BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

Features

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Hedges

hedge

Ask the gardener: Hedges

Don't rest on your laurels with top hedging advice from Bill Blackledge.

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out…… at least that's the theory!

----------

LEYLANDII

----------

Mike Hyland asks...

I have been away from my house for three years but on return topped and trimmed some leylandii in my garden (long overdue.) They were house high and about 6ft deep, but I am worried as to whether the brown/dead growth which now seems to dominate the trees will eventually be replaced by new growth or have I left them for too long and cut them back too much?

Bill replies...

Quite often Mike new growth will appear but it will take years rather than months and with Leylandiis which have been neglected you do tend to find that they 'flop open' and you may need to string some wires through your hedge to bring the main shoots closer together.  I am afraid there is nothing much else that you can do but if would be worthwhile to give your Leylandii a good base dressing with a fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal to encourage new shoots to appear.

------

Sarah asks...

There are approximately 10-12 12-15 feet tall Leylandii in my next door neighbour's garden which we both hate and want to kill off. Please advise how we do so easily? 
We do not want to spend hours of wasted time and energy as we all work full time.
Is there something we can pour at the base of the trees to kill them off gently without them falling onto our properties?

Bill replies...

I am afraid Sarah that applying weedkiller or other substances to the base of your Leylandiis is not worthwhile and can cause you substantial problems.  The trees will become unstable, cause dead needles to be scattered all over your garden and you would be far better employing a Tree Surgeon to cut the trees down to base level and remove the trunks and debris.  I appreciated that this is going to be far more expensive but will in the long term be far safer and cause you and your neighbour far less problems.

------

Jackie asks...

If leylandii trees are infected with Phytophera can you treat the soil in order to replant with leylandii or laurel hedging?

Bill replies...

With regard to your soil which has been infected with the soil borne Phytophera fungi I would not replant with Leylandii and I would personally replant with a Beech Hedge.

------

Jeff asks...

I planted 80 Cypress Leylandii Golden 18 months ago to grow as a hedge and provide a windbreak. When planted trees were 2 - 2 1/2 ft high, they have now reached a height of 3 1/2 - 4 ft, but are not bushing out. I've been told they will naturally bush out and was advised to use a slow release fertiliser in March, such as Vitex Q4. What would you recommend?

Bill replies...

You will find in time Jeff that your Golden Leylandii will start to bush out and this will happen when your hedge has reached the desired height and you are keeping it trimmed to this height.  With regard to feeding your Leylandiis Vitax Q4 is an ideal base fertiliser which contains all the main nutrients and is a good fertiliser to use on your hedge.

------

Keith Hardwick asks...

I have a leylandii hedge of approximately 30 trees about 28 years old. Two years ago I lost one of the trees, last year another one died, this year another one is showing the same symptoms, the foliage goes paler and appears drier before dying. The trees were next to one another, I replanted two years ago and the trees are thriving ruling out I think a soil problem. Any ideas Bill to stop further loss?

Bill replies...

When I read that that your infected trees where next to each other my immediate reaction was Honey Dew Fungi (Boot Lace Fungi) which spreads from tree to tree killing the roots.  It will however be worthwhile to peel back the bark of the infected tree at soil level to see if you can see any strands of the fungi (the strands looking just like boot laces).  There is also another soil borne fungi Phytophera which infects the roots of conifers but this is generally a disease of poorly drained soil.  It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what the cause can be and even though your two newly replanted trees are looking healthy the problem could still be Boot Lace Fungi.

------

Richard Thornhill asks...

If I cut down a leylandii hedge, can I plant a beech and/or holly hedge in its place, or will the soil be too poor?

Bill replies...

Any vigorous hedge such as Leylandii Richard does take out vast amounts of nutrients from the soil and you will need to replace these nutrients before replanting another hedge. What I would do is to incorporate plenty of well rotted manure which will improve the texture of the soil and also add nutrients.  I would also apply a liberal dressing of a balanced base fertiliser.  You mention cutting down your Leylandii Hedge but this will still leave in the soil extensive roots which will need to be cut back from the trunk of the Leylandii and removed before replanting another hedge.

------

R James asks...

We recently moved into a new property.  We have a leylandii hedge in the corner of our garden.  In front of parts of the hedge was a small stable that we no longer require.  Now that the stable has been removed, the hedging that was behind the stable has gone brown and looks dead, presumably from lack of sunlight.  The tops of the leylandii are still green however.  Is there anyway that we can rectify this?

Bill replies...

There is not much that you can do to rectify the dead shoots and if you have just been left with bare tree trunks what I would suggest you could do is to grow some climbing plants up the trunks to make your hedge more attractive.  The common Honeysuckle Lonicera Pericylymenum loves to climb up trees and there is also the evergreen Honeysuckle  Lonicera Aureapeticulata.  If you are not fond of Honeysuckles I would suggest the vigorous Clematis Montana or the rambling roses.

------

Alison Parkin asks...

The leylandii hedge at the bottom of our garden on our neighbour's side has just had 5 feet cut off the top. Consequently we have been left with nothing but bare branches and hardly any foliage left (our side has a 6 foot fence in front of the lower part of the hedge). Will it grow back? At present it look awful!

Bill replies...

Cupressus Leylandii makes a good hedge providing you keep it trimmed to the height you require, problems arise when you decide to cut five to six feet from the top of the hedge as you are left with very bare stems and the hedge does have a tendency to flop outwards.  I sympathise with your problem Alison but in time you will get new shoots appearing but this will not happen overnight it will take a number of years for the hedge to recover.

------

Ken Johnson asks...

We have a driveway made up of tarmac over concrete. Can I 'punch' holes in it to plant a row of leylandii, or will I need to expose a large section of earth to get success? The soil is very dark, and moist.

Bill replies...

Cupressus Leylandii is a vigorous growing tree Ken ands I am slightly worried that the roots will start to lift your tarmac if you plant Leylandii in holes you have made in the concrete. I feel that a lot will depend on the thickness of your concrete and tarmac and, long term you would be far better exposing a large section of earth to achieve the success you require.  I would also restrict the height of your Leylandii hedge to two to three feet.

------

Matthew Large asks...

I purchased and planted some 5 feet tall leylandii for a hedge border. They were grown from cuttings in pots and I planted them last November. In February and again in March, I have watered them with a Miracle Grow (one scoop to 7 litres) feed, and have recently noticed a few leaves going slightly brown and flaky (dead) lower down despite some new growth (about 6 inches) at the tops. This is happening to the majority of the trees.

The holes I planted them in were approximately a square foot in size, and the soil was quite good (not clay - unless the clay layer was beneath).

Have I over watered / over fed / fed too early or under watered them. It was very wet in November when I planted them. I haven't dug down to see if they are 'swimming in water' yet.

Bill replies...

With your Leylandii being newly planted last November Matthew you will need to keep and eye on the watering during the summer months but, it is important to try and avoid overwatering.  Regarding your question on feeding your Leylandii I would use a general base fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or Fish Blood and Bone Meal - approximately four ounces per square yard sprinkled around the base of the plants  You say that some of the leaves of your Leylandii are going slightly brown and this quite often happens with newly planted evergreen hedges and I am sure that new shoots will appear when the trees become more established.

------

Sue Burns asks...

We have two leylandii hedges between our garden and our neighbours garden, which are about 8' high and about 20' long. We usually cut these hedges once a year late summer / autumn. Sections of both hedges appear to be dying, having gone brown in colour. This has affected about half of each hedge. We have not treated the hedges any differently this year or last year than we have done over the last 14 years we have lived in the property. Your advice would be appreciated.

Bill replies...

The two most common reasons for Leylandii Hedges to go brown Sue are wind scorch damage - which has been a problem this year due to the very mild winter, coupled with the cold cutting winds and the soil borne fungal disease known as Phytophera which does cause Leylandii leaves to go brown and grey in colour. It is quite a common disease of Conifers and with your hedge being only partially affected I do feel that it could be the soil Phytophera Disease - wind scorch I feel would have affected all the hedge row.  Unfortunately there is not much that you can do to cure the disease but I feel that it would be beneficial to top dress your hedge with a general base fertiliser.

------

Julie McGarrick asks...

We have chopped down a leylandii hedge that had gone brown and bald.  We need to replace it with something that will grow very quickly as we feel very overlooked. The hedge will run along a wall that has very deep (7ft) foundations.  The wall runs north to south and the hedge would be on the west side.  What would you suggest for a speedy solution?  I have only just found this website and think it's great. 

Bill replies...

I feel that before planting a new hedge Julie you will need to replenish the nutrients in the soil - Leylandii hedges are very greedy and there will be very little nutrients left.  As well as applying a general base fertiliser I would try and work in some well rotted manure which will assist the soil structure.  Regarding a replacement for your Leylandii hedge my immediate reaction is to plant a Laurel Hedge - Prunus Laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel) or a small leaf variety is the Portuguese Laurel - Prunus Lusitanica.  The other alternative would be to plant a natural hedge such as Hawthorn.

------

Allison Wilkins asks...

We have a Leylandi hedge at the bottom of our garden, which was planted to deaden the noise from quite a busy road. There is a bridle path directly behind the hedge, some bushes a brook and then the road.  The trees have been badly cut along the bridle path side but are still green our side, although some need to be removed.  The options that are now open to us are firstly to keep the trees but to have them cut right back the bridle path side and to have a fence erected as close to the trees as possible. Alternatively we could have the trees removed to the stumps have a new fence and new hedge.  The hedging that has been recommended to us are Beech, Hornbeam or Privit.  We think it is probably best to have the Conifers removed because of the damage and they are now over 20 years old.  Not sure what would be a good alternative and also what should be done about the roots and soil in order to give the new hedge the best chance of growing.

Bill replies...

The options you have Allison is either as you mention to erect a fence close to the trees on the Bridle Path side or again as you have mentioned have the trees removed but, I am afraid, you will also have to have the roots removed before planting new hedging such as Beech, Privet or Hornbeam.  I am sure that your Leylandii will be fine using the first option of a fence but, if you decide to remove the Leylandaii the other option would be to erect a fence and then you could plant on your side of the garden a coppice of trees using Holly/Beech/Birch/Hornbeam and other species which, I feel would look more attractive and also be ideal with wildlife.

------

Frank Nuttall asks...

I wish to transplant a leylandii - blue foliage which is approximately 10ft high and well established - Scotland. Is this possible and when would be the best time to do this?

Bill replies...

It is going to be very difficult Frank to transplant a ten foot Conifer which is well established but, if you do have to remove the tree this can be carried out in the autumn time when the soil is still warm but, you will need to dig out an extremely large rootball.  If it is possible to use a small mini-digger this will ensure that you remove a large rootball and will also be more easy for you to remove the Conifer into its new position but, as mentioned above transplanting a ten feet high Conifer can be problematic - good luck.

------

Michael Harker asks...

I want to plant a 'border' close to an established, 8ft, leylandii hedge. I appreciate that lelandii are greedy feeders and have a far-reaching root system. Is it possible to dig a border, remove the leylandii roots within the border, install a root barrier between the hedge and border and replace the top soil with fresh?

Bill replies...

One of the problems Michael with digging a border and removing the Leylandii roots within the border is that this will be detrimental to your hedge and there is also a good chance that you will get die back from some of the shoots - the reason being that there will not be enough roots to sustain growth.  What you could do is build a raised bed where you intend having your border to a height of approximately twelve inches and I find sleepers or similar are ideal.  You can then fill the raised border with rotted manure and top soil and use for other plants.

------

Lynne Hardie asks...

We moved here 5 years ago and inherited a Cypress Leylandii hedge all round the back garden. It is over 3 metres high and about 60 metres in total. Every year we have had it professionally topped and trimmed. Last year we noticed the ends of the needles on three of the conifers turned brown a week or so after trimming. But the new growth soon hid these brown ends from view. This year, a week or so after trimming, a whole stretch of conifers progressively turned  brown - about 6 metres – a third of the length of that stretch of hedging. The conifers were not cut to the brown - they were lush and green after cutting - then progressively the end tips of each "frond" turned brown until the hedge looks like it has gone rusty. The "fronds" are still green at the stem end, it is the tips which have gone brown, but the discolouration seems to be spreading inwards and we are afraid the whole trees may turn brown. All the other hedges round the garden are lush and green, including the section which forms a barrier between the garden and a main road. Any advice would be welcome. If they were to die it would be impossible to replace them in our lifetime, as they are over 40 years old. They are a necessary screen for privacy in the garden and a haven for many nesting birds such as robins, finches and wood pigeons.

Bill replies...

Browning of Conifer Trees Lynne can be caused by wind scorch, trimming too hard into the old wood and there is also a soil borne fungal disease called Phytophera which causes browning of the shoots and die back of Conifers and I am afraid that there is no cure for this disease and, after reading your question I feel that Phytophera could be causing the problem.  To give your Conifer Hedge a boost I would feed with a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal or Vitax Q4. 

------

Peter Miles asks...

Two years ago someone demolished ten of my leylandi golden conifers with a car. I replaced them with 5ft pot grown ones now they are about 9ft tall and I wondered the best time to trim the tops off to a height of 6ft to match the other 30 conifers.

Bill replies...

Your Leylandii Golden Conifers will not grow very much during the winter months Peter and I would be inclined to wait until springtime before trimming the tops to the correct height.  If you do cut back this time of year and we have a very hard winter you could quite easily get die back on some of the shoots.  Again, trimming your hedge is far better carried out spring/summer time.

------

Diane asks...

My Leylandii Hedge is turning brown and looking ugly can you help please?

Bill replies...

The browning on Leylandii Hedges Diane is usually caused by wind scorch, heavy pruning and there is also a soil borne fungal disease (Phytophera) which causes damage to the roots and results in browning of the leaves.  I am afraid that there is nothing much you can do to eleviate the problem but I would suggest you top dress the soil of your Leylandii Hedge early springtime with a general tree base fertiliser which will encourage new shoots

------

Anne Sherman asks...

