairly hefty reminder of just how strong the winds in Donegal can be. As a result of this gusty reminder many people will be thinking of planting hedges as wind breaks and natural shelter for their gardens in the coming year.
   Hedges are a great addition to any garden. Along with defining boundaries and providing shelter from strong winds, they can also be used to add privacy and to hide any unsightly objects within the garden such as a shed or compost heap. Having good hedges around your property can also give a sense of security, as while they help to keep children and pets safely inside the garden they also help to keep unwanted visitors out.
   When it comes to the subject of hedging many people find it hard to decide between a formal or an informal hedge. While in the last few years formal evergreen hedges, such as Escallonia, Leylandii and Griselinia have been very popular, lately the more natural informal hedges have been starting to come back into fashion. Many people seem to be returning to these natural hedges as they offer a number of advantages over their evergreen counterparts. These advantages include the fact that they often involve less maintenance than formal hedges and the fact that they are generally made up of native plant species’ which help to provide both food and shelter for local wildlife.
   Now is a great time to plant a native informal hedge as the young deciduous plants are available bare-root from nurseries and garden centres. When these plants are bought bare-root they usually work out to be much cheaper than container grown specimens and often have a better success rate. When planting a hedge from bare root stock it is fairly normal to place the plants quite close together in a staggered double row about nine inches apart with about nine inches being left between each plant. The plants should be set into the ground at the same depth as the soil mark on the stem and then firmed in well to ensure that they don’t blow over. The height of the plant should then be reduced by about a quarter or a third to help encourage the hedge to bush out from the bottom.
   While pretty much any plant can be included in an informal hedge, below is a short list of some of the more popular native plants available for hedging.

Hawthorn ‘Crataegus Laevigata’
Blackthorn ‘Prunus Spinosa’
Common Beech ‘Fagus Sylvatica’
Hornbeam ‘Carpinus Betulus’
Field Maple ‘Acer Campestre’
Holly ‘Ilex Aquafolium’
© Copyright, Highland Landscapes, Letterkenny, 2008.