Is it correct that I should prune my Leylandi hedge in February? (have just moved into a house with a overgrown Leylandi hedge in the garden)

Bill replies...

The correct time for pruning Leylandii Hedges Anne is early springtime but, if your hedge is very badly overgrown and you require access to specific areas you can lightly prune some of the overgrown branches now (October).  Very little new growth will appear during the winter months and I would suggest if possible waiting until the springtime before pruning. 

------

Peter Clark asks...

I notice you have diagnosed phytophera and I am sure my 20' long 5' high leylandii hedge has died from this disease. Before I read your comments on phytophera I was going to replace hedge with Leylandii this October. Am I inviting trouble going for Leylandii again and do you think my other hedge which is only separated by the drive might succumb? It is going to look very odd having say Laurel on one side and Leylandii on t'other.

------

Bill replies...

Yes, I am afraid that it is inviting trouble Peter to plant Leylandiis if the soil is infected with the soil borne disease Phytophera and, as I have said in previous queries Conifers are very prone to this disease.  I can understand your dilemma with having a Laurel on one side and a Leylandii opposite but your newly planted Leylandiis can easily become infected again.

John Conroy asks...

I have an 18 month old leylandii and I have just tipped them at 5 foot, I was wondering if I could trim the lower sides as I would like to maintain a neat out line to my garden. Can this be done without damaging them? Many thanks

Bill replies...

I would be inclined John to wait until early springtime before trimming the lower shoots of your Leylandii - I appreciate that the shoots will look untidy but they will protect your hedge against wind scorch and adverse weather conditions over the winter months.  Leylandiis can be trimmed back late springtime and also late summertime.

----------

BEECH

----------

Jock Hunter asks...

My Beech hedge is 12ft high and 8ft wide. By how much can I reduce the width, particularly on one side which overhangs a main road? The hedge is a healthy 30 years old

Bill replies...

For health and safety reasons Jock is it is going to be important to prune back the Beech Hedge which is overhanging onto the main road, but I am afraid that Beech Hedges do not take very kindly to hard pruning and will take quite a long period to recover. The time to prune your hedge is during the dormant period and I would start as soon as the weather improves.  As mentioned above I would certainly cut back the overhanging shoots.

------

Ann Brandon asks...

I purchased 12 purple beech hedges a couple of months ago, there has been no growth or change except a few have changed in colour. Do you think they're still alive and if so do I trim them and by how much? I am new to all of this, so your help would be most appreciated.

Bill replies...

Beech Trees are deciduous Ann but, unlike most deciduous trees which shed their leaves during the winter period the Beech leaves curl and go brown but stay on the hedge until around February and I would not worry too much with regard to your hedging plants being still alive.  What you can do is scrape a small amount of bark from one or two shoots and if these are still green obviously your Beech hedge is fine.

------

Jackie Nichols asks...

I am moving into a house with a beech hedge on three sides, the garden is south facing, can I plant some clematis and/or honeysuckles into my beech hedge for colour and fragrance in the summer months?

Bill replies...

The cultural requirements for growing Clematis Jackie are that the roots need to be kept moist and if you are looking to plant underneath your Beech Hedge I am sure that you will find that the soil will be extremely dry and therefore it is going to be very difficult to establish Clematis plants. You are going to have far more success planting Honeysuckle.  If you do plant Honeysuckle I would plant the variety Lonicera Periclymenus - which is often seen growing in hedgerows.  You could also try growing the Flame Flower (Tropeliun Speciosum) which is often seen growing amongst evergreen hedgerows.

------

Alistair asks...

I received a Beech tree for Christmas from my daughter and her husband. How far away from the house should I plant it?

Bill replies...

You will find Alastair that all the varieties of Beech do need a great deal of space for the trees to grow and the common Beech - Fagus Sylvatica - will grow to a height of 100 feet and has a very large canopy and very little plant life will grow under the dense canop. Therefore, depending on species, you will need to plant at least 60 feet plus away from your house and although it will take many years to reach these 'dizzy heights' I feel that it is very important to take into account the difficulties of growing further plants/shrubs in the near vicinity.

------

Alistair Black asks...

Can you tell me if a 4-6ft high beech hedge planted over the terracotta pipes of a septic tank outlet 1ft deep would cause problems to the pipe? How deep would the roots of such a hedge go? How wide are the roots likely to spread. Thank you.

Bill replies...

You will need to keep a close watch on your septic tank pipes Alistair - the roots of a wide range of trees will always make a 'beeline' for drains and although your Beech Hedge roots are not as troublesome as the roots of the Willow trees they will however head for your septic tank pipes and with your outlet pipes being only one foot deep you will need to keep a close watch on them.

------

Karen asks...

I have an overgrown Beech hedge that I need to prune back. It comes out a few feet into my garden and looks very bare in the middle with all the leaves on the end on the twigs. When is the best time of year to do this and what is the best width for a hedge of around 7ft? My neighbours pruned their side back hard last spring but it didn't seem to recover too well (it gets much less sun on that side) but this still worries me! Is it best to do it all in one go (how long will this take to grow back) or to trim it back gradually? Also have you any tips on getting a straight line widthways?

Bill replies...

One of the problems with pruning any Beech Hedge Karen is that they do take a long time to recover and if you are pruning the width of your hedge and you are left basically with just main stems and I am not sure that these will shoot again.  I have pruned back the height of Beech Hedges and although it takes a long period of time they will shoot again and the time for pruning your hedge is during the dormant period and I would try to avoid cutting back to the main shoots/stems.

------

Marina Quantick asks...

We have a beech hedge which appears to be diseased. Some branches have died. The bark is not smooth, it looks like it has 'over produced' and appears rough and uneven. Help! Is this able to be treated, and are we able to replant new beech plants to restock the hedge?

Bill replies...

I have noticed quite a number of Beech Hedges which have suffered this year Marine and from the feed back I have received from other gardeners the main consensus is that the die back of the branches and the peeling of the bark has been caused by this year's long hot summer.  What you will need to do is cut back any dead and diseased branches and early next Spring I would give your Beech Hedge a liberal dressing of a general base fertiliser such a fish blood and bone meal and, if possible, I would also mulch around the roots with some well rotted manure.  On the question on whether you will be able restock with new Beech plants will all depend on how old your hedge is - if your hedge is well established your soil is going to be a mass of roots and will be impossible to restock with new plants.

------

Emma Langley asks...

I would like to grow a beech hedge.  My neighbour has one and wondered whether I could propagate my hedge from hers.  I have had a look for beech nuts but there are none, can I do it from cuttings?  If so, how many years would it take to get a hedge of approx 1.5 metres high?

Bill replies...

To propagate Beech from cuttings Emma is extremely difficult and I would not recommend using this method.  The most popular method used is by sowing seed which is quite easy to germinate.  The other method - which is not that expensive - would be to plant bare rooted saplings/whips which can be easily obtained from a specialist tree nursery.  They can be purchased from one foot to four foot in height and now (November) until early spring is the ideal time for planting.  Beech is a very slow growing hedge but if you start with established saplings you will soon reach the height you require.

------

Fiona Fox asks...

I am thinking of planting a beech hedge along a 5 foot high wall to protect our house from the noise of the road which is the other side of this boundary wall.  How far from the wall should I plant the hedge and how thick will it get? (I want it to grow to at least 6 foot high)

Bill replies...

It is very difficult to give you a precise answer Fiona regarding the distance you will need to plant your Beech Hedge away from the wall but a general rule is that if your hedge grows to approximately six feet it should be planted approximately six feet away from the wall.  I have however seen numerous hedges - including Beech - which have been planted far closer to walls.  To restrict the noise level from the road you may be better planting a double row of Beech transplants and these need to approximately 15 to 18 inches apart and 18 inches between the rows and I would alternate the plants between the rows.

------

Fiona asks...

I've just planted 40 bare rooted beech hedges and the temperature outside has dropped to -3. They are planted in a trench. Will they survive?

Bill replies...

I would not worry too much Fiona Beech are very hardy and the soil covering your transplants will have protected the roots.  What you do need to do however when your Beech comes into leaf is keep an eye on the watering - especially over the summer months - until the roots are established in the sub soil. Beech do not like very damp waterlogged conditions but with them being new transplants you will need to keep an eye on the watering. 

------

Eric Bharucha asks...

What is best time to prune an overgrown copper beech hedge and can I do it in March or will it kill the hedge?

Bill replies...

The time to cut back your Cooper Beech Eric is during the dormant period and providing you do this within the next few weeks it will be fine but, I would be careful not to cut it too hard back into the old wood as it will take time to recover.  Regarding cutting/trimming your Beech Hedge this can be carried out during the late summer months using an ordinary pair of garden shears.

------

Rosanne McWilliams asks...

We have a copper beech hedge and would like to take cutting from it, when would be the best time and how do we go about it?

Bill replies...

I am afraid Rosanne that it would be very difficult for you to root Beech cuttings.  But rather than be the 'devil's advocate' if you wish to try I would suggest taking young shoots (approximately two to three inches long) early summer time and insert the cuttings around the side of a three to five inch pot in a fifty/fify peat grit rooting medium.  The cuttings can be kept outside but, you may need to cover them with a clear polythene bag to cut down on transpiration loss.  The chances of success are very slim but if you do succeed please email me again at BBC Radio Lancashire.

The usual method of propagating Beech is from seed (Beech Nuts) which can be sown outdoors in the Autumn but, if you do require more Cooper Beech plants you can buy one to two year old young whips from a reputable Nursery.

----------

ESCALLIONA

----------

John Megarry asks...

I have a escalliona hedge growing at the back boundary of my garden, and at the present time it is in bloom. What I really want to know, is it all right to cut it back now or do I wait to the springtime? It has not been cut back since last year and is growing all shapes. Also do I need to feed it through the year? Thank you for any advice you give me.

Bill replies...

The correct for trimming your Escalliona Hedge is springtime John but I would refrain from cutting it back too hard as Escallionas can be reluctant to produce new shoots.  With regard to feeding I would top dress your hedge with a general base fertiliser such as fish blood and bone meal or Vitax Q4 early springtime and again midsummer time.  There is no need to feed during the winter months.

------

Alex Scott asks...

We have an Escallonia hedge about 20 years old. This year 2 stretches of some 3ft have died back leaving growth at the top in a proportion of plants. Cutting out dead wood and hard pruning has resulted in some shooting low down. Would cutting down to say 3ft kill the hedge now 6ft. I might add I have seen a number of Escallonia hedges affected.

Bill replies...

I know of quite a number of Escallonia Hedges Alex which have suffered from die back this year and I think that the problem stems from the last year's very dry summer which resulted in quite a high number of adventurous roots dying off and, this has resulted in die back appearing on a number of trees and shrubs including Escallonias this year.  With regard to pruning your hedge the time to do this is springtime but I am afraid that they do not respond to extremely hard pruning.  However cutting it back to approximately three feet should encourage new shoots to appear and, I would also give your hedge a liberal dressing with a base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal or Vitax Q4.

------

David Thornton asks...

My Escallonia (Apple blossom) hedge (planted last May 2006) has lost a lot of leaves over the winter. A lot of the leaves have turned black. I have been told in the garden centre that its wind burn.... and it will recover... I'm not sure. Some of the shrubs have very few leaves left. I'm worried that it might be missing nutrients in the soil. I'm tempted to apply fertilizer to the soil but have been told to hold off until March. Any advice?

Bill replies...

I would not worry too much about your Escallonia hedge David as they can suffer from wind scorch damage over the winter months but I am sure that your Escallonia hedge will produce new shoots in the spring. Regarding applying a fertiliser I would use a general base fertiliser such a Grow More, Vitex Q4 or Fish Blood and Bone Meal and I would apply the fertiliser approximately 4 to 6 ounces per square yard around the middle of March.

------

Mary Morrisey asks...

We have very well established (probably 30 years+) escallonia hedge sheltering a patio quite close to the house (whole garden is on a slope and we are close to the sea).  Since the Autumn, the leaves on certain areas of the hedge, have been turning yellow and brown and falling off. It has gotten progressively worse over the Winter and quite large sections of the hedge are now bare - though some new leaf buds are appearing. What might be the problem and is there anything we can do?  Also, although we cut the hedges back a couple of times a year, they have now gone very woody in the centre, with the leaf growth barely at the edge s -they are probably 5/6 feet deep. If we were to cut them back severely, would they re-grow and, if so, when would be the best time to try?  Thanks for your help

Bill replies...

Escallonias do shed quite a lot of their leaves during the winter period Mary and they can also suffer from wind burn damage and with your house being close to the sea there is also the problem with salt spray damage.  Escallonias do however survive very well in coastal areas and I am sure that your hedge will produce new shoots this year and with it being a large established hedge I would give it a general base fertiliser feed during the spring time - GrowMore or Fish Blood and Bone Meal would be ideal.  If you are going to prune your hedge I would do this late spring but be very careful of pruning too hard back into the old wood. 

----------

HAWTHORN

----------

Robert Chadwick asks...

I have just built a new house with an old and established Hawthorne hedge about 8 feet tall running down the eastern boundary. The hedge has been allowed to grow out of control, if I were to cut it back to just above the ground level would it regenerate?
Thanks in advance for your advice and guidance

Bill replies...

You can prune Hawthorns back hard and they will shoot again and, the correct time for pruning is during the dormant winter period but, if you do not wish to wait until next winter to cut your hedge back and providing that you do it before your Hawthorn is in full leaf it will be fine.  You ask about cutting back to just above ground level but I would leave approximately six inches of the main trunk above ground level.  If you require a very thick boundary Hawthorn hedge you may wish to consider an alternative option of layering your hedge and as this option will take quite a while to complete you would be better waiting until the winter period.

------

Lou asks...

I have an old 25ft tall scraggy but pretty Hawthorn growing in the shade of an old Turkey Oak and a vast London plane tree. It is crowded out by both its neighbours I would like to reduce the hawthorn to about 4ft to form part of a mixed hedge beneath the trees as I suspect was once intended. Is this possible? If so, when and how should I proceed? Many thanks.

Bill replies...

The time to prune/cut back your Hawthorn Tree Lou is during the dormant period - October to March time.  You can cut Hawthorns back hard into the old wood and they will shoot again.  You say that you intend cutting your Hawthorn back to approximately four feet which will then form part of a mixed hedge beneath the trees, but I feel that it is worth bearing in mind that if you intend keeping the hedge to approximately four feet it would be worthwhile to cut your Hawthorn lower than four feet to allow young shoots to form to the height of the mixed hedge.

------

AA asks...

Our hawthorne hedge is slowly dying back with blight. Altogether it is about 100yds long and the blight is progressing along its length. Is it posibble to treat it by hand or should we ask a specialist, if so, who? Many thanks.

Bill replies...

Fire Blight is a bacterial disease which is spread by windblown rain and also insects.  The blight can enter the hedge through the flowers and also injured branches. The flower clusters will wilt and turn black and the foliage will look blackened and scorched and, over a period of time dieback of the main branches and stems will occur.  To check whether or not your hedge is suffering from Fire Blight you will need to peel back the bark on the infected areas, any infected wood will be reddish brown.  To keep the disease under control these infected branches need to be cut back to healthy wood and all infected materials need to be burnt and destroyed.  Unfortunately there is no product on the market to eliminate this disease but it is important to clean your pruning shears with a strong disinfectant so as not to spread the blight to other plants.  My only concern over your question is that you say that the dieback of your Hawthorn is progressing along the length of the hedge which, is a classic symptom of the Honeydew (Bootlace Fungi) and it may be worthwhile obtaining a second opinion from a Tree Surgeon in your area.

------

Gordon asks...

How do I plant bare root common hawthorn?

Bill replies...

Hawthorns make a lovely hedge Gordon and now is a good time of year to plant providing that the soil is not too wet and frosty (January).  If you have quite a number of plants I would suggest planting a double row - approximately eighteen inches between the plants and fifteen inches between the rows - alternating the plants between the rows.  For a single row I would plant approximately fifteen inches between the plants.  Once the plants have come into leaf and are actively growing to encourage side shoots to appear the growing points can be cut back.

------

Sam asks...

I am planting a hedge to include blackthorn and hawthorn - the garden centre is trying to sell me spiral protectors (which cost more than the plants) - Do these thorny plants require any protection?

Bill replies...

Both Blackthorn and Hawthorn are tough plants Sam and I am sure that they will survive without spiral supports.  What you could do if the plants are just young whips is to hammer a stake at either end of your hedge - run a couple of wire supports along and tie your young whips to the supports.

------

Wayne asks...

I have just bought 200 hawthorns to plant in my lawn they are about 14”. Should I spray the area of grass with round up to give the hawthorns a better chance to grow?

Bill replies...

I would spray your grass with Round Up Wayne before planting your Hawthorn plants and once you have killed off the grass I would also be inclined to rotivate the grassed area you have treated before planting.  Having already purchased your Hawthorns you will need to treat your lawn as soon as possible as it will have to be left for at least a week to ten days before rotivating can take place and before you start planting.  Throughout the summer months it is important to keep your plants well watered until they become established.

------

Ann-Marie Dasgupta asks...

I have a hawthorn hedge around the perimeter of my garden. In parts it is 5ft tall and difficult to maintain. It looks awful as the lower part (half of the height in some places) is bare. Will it grow again if I cut down to the bark?

Bill replies...

You can cut the trunk and main branches Ann-Marie and they will shoot again and the time to do this is during the dormant period and if you do decide to cut your Hawthorn back during the next two/three weeks before it comes into leaf it will be fine (March).  An alternative method for pruning your Hawthorn is by layering and this ensures that your hedge is more secure but I must point out that layering is not an easy task.  One of my recent emails to Matthew Butt provides information regarding layering which I hope you will find helpful.

------

Phil Baxter asks...

I need to remove a Hawthorn Hedge because of the fear my small children will hurt them selves on the thorns when playing in the rear garden. My main question is what size of root system dose the hedge have and easy will it be to dig out?

Bill replies...

The easiest method Phil would be to cut all the branches off and leave approximately four to five feet of the main trunk which can be used as leverage when the removing the roots.  The Hawthorn will have a reasonable root system but, when you start to dig out the roots you will be able to cut the main thick roots with a sharp saw and you will then be able to lever the hedge out of the ground.

------

Pauline asks...

We have a very small garden with a hawthorn hedge separating us from next door's garden. The hedge has gaps at the bottom and ivy is now taking over. How can I revive the hedge?

Bill replies...

I feel that it is important to remove the Ivy Pauline before it takes over and smothers your hedge.

Regarding the gaps in your hedge if your Hawthorn Hedge is well established you could layer your hedge which would help to eradicate the gaps and the time to layer your hedge is during the autumn/winter period.  It is a specialist task but if you contact your Local Authority or a Country Park they will be able to give you advice.

------

Dawn asks...

My neighbour has cut down our hawthorn hedge (October) to only 2' and with no leaves on it. How long will this take to grow back to at least 4'?

Bill replies...

Hawthorn Hedges Dawn are quick growing and it will take approximately one to two years to reach the height of four feet again and if you require your hedge to be kept at this level you will need to trim the new shoots each year back to this height.

------

James Spencer asks...

I have been asked to prune a Hawthorn hedge that is 5 foot high to about 2 foot high. My question is when should this be undertaken and will pruning the hedge this much be a problem?

Bill replies...

Hawthorns are very tough plants James and they can be pruned back hard and will shoot again in the Springtime.  The time to prune your hedge is during the dormant period - October to February - and I find the best method of pruning a Hawthorn hedge is by layering the hedge.  Unless you have had experience of layering it is not an easy task to undertake but, if you look at farmers hedges you will see quite a number of them will have been layered and this will give some idea of how to layer your own hedge.

------

Matthew Butt asks...

Back in September, we moved into a brand new house on an existing residential site.  There is an existing hawthorn hedge (dating back at least 100 years) which has been neglected over the years.  There is no question of removing it, as our neighbours want it to stay, and we don't wish to upset them. The hedge is unsightly and useless in security terms: it is "gappy" and quite lifeless at lower levels, with much old wood, some of which must be in excess of 15' high.  Is there any way in which we could encourage the hedge to regenerate at lower levels, or should we consider extra planting to plug the holes?  Just to add to the problems, our side of the hedge is north-facing, and there is a line of leylandii shielding the south-facing side from the sun.

Bill replies...

All is not lost with your hedge Matthew and what you need to do is have your Hawthorn hedge layered.  This will make your hedge more secure and encourage new shoots to appear from a lower level.  There is a National Association of Hedge Laying and throughout the country they hold hedge laying demonstrations and I am sure there will be some in the Essex area.  What I would do is contact your local authority or country parks office who will be able to put you in touch with your nearest local contact and you never know they may use your hedge as a demonstration!

------

Cally asks...

I would like to establish a hawthorn hedge in my garden but I find that lots of garden centres give very contradictory information. Can you advise how far apart to plant, how much growth to expect and also how I can cut it to form a hedge. Great website!

Bill replies...

Now (February) is a good time to plant your Hawthorn Hedge Cally while the plants are still dormant and I would choose open transplants - which are very cheap - and also choose plants approximately 18 inches to 2 feet high which will need to be planted 15 inches apart.  Once established your hedge will grow at least approximately 2 feet per year.  It is important though to keep an eye on the watering during the summer months until your hedge is established and a top dressing with a general base fertiliser applied late Spring would also be beneficial.

----------

PRIVET

----------

Phyllida Thewlis asks...

A 12 ft section of my neighbour's tall privet hedge, bordering my garden, has been slowly dying back for several years. Quite a lot of it is now completely dead. This spring I found that several nearby plants in my garden have died too, including a spindle tree and a large escallonia.  A blackcurrant looks sick, several hollyhocks have disappeared.  Still thriving are a hawthorn, tulips, herbacious plants and plenty of ground elder.  I am worried that this could spread further - an apple tree is next in line. What is causing it?  Is it likely to spread further?  Is there anything I can do to remedy the situation?  

Bill replies...

It is difficult Phylida to be completely certain what is causing your neighbour's Privet Hedge to be dying and also nearby trees and shrubs in your garden.  However my immediate reaction to your question was that your trees and shrubs have been infected with the Honey Fungi (Armillaria) commonly known as the Boot Lace Fungi.  Diagnostic symptoms are sheets of white fungal growth close to the trunk base and also close to the base of the bark and the soil and also flattened strands of fungi resembling black boot laces again just below the bark at soil level and also in the soil.  During the autumn time another symptom of this disease is amber coloured toad stools which can be up to fifteen cm high. With so many trees and shrubs infected I feel that you would be far better contacting a local tree surgeon or an experienced gardener who will give you a second opinion and on the spot advice.

------

Pauline asks...

I read about the yellowing privet hedge. Mine has gone one stage further and three plants in a row of 12 have died (not all next to each other) I fed it at the yellowing stage last year but it has made no difference. The hedge is over 20 years old. Should I grub it up and start again or can I dig up the poorly ones and replant in the same place?

Bill replies...

It could be that the roots have just dried out or it could be due to Honey Fungus which attacks a wide range of shrubs including Privet killing the roots.  The symptoms of the Honey Fungus is that a white fungal growth appears near ground level and, also at ground level surrounding the roots and at the base of the bark strings of black fungi which look very similar to boot laces - hence the common name Boot Lace Fungi.  You will also find that amber toadstools can appear during autumn time.  Unfortunately there is no cure for this fungus and you will need to remove the dead plants but I would not replant any further hedging material for at least twelve months and you will then need to use new fresh soil.  I also would not replace with Privet you would be far better planting Beech which is far more resistant to Honey Fungus attack.

------

Rob asks...

I have a privet hedge that is about 4' wide and 6' tall.  I would like to make it only 2' wide.  Is it best to just cut one side of the hedge back hard now and leave the other side until next year?  Can I cut it back hard now or do I need to wait until spring? Thank you in the hope of your help.

Bill replies...

The Privet is a tough plant Rob and you can cut back your hedge quite hard - approximately one foot off either side - and your hedge will recover.  It will take time to produce new shoots but, over the next twelve to eighteen months your hedge will have recovered.  I would start to prune your hedge back early springtime and to encourage new shoots I would also feed your hedge again, early springtime, with a balanced fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal.

------

Sandy asks...

My mum has a patchy privet hedge and has new young children next door watching through hedge. What can she plant within it to thicken it quickly, so that she can sit in the garden this year?

Bill replies...

I feel that the easiest method Sandy is that if the gaps are quite wide would be to purchase container grown privets from a Garden Centre and insert these plants between the gaps.  I would also advise your mum that in early springtime to give the hedge a good dressing with a balanced fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal to encourage new shoots to appear.

------

Mark Rowland asks...

I have just moved back into my property after three months. The privet hedge is  overgrown - what is the last date I can prune it?

Bill replies...

If you have any large overgrown branches which are restricting access to your property these Mark can be pruned back but I would wait until springtime before pruning and trimming your hedge.

------

Sheila Seek asks...

How high and wide will a privet hedge grow if left uncut and how long could it live?

Bill replies...

Privet hedges live for many decades Sheila and usually grow to a height of three to four metres and again if you leave them uncut they will grow to approximately one to two metres wide but, as you aware the majority of Privets are grown as clipped hedges.

------

Joanne Lowe asks...

I am a novice gardener and am learning as I go along.  I have inherited a 15ft run of basic privet hedge in my back garden.  It separates us from our neighbour.  Although I would like to remove it and replace with either decorative fencing or another type of hedge, it is too expensive and a difficult job for me to do. How do I look after it and improve its condition.  Is there anything that will grown underneath it if I make a border in front of it, ie ground cover plants etc. Many many thanks

Bill replies...

To give your Privet Hedge a boost Joanne I would feed your hedge with a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal, GrowMore or Vitax Q4 and, you will need to apply approximately four ounces per square yard around the base of the hedge.  Regarding growing plants beneath the hedge this will be very difficult indeed due to the dry conditions and I am afraid that you will be fighting a losing battle.

------

Sam Gardiner asks...

Our golden privet hedge has for the second year running lost its leaves at winter (it was planted two years ago).  It appears to be in good condition with no obvious signs of a fungas condition.  The leaves seem to fall almost immediately after a frost or cold snap but come the warmer weather new growth is visible and they make a full recovery.  Is this normal for this hedge?

Bill replies...

Privet hedges do suffer Sam for wind scorch damage and this does cause the leaves to drop off and the Golden Privet is quite susceptible to this but, as soon as the temperature increases and warm weather prevails they do make a full recovery.  2007 was quite problematic with Golden Privet Hedges losing their leaves.

------

Stuart Craig asks...

Could you please tell me when is the best time of year to cut back hard a privet hedge thanks for your help!

Bill replies...

Your privet hedge needs to be cut back early Spring time Stuart when the sap is just beginning to rise and your privet will then have all Spring/Summer to produce new shoots.  privet is a very hardy plant and will stand hard pruning.

------

Stewart Cargill asks...

Part of my 30 year old privet hedge approx 4ft high and 30ft long appears to have a type of lichen growing from the base right through to the top growth. Further along on the top of the hedge the leaves at the top of the hedge have turned a mauve/brown colour a mauve and are of a rubbery like texture when wet but crumble and flake when dry. Any information on what to do would be most appreciated.

Bill replies...

The algal and lichen growth which is at the base and on the stems of your Privet Stewart is synonymous with very damp, moist and shady conditions and I am afraid there is no easy solution to the problem and it is just a question of trying to peel the lichen off the stems of your Privet.  During the summer months they will dry and flake off but there is no easy cure and I am sorry that I can't be of more help.

------

Stephen asks...

How do I trim a privet hedge? It's very overgrown and neglected.

Bill replies...

First of all you need to see if your hedge is reasonably level and then you should be able to cut back to last season's growth but, if the top of the hedge is far from level you will need to insert a post at either end of the hedge and then put a level using either string or wire from one post to the other and then trim to just above the level of the string.

------

Harsha Pandya asks...

My neighbour has a privet hedge on the other side of my fence that stops any plants I put in from thriving. How can I restrain the roots from coming over to my side? I'm considering digging along the fence and putting in 18 inch soffits. Will this be deep enough to work? Thanks.

Bill replies...

If you dig a trench approximately two feet deep Harsha and place at the side of the trench a double layer of polypropylene interwoven liner (which is used commercially to surpress weeds) I am sure this will restrict the roots of the Privet.  The liner can be obtained from Builders Merchants/Garden Centres and DIY Stores.  Two popular brand names are Mypex and Phormisol.

------

A Banks asks...

I have moved into a house which has a 30-year old privet hedge right next to the house wall.  The neighbour in the adjoining house wants to remove them because he is worried about root damage.  Can you please confirm how deep/thick/wide spread privet roots are and whether they should be dug up to prevent damaging our home.  Many thanks.

Bill replies...

One of the problems with Privet Hedges is that it is difficult to grow any plants anywhere near the hedge due to the root mass and regarding your problem with your hedge being so close to your house wall the roots can cause damage but Privet is nowhere near as troublesome as large trees such as Willows/Oak.  But, for peace of mind I would contact a local Tree Surgeon for a second opinion.

------

Paula Guite asks...

Part of our privet hedge is choked with ivy. Could you recommend what we should do to get rid of it.

Bill replies...

I am afraid Paula that there is not easy answer to your problem - there is no way that you can spray the Ivy without damaging the Privet and the only suggestion that I can make is to unwind the Ivy shoots from around the hedge and if you can keep the main shoots away from the hedge you will then be able to spray the Ivy leaves with a systemic weedkiller but, it is important that all surrounding plants are protected.  The sprays I would recommend would be Round Up, Tumble Weed or Bayer Glyphosate.  The spray needs to be applied on a dry and still day.  Due to Ivy being a very difficult plant to eradicate you may have to spray two/three times over the summer.

------

Kate O'Brien asks...

I planted 2ft privet plants in November to hedge round our garden. The plants are healthy but spindly.  Should I trim them to encourage them to thicken and if so, when and by how much? Many thanks

Bill replies...

I would not worry too much at the present time Kate (March) as I am sure that you will find over the summer months that your Privet plants will start to produce new shoots and start to bush out.  If however you find that they are still straggly late summer you can just nip out the main growing shoot and this will encourage side shoots to appear.  It is important that over the summer months you ensure that your Privet's are well watered and I would give them a feed with a general base fertiliser such as GrowMore or Fish Blood and Bone Meal.

------

Tony Ridley asks...

I have a 10ft tall and quite thick privet hedge giving us privacy from the lane full of walkers. It has always been healthy and I keep it trimmed to its height and width.    Over the winter part of the hedge appears to have died off - a patch 4 feet wide and at the end of the run. It is an old hedge and appears to have been 'laid' with much of the existing growth coming from old shoots from the layered branches. Is it subject to death by age? or could it be suffering from drought or wind damage? The thin leaf-branches do show some green when snapped, but the leaves (those that remain in this patch) are brown or non existent. I cannot grub out the hedge as we need the privacy. Do you think it could be renovated as is? If not, could I keep it as a frame work for climbers? (not really a good option). Would a spray feed help? Could I underplant with fresh privet and over a couple of years try to replace the damaged hedge and be able to cut it out eventually?

Bill replies...

Privets do suffer from windburn and scorch damage Tony and this could be the reason for the browning of the leaves but I feel that if this is the cause all your hedge would have been affected.  If as you say the shoots are still green there is a good chance that your hedge will come into leaf again and it may just have been drought conditions which have caused the leaves to drop off.  Privet Hedges are susceptible to Honey Dew Fungi which will cause die back, and the fungal disease does have a tendency to spread along the hedge killing the roots.  If your infected hedge does not come into leaf and dies completely it would be worth peeling the bark back at base level and, if there are strands of fungi similar to black boot laces there is a good chance that it is the Honey Dew Fungi which has caused the damage.  Unfortunately there is not much that you can do to control the disease but your infected hedge plants will need to be dug out and burnt.

------

Bill McGhee asks...

We have a privet hedge around our front garden, and over the last couple of years the leaves on the branches at about three positions have turned yellow. Are the plants dying, under attack or do they just need feeding?

Bill replies...

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing some of your leaves to start yellowing.  I would certainly recommend you give your hedge a feed with a general based fertilizer such as fish blood and bone meal.  You will also find during the winter months that some of the leaves on your privet hedge will start to yellow due to the frost and windy weather.

My final diagnosis is that your privet hedge could be showing signs of being attacked by the honey dew fungi disease - commonly known as 'boot lace fungi'.  The symptoms are die back of the stems and branches and yellowing of some of the leaves.  Without seeing your privet hedge it is difficult to say for certain whether it is suffering from this.

------

Marylyn Wearden asks...

I have a privet hedge and it has developed patches of yellow flower-like areas which appear to be increasing and affecting the well being of the plant.

Bill replies...

There is nothing to worry about Marylyn - this is the time of year for Privets to start flowering and it will not do any harm to your hedge.  If you are not happy with the flowers you can trim these back with a pair of hedging shears.

------

Lynne Rooney asks...

I have recently put a large fence around my back garden, prior to that we had privet hedges which have been there for a long time and were more like trees.  We have cut them right down but now need to get rid of the roots, can you please let me know the best way to do this as they are now growing again!

Bill replies...

The two products that you can use Lynne to kill the stumps/roots of your Privet trees are SBK Brushwood Killer or Root Out.  Both products are available at most Garden Centres and now is a good time of year to apply.  It is important that you do follow the instructions regarding the application and with either product it will take quite a while for the stumps to rot down the roots to be killed.

------

Brian Neal asks...

How do I take a cutting from a privet hedge?

Bill replies...

The common Privet (Ligustrum Ovafolium) makes a wonderful hedge and is ideal for industrial areas and it is quite easy to root from cuttings.  Hardwood cuttings is the easiest method to use Brian - these can be taken in the Autumn from ripe wood of the current season's growth - the cuttings need to be about 12 inches long and these can be inserted in a slit trench in a sheltered spot in the garden and approximately six inches of the cutting needs to inserted below soil level.  If you only require a few cuttings these can be inserted around the side of a six inch pot or small container in a well drained compost and again these can just be watered and left outside.  You will need to remove the leaves before inserting the cuttings beneath the soil.

------

David Rigby asks...

I have a privet hedge which is well established and in previous years has grown well. However in recent years the hedge has begun to die back and the dead area is spreading. I have noticed a yellow and a grey/blue growth on the stems and tips, could this be a fungal infection or as the garden next door contains a large willow and is bordered by Leylandii could it be a case of too much competition for available water? To make matters worse there was a 30ft high sycamore growing in the hedge where the dying back started.

Bill replies...

If your Privet Hedge  is slowly dying back David it could quite easily have been infected by Armillaria Root Rot (Honey Fungi).  Information on the disease is now available on these pages (Question from Terry Jenkins - Privet Hedge).

It could however have been caused by competition for available water - when you take into account both the Leylandii and the Willow which are situated nearby consume vast amounts of water.

------

Cath asks...

Could you please tell me the quickest to get rid of roots from Privets? I read what you advised to someone else, but is there any other way to remove them and do the things you said affect pets or kids?

Bill replies...

If you have children and pets using the garden Cath I would personally not use any weed killer to kill the roots of your Privet - the risk is far too great.  If your garden is accessible to a large machine you can hire one that will shred the roots - the other alternative, which will certainly keep you fit(!) is to purchase a very sharp spade and dig the roots out.

------

Wendy McDonald asks...

My privet has been cut back right to the woody stems at the side.  The green leaves are still at the top.  Will it grow again and how long before it does?

Bill replies...

Privet is a very hardy plant Wendy and you will find that shoots will appear on the wooden stems but it will take a few months for this to happen.  The best time to cut Privet hard back into the old wood is early Spring - this will enable your plant to have all Spring and throughout the Summer months to produce new shoots.

------

Terry Jenkins asks...

l have a privet hedge which is very slowly dying, small sections each year, leaves turning brown, started to water twice a week, to no affect, privet is quite old. The rest is very healthy all though there is ivy in the middle, could this be the problem, please advise. Thanks.

Bill replies...

A common soil borne disease which effect Privet Terry is Armillaria Root Rot (Honey Fungi).  The roots are attacked by boot lace black fungi strands which spread and grow through the soil causing sections of the Privet Hedge to die back steadily, and it could quite well be that your Privet Hedge is suffering from this disease.  Visual effects could well be amber coloured toad stools growing around the soil of your affected Privet Hedge and if you peel back the bark at base level again in the infected area you will see fungi strands.  It is a very difficult disease to control but I would advise you to remove any dead Privet shoots and branches.  On the question of the Ivy which is in the middle of your Hedge it would be very advisable to cut this back and if possible remove it.

------

Ken Burnett asks...

When and how (with what tools) do I prune an overthick privet hedge?  At present it is around 4 1/2ft tall and 3 ft wide. Can you advise me on technique?

Bill replies...

The tools you will require Ken are a pruning saw and a pair of loping shears and the time to prune your hedge is early Spring time - just when the sap is beginning to rise.  You can cut back the width as well as the height of your Privet and to ensure that you are keeping your hedge straight (when cutting back the height) use a garden line.

------

Amanda asks...

When do I plant a privet hedge and how far apart should I put them?

Bill replies...

It is getting bit late in the year now Amanda to plant a Privet Hedge and I would be inclined to wait until early Spring.  As to how far apart you plant your Privet Hedge will in some respect depend on the size of your plant which can vary from one to two feet but, if you work to approximately from one foot to eighteen inches apart you will not go far wrong.

------

Pete asks...

Is it possible to compost Privet prunings after removing the woody bits. Someone told me they could be poisonous.

Bill replies...

There is no problem in composting Privet prunings Pete providing that there are not too many wooden stems composted.  You ask if the Privet is poisonous and yes they are to certain farm animals such as sheep and cattle but, no harm can be done when the shoots and leaves are placed on the compost heap.

------

Merfyn Parry asks...

I have a friend who does Topiary on privet hedge and is very proud of his work, unfortunately it looks like he has some form of blight in it. I have looked and cannot find any pest damage and would like your view or help please. My name is Merfyn and I am an agricultural agronomist.

Bill replies...

A number of tree species including Privet are now being used for topiary Merfn and in many ways these trees are being grown under stress conditions due to the trees being constantly clipped which reduces the plants ability to manufacture nutrients.  Privets in particular are vulnerable to die back of the shoots and it is important that during the spring and summer months they are kept well watered and given an adequate supply of fertiliser.

------

Nick Baum asks...

Someone has just ploughed their car into my 25 year old, 8ft high privet hedge.  The roots look pretty badly damaged - might be difficult to tell without seeing the damage, but is there any chance I could salvage it?

Bill replies...

A lot will depend Nick on how badly the roots have been damaged and until early springtime it is just going to be a question of firming in any of the damaged roots - covering any exposed roots with topsoil and also any badly damaged shoots/branches will need to be cut back.  In the springtime the pruned shoots should start to shoot again but, again Nick, it is going to be a question of how badly the roots of been damaged. If you could email me again next spring I will be able to give you more advice.

------

Kay Dwyer asks...

I have a privet hedge that is over 50 years old running all around my garden.
Very hard work to maintain but excellent filter from car fumes, noise and also very private. I would dearly love to move a 5 foot section of it to reshape the perimeter of the garden and thus open up an area at the side of the house that has become forgotten. Is it an option or will it be fatal for the privet? How best would I approach it and what time of year? Many thanks for your time!

Bill replies...

Privet is a lovely hedge Kate and I totally agree with you that it is a very durable hedge and ideal for built up and city areas.  Regarding your question as to whether you can move a five foot section from a 50 year old Hedge is going to be very difficult.  But, if you decide to go ahead and try the time to dig out the five foot section would be late February/early March and it is vitally important that you try and ensure that you remove a large root ball.  Again I will stress that it is going to be very difficult and no matter how hard you try quite a lot of the roots will be damaged and you will probably need to cut back the stems on the five foot section to approximately eighteen inches to two feet to give your hedge when transplanting more chance to recover.

----------

LAUREL

---------

Mrs Thornhill asks...

I planted about 20 three foot laurels in my front garden in November. They dont seem to be doing too well. It is a windy, exposed plot. More specifically the leaves on the laurels have started to turn brown and burnt looking around all the edges on nearly every plant. Can I do anything to save them? They were staked but have become a bit loose.

Bill replies...

Quite a number of Laurels have suffered this year due to the very wet and damp conditions and the brown markings on the leaves is I am sure wind scorch damage.  Even though quite a number of the leaves have turned brown I think that you will find that when the weather improves new leaves and shoots will appear.  I do however feel that you will always have this problem with scorched leaves due to the windy exposed position where the Laurels have been planted.

------

Sam asks...

I have some Laurel plants but when I prune them, the new shoots come backs curly. The rest of the plants on the other side of the house are fine.

Bill replies...

If you purchased all your Laurel Plants at the same time Sam and they were all healthy it could well be that the plants which are curling just on one side of your house could be suffering from the effects of herbecide/weedkiller damage and only a tiny drift can cause leaves to curl.  It could also be something toxic in the soil which is causing the leaf curl and it would be worth checking other plants which are growing in the same region.  It could also be a genetic disorder within the plants which is causing the problem but as mentioned above if all the plants were all healthy when planted this will not be the case.  I would be grateful if you would keep me informed regarding the outcome of the problem and if possible a photograph of the infected plants.

------

Haydn asks...

I have a Laurel hedge established for about 10 years in front of our house. One side of the the hedge faces a main road and on this side of the hedge the leave are turning brown at the edges and some have holes in them. On the other side of the hedge (the house side) the leaves appear to be normal in colour and no brown edges or holes. Whats the problem please?

Bill replies...

There are a number of reasons why the leaves of your Laurel are browning around the edges Haydn and quite a number will relate to the hedge running along side a main road.  If the road has been gritted due to frosty weather there could well be salt deposits on the leaves which will cause scorching.  Browning of the edges is also caused by wind burn - which again if the road is built up with houses on both sides this has the effect of channelling the wind and there is also the general pollution from car exhaust fumes.  I am sure that during the summer months new shoots will appear but I am afraid that which evergreen hedge you choose to plant there will always be the problems I have mentioned above.

------

Sue Halliwell asks...

We planted a laurel hedge (2/3ft tall) late last year around the perimeter of our corner plot.  We have noticed that the leaves on the plants have gone brown around the edges and wondered if this was due to the recent storms/high winds as the site is quite open but not waterlogged.  We are not quite sure what to do about this and would really appreciate your advice. Thank you.

Bill replies...

The browning on the leaves of your Laurel is I am sure windburn damage Sue.  This has proved to be quite a problem this year on both Laurels and a wide range of evergreen hedges.  The main reason for this is that this year's mild winter has caused the lush growth on the shrubs and the recent cold winds and cold spell has caused the browning of the leaves.  You will however find that during the summer months your Laurel will recover and the new leaves/shoots will be fine.

------

David Bright asks...

My laurel hedge seems to being eaten by something as there are a lot of chunks out of the leaves. The hedge looks good apart from this.

Bill replies...

It is difficult David to pinpoint which pest is causing damage to your Laurel Hedge but, there is a good chance it could be the adult Vine Weevil.  The tell tale signs are there - chunks and notches eaten out of the leaves - and the Vine Weevil attacks a wide range of shrubs such as Camellias, Laurels and Rhododendron and the Weevil is approximately half an inch long, has a pointed nose and is black in colour and they are nocturnal which means that you will have to go out late in the evening with a torch to see them.  If you do see them you can catch them in your hand and disperse of them.

------

Margaret Bleakley asks...

I have a laurel hedge at the front of my garden facing the road (cul de sac) so not a lot of traffic. The hedge is approx 40+ years old and was very healthy until last year when I noticed dieback in a small section. This year another section has the same dieback though there is a healthy section separating these diseased sections. The hedge appears to have dried out. The bark peels off easily to reveal small perforations. I fear honey fungus. I had the small garden landscaped last April - ornamental stones and small shrubs on black plastic (not perforated). Could my problem stem from the change to the garden ie from lawn and border to stones? I should add that in this small garden I also have a lovely, presently healthy, Japanese cherry tree. There had been a second cherry tree in the garden but I had it cut down and am concerned that the stump may be the cause of the problem ie source of honey fungus? Roads Service have also place a gritting box on the footpath beside the hedge and it has been suggested that the salt from it may be responsible. Perhaps there is too much competition for water in the garden or drainage has been affected by the change from grass to stones? I don't want to lose the hedge which grows very close to the natural stone wall boundary. Hoping you can provide a solution.

Bill replies...

Many thanks for your question Margaret which I have dissected.  You mention Honey Fungi (Armillaria Root Rot) which attacks a wide range of shrubs and trees and the symptoms are a white fungal growth near ground level, stands of fungal growth are found on the roots similar to black boot laces and amber toadstools are found at the base in the autumn time.  Regarding landscaping your front garden the black plastic should have been perforated - which will allow the rain to penetrate into the soil.  It could well be that if your garden is on a slight slope the rain could just be running off to one part of the garden - restricting water to your Laurel Hedge.  The die back of your Laurel could also have been caused by last year's very warm summer which has caused die back of a number of shrubs and hedges.  I feel that it would be worthwhile Margaret for you to contact a local tree surgeon who will be able to give you on the spot advice as to whether your Laurel Hedge is suffering from Honey Fungal Disease.

------

Janet Salisbury asks...

I bought a medium sized cherry laurel at Easter.  The leaves are turning yellow and dropping off.  Why is this?  I also bought a small spotted laurel and that has died.

Bill replies...

I am sure that the yellowing of the leaves on your Cherry Laurel Janet is down to this year's adverse weather conditions and poor root formation and I feel that if the weather conditions do improve your Laurel plant should recover.  Regarding your Spotted Laurel (Aucuba Japonica) if you purchased a container grown plant from a reputable Garden Centre they should replace your plant.

------

Linda Ferguson asks...

Please can you help we have moved into a new house which has a very old laurel bush hedge in it, we have noticed that part of the large trunk is covered in a green algal mould, what should we do to treat it or will if have to be cut out?

Bill replies...

There has Linda been quite a large amount of algal growth on a wide range of trees this year due to the very damp and moist conditions but, it will not harm your Laurel Bush and, if we do have a reasonably dry period of weather you should be able to brush off the dry algal mould which is on the trunks.  There is nothing that you can use which will keep the mould under control with damaging your hedge.  If you feel that your Laurel Hedge is getting too large you can prune back hard into the old wood and it will shoot again and the time for doing this is early springtime.

------

Fiona Weissgerber asks...

In February I planted a row of prunus laurocerasus in our front garden to create a hedge. At the moment, they are shedding leaves like mad and almost look like bare plants. Is this normal and will they shoot up again as the warmer weather comes?

Bill replies...

Two reasons why your Cherry Laurels (Prunus Laurocerasus) could be losing their leaves Fiona is waterlogging of the soil - Laurels do not like very wet conditions - or, with your hedge being newly planted they could be suffering from underwatering especially if they were bare rooted plants.  If the soil is not waterlogged you will need to keep an eye on the watering until the plants are established.  If the stems and shoots are still green they should break into leaf again.

------

Phil Turner asks...

In about Aug/Sept 2005, I planted a hedge of cherry laurel.  Last year (even through the drought) it progressed nicely, but last November I noticed that several showed signs of leaves yellowing, and one has died completely.  A few, however, are still looking healthy.  If the problem is root rot, is there any treatment that will save those where the leaves are only less green than they should be? If it is not root rot, what other problem could it be, and what do I do? Many thanks.

Bill replies...

The yellowing of the leaves is a symptom of soil water logging Phil and I would check your soil conditions to see if this is occurring.  I also feel that it would be worthwhile to give your Laurel an added boost by applying a base fertiliser to your soil - such as Vitax Q4 - Grow More or Fish Blood and Bone Meal.  You mention the drought conditions of last year and this has had diverse effects on a number of trees and shrubs and has caused the dieback of quite a few of the adventitious roots which, in turn, having a weaker root system - coupled with wet conditions - could quite easily have contributed to the the yellowing of the leaves.

------

Denisa asks...

I have just purchased 7 approx 6ft tall laurels for hedging. While they are all tall, some of them are not that bushy. How do I encourage them to increase in width relatively quickly?

Bill replies...

What you can do Denisa to encourage your Laurels to bush out is to cut out the growing point as this will encourage side shoots and increase bush formation.

------

Helen asks...

We are just about to plant a Laurel hedge (Prunus Laurocerasus) and it is intended that it will grow to about 7 ft for complete privacy. As we want this complete privacy within 2-3 years we are planting 4-5 ft plants. The plan is to plant 1 metre apart in a straight line, however would we be better off zig zagging the plants? The advice we have been  given is that zig zagging the hedge will make it very wide, difficult to prune when tall and will not improve privacy in 3-4 years time? Can you advise us please?

Bill replies...

I like your choice of hedge Helen, Laurels do make an ideal evergreen hedge and will give you complete privacy but I would not recommend the method of zigzagging, you are far better planting in a straight line.  Regarding the spacing - I would be inclined to plant slightly closer than one metre - approximately 70-80 cm and during the spring/summer months until your hedge gets established you will need to keep an eye on the watering and I would also give a dressing of a general base fertiliser.  On pruning it is important to use a sharp pair of secateurs - this will stop bruising of the young shoots.

------

Peter asks...

We planted a rotundiflora laurel hedge, 15 plants about 6 feet tall, in early spring.   They were planted in a trench filled with compost soil mix, and have been well watered at least weekly.  Lots of new growth but several branches have recently died back entirely. When pruned off there is a dark brown core that looks dead inside the white/green live wood.  Any diagnosis and advice would be appreciated

Bill replies...

Planting a six foot Laurel Hedge can be difficult to establish Peter taking into account this year's hot summer months and if your Laurels were open transplants they could quite easily have had a check to the root system and during the summer months they would have needed watering at least twice a week.  I am however sure that the main cause for the die-back of some of the branches is the difficulty in establishing six foot plants and I personally feel Peter that if you need to plant any more Laurels you would be far better using smaller plants ie eighteen inches/two feet tall.  These will be far easier to establish and Laurels being quite a vigorous plant that in two to three years you will have an established hedge.  Regarding your plants I am quite sure you will get some new shoots appearing from base level.

------

Roger Devlin asks...

Can you help me with my Laurel Hedge problem? The hedge is mature, about 20 years old, 8 foot high and requires regular heavy pruning to keep under control. It is planted by a 4 foot high wall in a clay soil and one side is south facing. Each summer I find that the new shoots and leaves are curling, have brown spots and a white mildew coating. Spraying with a rust and mildew treatment seems to help but could I improve the conditions to make it more resistant by perhaps giving it a good fertilizer and something to counteract the lime of the wall or do I have a more serious problem?

Bill replies...

Regarding the white mildew on the leaves of your Laurel Roger I would keep spraying with a fungicide spray but, I would alternate the sprays used and there are a number of fungicide's available on the market, such as Dithane 945, Systhane Fungus Fighter and Tumble Blight.  Regarding using a fertiliser I would recommend a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal or Vitax Q4.  The cause of leaves curling on your hedge could have been lack of water during the early springtime which has caused your leaves to curl, water availability is always problematic with Laurel Hedges which are south facing and close to a wall. Laurels prefer to grow in a slightly shady area.

------

Carol Jackson asks...

What is causing the leaves on a laurel hedge to go yellow and drop off?  The volume of leaves going yellow is considerable and need picking off weekly.  The hedge has been in approximately 12-18 months.  It is watered on a regular basis and not left to dry out.  It does however get a lot of wind as it is not shielded.

Bill replies...

One of the main reasons Carol for the leaves on newly planted Laurel Hedges yellowing this year is due to the very high rainfall and cold conditions over the past twelve months.  I am afraid that there is virtually nothing that you can do at the present time but, would suggest top dressing the soil with Super Phosphate in early springtime which will encourage new root growth and, late springtime I would then apply a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal or GrowMore.

------

Karen Holland asks...

My husband planted about 40 laurel trees in our back garden, they are of about 5ft in height. Our garden backs on to a field which was very waterlogged at the time, the leaves are very droopy and some have turned brown. Are they dead or will they come back in the summer?

Bill replies...

If the field is constantly waterlogged throughout the winter months Karen I am afraid that it is going to be very difficult for your Laurels to survive and if it is at all possible you need to try and drain the excess water away from your hedge.  Your hedge is showing the classic symptoms of waterlogging - yellowing, drooping and browning of the leaves.  Long term you may need to plant trees such as the Willow (Salix Alba) which can be coppiced back but will survive very wet conditions.

------

Angela Horsley asks...

We have bought a new house which has a laurel hedge on one boundary. Although not more than about five feet high, it has grown very wide. How hard can we prune this hedge and what is the best time to do this? Your advice would be much appreciated. Many thanks.

Bill replies...

Spring time Angela is when you need to prune your Laurel Hedge and you can prune it quite hard. Avoid using a pair of shears as these can easily damage the young shoots - you are far better using a sharp pair of secateurs and for the large branches a sharp pruning saw.

------

Nick Leader asks...

I have very large laurel in my back garden, when new shoots appear they get a white mildew on them, curl up get brown spots which fall disappear the leaves then disintegrate. This has happened now for the last 3 years have you any ideas please?

Bill replies...

You will need to spray the leaves of your Laurel Nick with a fungicide and the one I would recommend is Dithane and, you will need to give the leaves a thorough spray but do not spray in direct sunlight as this will cause scorching of the leaves.

------

Bob Stocks asks...

I have a long not very high laurel hedge. The hedge cutters I use cut the leaves in half. Can you suggest a electrical trimmer and what width cutting blade is best?

Bill replies...

It is important when you prune Laurel Hedges Bob that you do cut the stems and branches with a sharp pair of secateurs/hedging shears as otherwise you can easily damage to shoots which will turn black.  Regarding electrical hedge trimmers I am sorry but I am unable to recommend specific commercial brands and would suggest you seek advice from Garden Machinery Suppliers/DIY Stores.

------

Mrs Craven asks...

We have a laurel hedge on the boundary of our property and our neighbour has asked us to remove it because she says it is diseased and smells.  The laurel itself appears healthy with strong growth, and we cannot detect any smell from it. However, some leaves have a crinkly, rippled disfigured appearance. This does seems more prevalent on new growth. The leaves eventually curl up, and get holes where it appears to be eaten away. Any ideas on what this could be? We're concerned out neighbour may make a fuss about this and we do not want to remove the hedge if this is a pest problem rather than a disease. Many thanks

Bill replies...

I would check carefully the leaves of your Laurel Hedge Mrs Craven as the holes could quite easily have been caused by caterpillars and if the edges of the leaves have been eaten away this could quite easily be Weevil/Vine Weevil. I have over the years examined numerous Laurel Trees and non have had a pungent smell and it may be something else in the garden which is causing the smell.  If some of the shoots of your Laurel are badly disfigured and wrinkled I would be inclined to cut these out using sharp secateurs. 

------

Ian Sinha asks...

We had a (2ft) portuguese Laurel Hedge planted for us in May replacing an old died out conifer hedge. I don't think any slow release was added at that time. Quite a few of the plants have developed wrinkling of new growth with round yellow spots in the foliage leading to brown/black holes to the leaves. The plants don't look generally waterlogged (yellow) however we did have periodic torrential rain after planting for some time. Do you think this is possibly shothole or other disease? and what would be the best remedial measure?

Bill replies...

It looks Ian as though your Laurel tree leaves are suffering from Shot Hole Disease as the symptoms are brown spots on the leaves which then turn into small holes.  It would be worthwhile giving your hedge an added boast by applying a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal or GrowMore to the soil as the disease does tend to attack weak plants.  Unfortunately there is no fungicide spray which will cure the problem.

------

Bex McAllister asks...

How close to my neighbour's boundary do I plant my 3-4 ft laurel hedge? I know the spacing between plants is about 1 1/2 feet but I'm not sure of the distance to leave between ours and the neighbouring properties and how do I mow the grass alongside my new "yet to be planted" hedge? I've never planted a hedge before.

Bill replies...

Between your neighbour's boundary and your garden Bex you will need to have approximately a three foot strip of bare soil and it is within this three foot strip that you will need to plant your Laurel Hedge.  Throughout the summer months you will need to keep an eye on the watering and I would also apply a general base fertiliser to the soil. Regarding the grass along the side of your hedge with having a three foot strip of bare soil you will be able to have a straight edge on which you will be able to mow your grass. 

------

Alex Payne asks...

We planted a cherry laurel hedge in our front garden a few months ago and after initally seeming fine the plants (about five feet in height) have started to develop yellow leaves - some of which have little holes in them. Am I not watering enough or do you think they might have a disease? Many thanks for your help and congratulations on your website - it is very useful!

Bill replies...

Laurels do not like being overwatered but with your hedge being newly planted you will need to keep an eye on the watering until the roots have become established in the sub soil.  You will always find with evergreen hedges Alex that they do lose a certain amount of their leaves during the winter months and quite a number of leaves will also start to yellow.  I would not worry too much about this as it is a common occurrence and I am sure that your Laurel Hedge will produce masses of new shoots during the summer months.  I would however give your hedge a boost by applying a slow release fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or Grow More at approximately 140 grams per square metre.

------

Ken Walker asks...

We have a very nice, leafy Laurel tree which is in constant shade, and growing very well and is also sheltered from our North East winds. It is about 10 feet tall at present and I would like to transplant it to try to hide my neighbours recently built garden shed. The new position is a non-shaded and less protected location. Would it continue to grow well and when would be the time to do a transplant. Also, I would like to restrict the height to what it is now. Could I then take a cutting to allow a replacement to start in the original position.

Bill replies...

With regard to your ten foot Laurel Tree Ken I would be very reluctant to try and transplant it and you are going to be far better planting two to three feet container grown Laurels to hide your neighbours recently built garden shed.  You can take cuttings from Laurels and this can be done late Summer time but the cost of new Laurel plants two the three feet high are not that expensive and as mentioned above I would be inclined to use two to three feet plants.  The variety I would use (which would grow very quickly) is Prunus Laurocerasus - Cherry Laurel.

------

Andrew Bushen asks...

I have just received 100 laurel bare root plants about 2-3 foot high. They were pulled from the ground 6 days ago (11/01/07) but due to horrendous weather it does not look like I will be able to plant them until about 19/01/07. Will they be ok and should I use fertiliser when I plant them?

Bill replies...

What I would do Andrew is to dig a trench in a shady part of your garden and heal your barerooted plants into the trench until you are ready for planting them, and you would be far better waiting until weather condition improve.  Regarding adding fertiliser - a liberal dressing of a general base fertiliser such as GrowMore or Fish Blood and Bone Meal would be beneficial.  When planting ensure that your plants are well firmed down and remember to keep an eye on the watering during the summer months.

------

John Chisholm asks...

I have a Laurel Hedge which was planted in the Spring, on an acre boundary.  The site is very wet and partly waterlogged during the very wet spells we are presently encountering.  The hedge seems to be losing leaves up the main stalks.  Will they improve as the weather improves?  What can I do to strengthen and improve them?  They are each about 2 feet tall, and were purchased as potted plants.

Bill replies...

I am sure John that your Laurel Hedge is losing its leaves due to the water logged soil conditions and what usually happens is the leaves will turn yellow and suddenly drop off the main stems.  Laurels are sensitive to water logged conditions and I feel that long term you need to try and drain the surplus water away from your planted hedge otherwise, I feel that you will continue to lose the Laurel leaves.  Now that your hedge is planted it is a little too late in the day but, White Willow which can be easily coppiced back in the Spring and Alder are more suitable plants for wet soil.

------

Janet Parry asks...

My 6ft high laurel hedge has lots of new heathly growth on it. I noticed today however that large patches of the leaves have curled up and have what looks lke a white substance on them. Can you advise please?

Bill replies...

I would check the leaves which have curled for aphid damage Janet and the white substance which has appeared on the leaves could quite easily be powdery mildew and this can be sprayed with a general fungicide such as Dithane 945 or Systhane Fungus Fighter.

----------

CONIFER

----------

Mrs Tidy asks...

We have just bought a place with 20 ft conifers (not sure if they are Leylandi). The border is around most of the garden, so is nicely enclosed and private. However, there is a gap of about 6-8 foot  which is not covered, right in front of a window, and I want to fill the gap. Can you tell me what size tree to get in order for the gap to be covered as quickly as possible and should I maybe buy 2 or 3, so that once they grow it will be nice and thick coverage?

Bill replies...

To cover the six foot gap in your Conifer hedge you will need Mrs Tidy two large containerised conifers and from a good Garden Centre/Nursery you will be able to purchase two large five to six feet plants.  You will need however to keep the conifers well watered throughout the summer months until they become well established and, as you have suggested the most popular conifer hedge is Leylandii.  You will however need to ensure that you do require Leylandii before purchase.

------

Peter Miles asks...

When I cut the tops off my conifers in early spring, could you tell me if I should treat the top of the conifer, after it has been cut off, (the bare stem), and if yes what with? Thank you.

Bill replies...

You will find that with a majority of trees Peter including your Conifers that there is no need to treat the cut stems with any sealant as the cuts quite easily callous over and therefore there is no need for any compound to be used.

------

Anita Bray asks...

Our Conifer Hedge has developed some bare brown patches.  We have sprayed for aphids which has halted the browning but I have been told it can be sprayed with something to make it green up again.  Is this true and what can be used?

Bill replies...

I am afraid Anita that there is no fertiliser spray available which will green up the brown patches on your Conifer Hedge but, it will be worthwhile to give your hedge a boost by applying a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal, Vitax Q4 or GrowMore around the base of your hedge.

------

Diane Vella asks...

Can you please tell me why I have got brown areas on my conifer hedge? I have been told several opinions. Have you any idea how to cure this as I do not want to lose the hedge as it is our privacy in the garden and I am afraid of losing it.

Bill replies...

There is a soil borne fungal disease (Phytophera) which affects the roots of Conifers Diane and this disease thrives in very moist damp conditions and can cause browning of Conifer Hedges.  Other reasons which can cause browning are wind scorch and clipping of Conifer hedges too far back.  But, the brown areas which you have mentioned are the symptoms of Phytophera and I am afraid that there is no cure for this disease but giving your hedge a dressing of a general base fertiliser should help stimulate the roots.

------

Gary Thorley asks...

I have some well established conifers, approx 8 feet high and around 2-3 ft deep. I have noticed that recently some of the tips seem to be going brown... is there a reason to be concerned?  (basically these hedges surround our garden as we live on a corner plot) Thank you

Bill replies...

The tips of the shoots going brown on your Conifers Gary could quite easily have been caused by the recent adverse weather conditions and I would not worry too much the tips.  It is important though not to trim your hedge back in the autumn time, leaving the shoots unclipped will give some protection to your hedge over the winter months.

------

D J Ashton and Derek Glover ask...

I have a 5ft high castle Llewelyn conifer hedge and have had no trouble with it for the 20 years it's been in but of late one of the conifers has become diseased in some sort of way and is slowly dying and infecting the two conifers to its left and right.  Should I remove the infected conifers and replace with new ones and do you know what the possible cause could be and how do I prevent this spreading or happening again.  I water regularly and feed.

Bill replies...

After consulting with my gardening colleagues we are of the same opinion that the most likely culprit is the soil borne fungal disease Pytophthora and, if you scrape away the tissue at the base of the stem and it reveals a reddish staining it would support the diagnosis.  I am not aware of any cure for this disease with both Conifers and Ericaceous plants being very susceptible.  This disease does thrive in very badly drained and water logged soil.  If you do decide to replace your hedge it would advisable to use Beech - do not replace with new Conifers. To be 100% that your Conifers are suffering from Phtophtyora you have soil sample taken but, this would be very expensive

------

Stephen Roberts asks...

I have just removed conifers plus roots which where acting as a fence to the rear of my property. I have erected a fence which has hawthorns on our garden side.
The conifers where in front of the hawthorns. I have two questions. Will the hawthorns now grow lower down now that the conifers are out of the way? Secondary we have a holly bush about 9 foot tall. Could I dig it out and move it further back in the garden now that the conifers have gone without harming it?

Bill replies...

If you require new shoots to appear from lower down on your Hawthorn Hedge Stephen you will need to cut the main stems back and this needs to be carried out in the autumn time.  If you want a really thick dense Hawthorn hedge you would be far better layering your hedge. Layering will make your hedge more secure and encourage new shoots to appear from a lower level.  There is a National Association of Hedge Laying and throughout the country they hold hedge laying demonstrations.  What I would do is contact your local authority or country parks office who will be able to put you in touch with your nearest local contact. With regard to your Holly Bush, these bushes do not like transplanting and you would need to get a very large root ball if you intend to transplant your Holly

------

Theresa asks...

I have 5 very tall conifers at the bottom of my garden. There is very little sunlight under the branches so what plants do you suggest I can use to avoid bare earth?

Bill replies...

One of the most difficult areas to establish plants Theresa is under the canopy of tall trees - especially Conifers - the area will be full of roots and also very dry as the Conifers will be taking any nutrients out of the soil.  What you will need to do is to fork over the area where the Conifers are growing and try to work in any organic material and if possible new top soil.  The plants I would recommend you try for this difficult area are Hypericum Calycinum, Perrywinkle (Vinca Major) and Hedra Helix.

------

Bryan Pattison asks...

We have  a row of conifers approx 6 feet in height and these are now gradually turning brown and looking withered. These were planted in January this year and we used plenty of compost and watered well initially although they were not watered during the dry spell in March/April. This is the second batch we have planted over the last 18 months in the same place and the same thing happened to the originals and these were destroyed. Have you any ideas why this is happening? and is it too late to save those that have started to turn brown? Thank you

Bill replies...

It looks very much like Bryan that your Conifers have suffered from wind scorch damage and I feel that you would have been far better planting your Conifers end of  March/April time which would have avoided the cold winter months when the damage has occurred.  You mention watering and with any newly planted trees or shrubs during the dry period they will requite watering until established, and the weather conditions over the last few months has not helped your Conifers.  As to whether your Conifers will recover the chances are very slim and if you decide to plant replacement Conifers I would use container grown plants two feet high and plant out March/April time.

----------

YEW

----------

Alister Ramsay asks...

I have an eight year old yew hedge. It is around six feet tall and has been growing well. Over the summer we had eight inches of rain in forty days. Some of the yew plants are now very red-brown. Should I replace these plants or cut them back?

Bill replies...

This does occasionally happen with Yews Alister and is caused by varying weather conditions which we have recently experienced.  You will need to keep an eye on the affected plants but I am sure that next spring they will start to recover and it would be well worthwhile early springtime applying to the soil a liberal dressing of a general base fertiliser.

------

John Painter asks...

I am about to replace a leylandii hedge with a 2 metre yew hedge (separate plants).  I was intending to plant them in a 600mm deep trench with gravel at the base and fresh top soil to bed in the plants.  Any other suggestions? e.g compost/slow release fertiliser. Thanks

Bill replies...

The trench should be ideal John for your Yew Hedge but what you could do is to work into your top soil a small amount of a slow release base fertiliser - such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal, Vitax Q4 base fertiliser or GrowMore.  With your plants being two metres high you will need to ensure that they are well firmed down and keep an eye on the watering over the summer months

------

Damian Walsh asks...

I have a magnificent 100 year old yew hedge which is 30 feet long, 10 foot high and 8 foot wide planted about 12 foot from my house. We are looking to have an extension built but the hedge is in the way. However, we have a perfect place for the yew on the other side of the house. Could we replant such a large hedge and would it survive. There would be proper excavators on the site for the extension, so we could dig very deep around it and dig a large trench for it? Any ideas whether it is possible, and how we could give it the best chance. It would be a tragedy to lose it. Thank you.

Bill replies...

I feel that you are going to need on the spot advice from a qualified Tree Surgeon Damian regarding moving your Yew Hedge.  I feel that even with an excavator on site it is going to be a very difficult task - the hedge being 8 foot wide highlights the difficulties and the chances of success in transplanting are very slim.

----------

GRISELINA

----------

Lynne Turner asks...

I have a Griselina Littoralis Variegata in my garden which looks as if some of the leaves are burnt black any help would be gratefully received.

Bill replies...

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what has caused the blackening to some of the leaves on your Griselina Littoralis shrub Lynne but, the shrub is frost sensitive and any late frost or cold sharp winds will cause some of the leaves to turn black.  I am sure however that during the summer months the new shoots and leaves will be healthy but, if they are still turning black please contact me again through BBC Radio Lancashire and will endeavour to find an answer to your problem.

------

Karen Baker asks...

Last year we planted a griselinia hedge of plants about two feet high. Of about 24 plants 4 died. We have just replaced them but already a couple of the new plants are looking sickly. One in particular has gone very yellow and this one and several others nearby have leaf tips that have gone black. Any idea what the problem is and how we might solve it?

Bill replies...

It is difficult to pin point exactly what has caused four of your Griselinia plants to have died Karen.  The yellowing of the leaves is usually a sign that the plants have suffered a check due to transplanting, by water logged soil conditions and also late frosts could cause blackening of the leaves.  Once the plants have settled down I feel that they should recover and produce new and healthy shoots - providing that they are not growing in very damp and water logged conditions.  If you purchased your plants from a reputable garden outlet I am sure that they will replace the plants.  It may however be also worth looking at the roots of the plants to see of there are any soil borne pests present which are causing your Griselinias to die back.  Griselinias do make a very good hedge and are usually a very tough and hardy plant and hopefully they will recover.

------

Rebecca Homer-Ward asks...

How hard can I prune my griselinia hedge and should I only prune it in the summer?

Bill replies...

Griselinia Rebecca is a very popular evergreen shrub and does make a beautiful hedge and is an ideal plant to use in coastal areas, the leaves will tolerate salt spray.  Griselinias do not like regular pruning but you will have to shorten some of the longer shoots to keep your hedge in shape and also the lateral shoots.  It is just a matter of light pruning to keep the shape of your hedge and the time for pruning is May/June.

----------

BILL'S RECOMMENDATIONS

----------

Ali asks...

I am a keen beginner to gardening, and would like some advice on planting a hedge that would provide a screen for my house from the road.  The area I intend to plant in has clay soil and is sunny all day! What type of hedging would you suggest I plant and how long would it take to grow to approx 8 feet?  Any info would be most useful!

Bill replies...

If your garden is very close to the road Ali I would be inclined to plant the common Privet which will withstand any pollutants from cars, etc. but, if your garden is not too close to the road you could plant a mixture of hedging plants which will grow in heavy clay soil.  These are Berberis Darwinni, Osmanthus Delavayi, Ribes Sanguineum (Flowering Current), Euonymus Japonicus and the Portuguese Laurel (Prunus Lusitanica).  All these species can also be used for an individual hedge.

------

Neil asks...

I would like to plant a hedge around the perimeter of my property and between my neighbour's house measuring approx 60ft long across the front (split by the path) and then 20ft between the houses. It presently is an open plan double front lawn leading to quite a busy road and my neighbour keeps a large trailer in his front garden and is a keen welder of scrap cars in the evenings with his floodlight so of course I would like to shield that off. Because we have a young family and a dog I would like to put something in now that perhaps would reach waist height (I am 6'4") and perhaps a full 6ft between the neighbours and ours. I would like it to keep its leaves in winter. I walk around the estate all the time and I just cannot decide  - a privet or a laurel? I am not too keen on conifers. There are loads of online hedge suppliers but we cannot decide. Please help as I think it may now be the best time of year to plant.

Bill replies...

Of the two hedging plants which you have mentioned Neil I personally would choose the Privet and the reason being that it will be far more tolerant from the pollutants and sparks from the welding of cars next door.  Privet during the 50's and 60's was the dominant hedge used because of its ability to tolerate the smoke given off from factory chimneys and coal fires.  The other alternative would be to erect a large lap fence and on your side of the fence you could plant a range of shrubs and also perennial plants and also have an instant barrier between the two gardens.

------

Pauline Diplock asks...

Please can you suggest some plants for a low hedge to be planted in a brick planter about 25 ft long x 2 ft high x 2 ft wide, to give overall height no more than 5-6 ft and not too much bushy width. This is positioned in front of a stone holiday cottage and forms the garden border, so should afford a degree of privacy to the occupants who are here to chill-out. We are having lots of problems deciding and my husband has been very keen to put up trellis with climbers, but I'm not convinced!

Position: full sun, exposed (to the wind)
Soil: natural clay (but in planter)
Additional requirements: Low maintenance / as much all-year round colour as possible - beginner gardener.

Bill replies...

A plant which would make an attractive hedge Pauline and is trouble free is Rosemary and the variety quite often used is Rosemary Officinallis.  This plant produces pale blue flowers early summertime and will tolerate dry conditions. Another plant similar to Rosemary is Lavender which, again, can be grown as a hedge and I would choose Lavandula Spica Hidcote which grows to a height of three feet and, providing that it is grown in a well drained soil would be an ideal lowing growing hedge.  Your husband mentioned using trellis work for climbers and a recent recruit is the Patio Climbing Roses which grow to a height of approximately six to seven feet and produces masses of flowers throughout the summer.  Popular varieties are Warm Welcome, Nice Day, Summertime and Good As Gold.  If however you want a smaller growing roses for your wall there are numerous Patio Roses which you can plant and these will grow to approximately eighteen inches to two feet tall.  If you want an evergreen shrub to form a hedge I would choose Elaeagnus Pungens Maculata, this is a tough shrub and will grow to a height of approximately eight feet.

------

D. Davidson asks...

The bus stop in my road has recently been re-positioned right outside my house. In the front border there is a Forsythia and a 6' Chamaecyparis pisifera 'boulevard'. Parallel to these is a 4' golden privet boundary hedge. There is space for something else to be planted in the border. Can you suggest anything that could shield me from the gaze of the queue of people waiting to get the bus. Many thanks.

Bill replies...

I feel that you would be far better planting an evergreen shrub in the space available and one that 'fits the bill' is Berberis Darwinii which will grow to a height of approximately eight feet and produces a mass of orange/yellow flowers during the summer months.  Another shrub is the spotted Laurel (Aucuba Japonica) and a shrub grown mainly for its foliage is Elaeagnus Pungens Maculata which has varigated foliage.  If however you are considering another evergreen Conifer I would recommend Thuja Occidentalis Rhein Gold.

------

Suzanne Glover asks...

I have a sloping front garden and would like to plant a hedge along my boundary with my neighbour. What would you suggest? And how would you suggest I prune it given the high degree of slope there is from the road down towards the house?

Bill replies...

If it is going to be very difficult to prune a hedge because of your sloping garden Suzanne I feel that you would be far better planting an informal hedge rather than a traditional hedge which will require more clipping and attention.  For an informal hedge you could plant Berberis Stenophylla which will give a beautiful informal hedge, has arching branches, is evergreen and in the spring produces masses of yellow flowers. Another shrub which you could plant is Spiraea variety Vanhouttei which again produces arching branches and beautiful white flowers.  And, last but not least you could use Lonicera Nitida (Chinese Honeysuckle).

------

David Bull asks...

Our rear boundary fence has been blown over again in the high winds of last winter and we are wanting to replace it with a hedge.  Behind our garden at a slightly lower level is a number of industrial sheds and a circle of private garages.  We want the hedge to be barrier to intruders and a screen to hide the industrial buildings.  The boundary length is 39 foot.  We have initially considered a Yew hedge, due to its dense evergreen nature, planted at approximately 2 foot spacing.  I am slightly concerned by the plant being poisonous and how this may work in a family garden.  We also have a mature hedge to the front, of conifers (unsure of type) and to the rear garden a small Thujia hedge and a Laurel hedge to the side.  I wanted to provide contrast to these with the Yew.  Further information - there are two young holly bushes and a small as yet conifer in the rear boundary that i would look to incorporate into the new hedge.

Bill replies...

Both the leaves and the seeds of Yew are poisonous and I agree with you David that I would not be inclined to use this species of tree in a family garden.  One alternative to Yew would be the common Box (Buxus Sempervivum) which will mature into a fine hedge.  Another alternative would be a mixed hedge row incorporating your two young Holly Bushes along with Hawthorn, Beech, Privet, Hornbeam and one/two species Conifers.

------

Louisa asks...

I would like to plant a tall hedge (4m plus) to hide the builder's yard at the end of my garden.  The plants will need to be planted within 500mm of my new patio and garden wall, so I would like your recommendation for plants that will not disturb the wall in the near future.  The hedge would be west and north facing.  Thanks for your help - I am just starting out gardening!

Bill replies...

To screen the builder's yard Louisa you will need an evergreen hedge and the Laurel Prunus Lustanic (the Portuguese Laurel) or the Cherry Laurel Prunus Lauraceracus are both ideal varieties.  The other tree widely used as an evergreen hedge is Cupressus Leylandii which has had some bad publicity over the years but if you keep it regularly trimmed it will make a very good hedge.  No matter which hedge you decide to grow - growing it to a height of four feet will produce a vigorous root system and you will find that some of the roots will travel under your new patio.

------

Wilma Donaghy asks...

We live in Perthshire on a newish estate and want to plant an evergreen hedge. Beech hedging grows particularly well in this area, but seems to be very slow growing. Do you think Cotoneater Simonsii would make a nice hedge, or will it be very wispy?

Bill replies...

Cotoneaster Simonsii does make a lovely hedge Wilma - it is semi evergreen but, yes you are right it is a little wispy.  However, I would not advise you against using the shrub.  If you want alternative shrubs an evergreen flowering shrub - which makes a very good hedge - is Escallonia Macracantha - and if you prefer a more traditional hedge the Golden Privet (Ligustrum Ovafolium Aureum) is an ideal species and will retain most of its leaves throughout the winter months.  Another evergreen shrub which makes an ideal hedge is the variegated Griselinia Variegata.

------

David Keys asks...

I am building a new house but won't be finished for a couple of years. I would like to hedge the boundary, but due to access for machinery I can't put it in place for a while. Would it be possible to be growing on plants now in large troughs so they can be dropped into a trench when we move in? If so could you recommend some species? Love the website, many thanks.

Bill replies...

Many thanks for your kind words regarding the website David and if I could start with answering your question by recommending some species for hedging.  If you require an informal flowering hedge I would recommend Berberis Stenophylla which will produce yellow flowers in the Spring and has an informal archway habit.  The more upright variety is Berberis Darwinii which produces orange flowers in the Spring - is evergreen - but does have quite prickly leaves.  For the formal hedge I would recommend the ordinary Privet (Ligustrum Ovalifolium) which will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.  If you require a tall boundary hedge I would recommend the Cherry laurel (Prunus Lauocerasus) and the Portuguese Laurel (Prunus Lusitanica) and I personally love a mixed hedgerow which can contain Beech, Holly, Privet, Hornbeam and also the common Honeysuckle.

Regarding your plants I would commence planting in the large troughs in early springtime and you will need to keep your plants well watered and fed during the summer months.

------

Louise Wynne asks...

I would like to plant a hedge in my front garden to stop people staring into my front room, I would like a hedge that is relatively thick and stays a nice green colour - it shouldn't be prickly as I have a little girl and I would like it to be approx 4 ft high, it should also look neat - what type of hedging plant can you suggest for me?

Bill replies...

There are a number of shrubs that make ideal formal hedges Louise but the two shrubs which I feel would be ideal for your garden are either Prunus Lusticana (the Portuguese Laurel) which has a beautiful dark green leaf or Griselinia Littoralis which has a lighter but very shiny green leaf (which is also ideal if you live near the coast).  You will be able to see both the above in the majority of Garden Centres and both will make ideal formal hedges.

------

Jennie Fairclough asks...

We want to plant an evergreen hedge at the front of our cottage to prevent people looking in our lounge. The plot of land to the front of our property is very small and all of our utility pipes are directly below where we propose to plant the hedge. Can you suggest a hedge that is particularly shallow-rooted (and evergreen)? Or would you avoid planting one altogether? If so, do you have any alternative decorative and 'privacy providing' suggestions? Cheers!

Bill replies...

No matter what hedge you plant Jennie you will always find some of the roots will find their way into the utility pipes which can cause major problems at a later date.  I would personally avoid planting a hedge and I would use one of the large larch decorative fencing panels which can also incorporate decorative trellis work at the top of the fencing.  What you can do then using plant containers is to incorporate flowering shrubs and also climbers up the side of your fence.

------

Colin Cooke asks...

I want to plant a mixed hawthorn hedge in my garden. This time of year the soil is generally quite wet in the top 9 inches and below that it can get quite water logged. Will the hawthorn survive and flourish, if not, what will?

Bill replies...

If your ground becomes waterlogged for long periods of time over the winter months Colin you are going to have problems growing Hawthorn, and I would recommend growing two species of Alder - Alnus Glutinosa (the common Alder) which can be copiced to the height you require and - Alnus Incana.  Both these species are ideal for waterlogged conditions.  The other tree I would recommend is the White Willow (Salix Alba) which is a large tree but again, can be pollarded/copiced each year.

------

David Blanchard asks...

Hi, we would like to plant an evergreen hedge, but there is a lot of clay in the soil, what would you recommend?

Bill replies...

There are a number of evergreen hedges which will tolerate a clay soil and are ideal for the North West.  If you require a formal hedge I would recommend the following plants:

Grisselinai Littoralis
Ligustrum Ovafolium (Privet)            
Ilex Aquifolium (Holly)            
Buxus Sempervirens (Common Box)

For an informal evergreen hedge I would recommend:

Berberis Darwini (which produces orange flowers during the summer and berries in the winter).
Escallonia (var Donards Seedling) (var Crimson Spire)

------

Tony asks...

I have recently had to remove a leylandii hedge comprising approximately 85 trees because the neighbours (quite understandably) complained of their excessive height (24ft) and a surveyor claiming that they were linked to subsidence in neighbouring properties. These trees provided an excellent screen. What can I replace them with given that the height I wish to maintain them at is 3.5m.

Bill replies...

If you require a replacement hedge Tony which will grow to a height of 3.5 metres I would recommend the evergreen Laurel.  There are two species which you can use and these are:  The Cherry Laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus) and the Portuguese Laurel (Prunus Lusitanica).  The other species which I would also recommend is the Privet (Ligustrum Ovalifolium) which although not as vigorous as the Laurels will grow on a wide range of soils and in time will make a fine hedge.  Before planting if at all possible I would work into the soil some well rotted manure and also a general feed with a base fertiliser.  The Leylandiis will have exhausted the soil of nutrients.

------

Mark Stringer asks...

Our neighbour is building two houses in his garden and we would like to obscure the houses whilst in our garden once they are built. We have clay soil and one area is adjacent to a 6 ft fence the other is just open soil. We do not anticipate the houses being completed for about two years. Can you suggest fast, thick growing hedges please. We would like a height of 8-14 feet and 20 foot width.

Bill replies...

The obvious plant to use to screen the two houses Mark would be Cupressus Leylandii which is one of the quickest growing hedges but, you would need to keep it under control and I would personally restrict the height to eight to ten feet and it will need regular clipping.  The  other evergreen hedge which will grow reasonably quickly is the Laurel and the most popular Laurel is the Cherry Laurel Prunus Laurocerasus.  Whichever plant you decide to use I would try and work into your clay soil as much organic material as possible to improve the texture.

------

Mary Pearson asks...

I will be planting an informal evergreen hedge in the spring and thought a mixture of Escallonia, Sweet Bay, Cotoneaster Lactius and or Viburnum Eve Price or Photinia. The length of the garden is approximately 16ft. Are using some of these shrubs a suitable choice? Many thanks

Bill replies...

I love informal hedges Mary and your choice of shrub species are ideal - Escallonia is one of my favourite informal shrubs and the Hybrid Strain Apple Blossom is a lovely hedging plant.  The Photinia Red Robin will give the vibrant red colour and the berries from Cotoneaster Lactius will encourage bird life.  Viburnums and the Sweat Bay are also ideal hedging materials.  When your hedge is well established Mary I would appreciate if at all possible that you forward to me at BBC Radio Lancashire a photo which we can place on our website

------

Caroline Sanderson asks...

I would like to plant a hedge up to about 3' 6'' tall. It would go against an open low fence. It would be for privacy and road noise reduction. It would be in front of our house and would be 50' long. Almost the full width of our plot. The distance between the fence and front of the house varies from 6' in front of the porch to 12', so the hedge couldn't be too wide and imposing. Our house is about 30' above road level and overlooks a valley so is fairly exposed. I would like something fairly dense and nothing prickly. Please could you suggest a suitable evergreen or evergreen combination. Thanking you.

Bill replies...

Whichever evergreen shrub you use Caroline with your house being very exposed I feel that you will have problems with wind scorch damage and you may be better using a combination of shrubs rather than relying on one species.  Listed below are some suggested species:

Tamerix Tetrada, Escallonia Macrantha, Escallonia Donards Seedling, The Daisy Bush, Oleria Hassti, Eleagnus Ebbingi, Verburnum Tinus and Grisilinia Litolaris.

Some of these shrubs will grow more than 3' 6'' but they can be pruned back.

------

Tracey asks...

We have just moved into a new property and as there is a locally used footpath along the side of our garden I would like to plant a hedge to gain some privacy. We currently only have an old ugly chain link fence about 1 metre high. I would ideally like something that flowers in spring/summer but has some degree of privacy still in the winter. I love hawthorn in the spring and would like to plant something to feed and house the birds too. Do you think a mixture of evergreen and deciduous hedging would work and what mixture/ratio would you recommend? Also we don't want the hedge to be too high - eye level max so we still get the light and see the lovely trees in the fields! We will only be here for about 3 years so it would be nice if we could plant something that wont take half a lifetime to grow too! Many thanks :-)

Bill replies...

One of the problems you could have Tracey by using Hawthorn as a boundary hedge to divide your garden from the local footpath is that a) you will be responsible for keeping the hedge clipped and b) you could be liable if anyone walking by is scratched by the hawthorn thorns.  I would therefore be inclined to err on the side of caution and if you do require a natural flowering hedge I would recommend Escallonia Macrantha or Escallonia/Apple Blossom.  If you would like a mixed hedgerow I would suggest Privet, Escallonia, Beech and Hornbeam and if you need a quick growing evergreen hedge I would use the Portuguese Laurel (Prunus Lusitanica).

------

Julie Campbell-Cann asks...

I would like to plant a new hedge to seperate the end part of my driveway that leads into the rear garden. The ground is hard with top gravel and there seems to be rubble underneath the gravel.  Is this a lost cause or could I plant a hedge that would be helpful to wildlife and if so, how and what mix could I plant that is good for wildlife, attractive and fairly fast growing. Many thanks

Bill replies...

If there is only rubble underneath the gravel Julie and no top soil it is going to be an impossible task for you to plant a hedge.  There are however quite a number of shrubs which are very attractive and will encourage wildlife and can be grown in larger containers and wooden planters.  If you decide to try this method I would use a soil based compost and listed below are some shrubs which can be easily grown:

    Buddleia Davidi (Butterfly Bush), Fatsia Japonica (The False Castor Oil Plant),
    Yucca Filamentosa, Berberis Darwinii, Aucuba Japonica (Varigated Laurel).

------

Sandra Mousley asks...

I have inherited a 20 foot high zigzagged double row dark green leylandii hedge on the boundary of my back garden.  This is on the north side of the property - which I moved into just over a year ago.  I want to replace it with a wildlife friendly mixed hedge, which ideally will give me some colour in Spring/Autumn.  However, I also need shelter and privacy from the infants school playground which is the other side of a small green lane that runs behind this hedge.  The playground has been built up on a soil platform to be level, so that it runs from about 12ft on the right hand side of my back garden to about 15ft on the left, whereas the garden itself slopes downhill. Behind the monster hedge is a low concrete post-and-wire fence which marks my boundary and behind that again is a 6ft wooden fence belonging to the education authority.  The leylandii hedge has been planted in a raised bed about 6ft deep fronted by a low wall.  (The backgarden is paved in with raised beds at the back and sides). The soil in this rear bed looks very poor, dry and full of bricks and rubble - even though the house is 50 years old.  I have read through the answers to previous questions on mixed, informal and evergreen hedges with interest.  However, even though I am new to gardening, I realise that any replacement hedge providing the requisite 20-25ft height to give privacy, but which needs any kind of regular trimming will be no good to me, without scaffolding and a small army of gardeners.  Therefore, I think it would be better to plant a couple of trees which would eventually grow trunks to the height of the wooden fence and 'lollipop' heads above it, and which would stop growing naturally around the 25ft mark.  The area in between could take a mixture of lower growing shrubs suggested in your previous answers.  Is this the best solution? - and can you please recommend some suitable small garden trees?  (There is already a strangulated lilac, and a clematis growing through the top of the leylandii, and the remains of a laurel bush at one end - which must all have been there when the leylandii were planted). 

Bill replies...

You certainly have a mammoth gardening task Sandra and the more I read your question the more I am inclined to recommend planting a copse of trees and shrubs but once you have cut down your Leylandii Hedge and before you start planting you will need to incorporate a general base fertiliser and if possible plenty of organic material such as farm yard manure.  The Leylandiis will  have taken all the nutrients from the soil.  You mention trees growing to approximately twenty five feet and quite a few of the Sorbus Family fall into this category and, the one I would recommend is Sorbus Aucuparia - which has bright red berries.  You could also use Sorbus Aria Intermedia.  If you require an evergreen tree I would suggest the Laurels - Prunus Laurocerasus and also the Portuguese Laurel.  You will need to underplant with shrubs and I would recommend using some of the Viburnums - Virburnum Opulus, Vibrunum Bodnantense and, there is also the variagated Laurel Aucuba Japonica and quite a number of Rhododendrons will tolerate shady conditions.

------

John Beech asks...

I need a very rapid-growing hedge, but have no idea what to get. To grow to height of approx. 2m withing 18 months. Help!

Bill replies...

One of the quickest growing hedges John is the Cypress Leylandii and provided that you keep the hedge trimmed to two metres they do make a very good hedge.  The other alternative would be the Laurels - Prunus Laurocerasus.  However at this time of year (early April) you would be far better using container grown plants and you will need to keep an eye on the watering during the summer months.

------

Melanie Iles asks...

I would like to plant a mixed evergreen hedge to screen the surround of our driveway from our house. I plan to use Berberis Darwinii, ilex aquifolium, Lonicera nitidia, escallonia Donard seeding mixed with privet - ligustrum Aureum. I'm keen to keep the hedge formal on the drive side but informal and softer on the garden side to blend it in to the rest of the garden. Is this achievable or will the hedge suffer if pruned in this way? Many thanks for your help.

Bill replies...

I like your choice of plant species Melanie but my only reservation would be Escallonia which can suffer if it is pruned back into the old wood.  But provided you lightly prune your hedge on the formal side I am sure all the five species will be fine and once established I would be grateful if you could send a photograph to BBC Radio Lancashire for use on our Web Site.

------

Corinne Ogilvie asks...

I am looking for a security hedge to plant along my property boundary to deter any intruders. Ideally something that can be maintained at around 2m and which won't take too long to reach desired height.  This side of the garden is also quite exposed so something to help with traffic noise and provide shelter if possible too.

Bill replies...

There are a number of shrubs that you can use Corrine which will make ideal hedges and will deter intruders.  If you require an evergreen hedge I would recommend two Berberis species - Berberis Darwinni and Berberis Stenophylla.  Both of these species produce yellow/orange flowers early summer time and the sharp thorns will deter intruders.  You could also use the Holly (Ilex Aquifolium) or last but by no means least the common Hawthorn again, both species will deter intruders and the Hawthorn is quite a vigorous grower.

------

Paul Jordan asks...

I want to plant a Beech / Hawthorn hedge alongside a 4 foot wall. The wall runs from North to South and I'd be planting on the east side. I'm assuming the side facing the wall won't do much until it gets higher than the top of the wall but the side facing me would be ok. Would this work or am I way off track there? If not could you recommend something else fairly informal please. Also how close to the wall would you plant it ? (the soil is fine) Thanks a lot - love the site

Bill replies...

Of the two plants you have mentioned Paul I would plant Hawthorn which, is more manageable, very informal and can be pruned hard back.  Regarding how far away from the wall you need to plant  the Hawthorns, it will to a certain extent depend on how high you want the hedge to grow above your four foot wall. Personally I would not let your hedge grow more than four to five feet above the wall as there is always the danger that the roots will damage the walls foundations but I have seen this method used successfully on many occasions.

------

Lorraine asks...

I want to get rid of road noise at the side of my house. I have planted trees in the past but now need something large and evergreen to grow in between. It is a large area so I am thinking of a mixture of plants. What would you recommend?

Bill replies...

The evergreen trees which I would use Lorraine would be Laurels - Prunus Laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel) which has large shiny leaves and white flowers in April and the Portuguese Laurel - Prunus Lusitanica.  I would also plant one/two conifers - Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana and Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana Fletcheri and if you have a very large garden there are also Cedars and again the one I would choose would be Cedar Atlantica Glauca (the Blue Cedar)

------

Jo Northover asks...

I require a colourful, evergreen, quick-growing hedge in my south-facing front garden (approx 12 foot length) between neighbouring gardens and have decided on Photinia (Red Robin). How many plants will I need given I plan to buy shrubs about 2 foot in height, how do I maintain them from the onset to avoid gaping at the base of the hedge and could I incorporate another berried shrub to create a more informal look and if so, what would be compatible? Excellent site to have found - thank you.

Bill replies...

Photinia (Red Robin) is a lovely shrub Jo and the new red leaves which appear in the spring are certainly outstanding and I feel that Red Robin would compliment other evergreen shrubs you wish to incorporate and listed below are a number of shrubs which you could use:

Berberis Darwinii - yellow/orange flowers in the spring - purple berries autumn time
Euionymus Japonicus Aureus
Viburnum Tinus - small white flowers December-March time

------

Justin Rea asks...

I need to plant a hedge to screen our garden from the road. We want it to be about 7ft in height and it needs to be evergreen and able to withstand an exposed windy sight. Any ideas? We like Laurel but are not sure if it will stand up to the cold winds?

Bill replies...

I have noticed this year Justin that quite a number of Laurel Hedges have suffered from wind scorch damage and with you wanting to plant a hedge near the roadside I am sure you will have problems with Laurel and you may be better planting one of the following hedging shrubs Euonymus Japonicus, Elaeagnus Ebbingei, Grisilinia Litolaris and Escallonia Macrantha.

------

Andi asks...

Our neighbours have a fantastic Berberis Darwinii hedge which has grown well over 10 feet high and is much loved by the birds.  They are now intending to chop it down which will leave us exposed and the birds homeless.  What evergreen could we plant to fill the gap which would be quick growing and attractive to wildlife?  I have considered Escallonia but can't afford it to grow too wide as it borders a patio area.

Bill replies...

Two evergreen hedge plants which you could use Andi would be Privet (Ligustrum Ovalifolium) and Portuguese Laurel (Prunus Lusitanica) or you could be more adventurous and grow a range of evergreen shrubs which will flower - some will produce berries - and will be far more attractive to both bird and wildlife.  Listed below are some examples of species which you can use:

Viburnum Davidii which produces blue berries autumn time
Viburnum Tinuns - clusters of white flowers December to March time
Euonymus Fortunei
Elaeagnus Pungens Maculata

------

Beatrice asks...

I have been procrastinating on the choice of a hedge for my front garden for the last couple of months. The plants I like are : osmanthus burkwoodii - would it look very boring on its own or should I mix it with say laurus nobilis and escallonia apple blossom? If yes in which ratio? Is it possible to make the hedge look tidy rather than informal? Length of hedge : 25m. Position : south east. Fairly sheltered.

Bill replies...

I like your choice of shrubs Beatrice, Osmanthus Burkwoodii is a lovely evergreen shrub and is used frequently as a hedging plant and the spring white flowers are very fragrant.  The Bay Tree (Lauris Noblis) will make a good contrast and Apple Blossom  is also a good variety and one of my favourite flowering shrubs is Berberis Darwinii which again produced some wonderful orange flowers early springtime.  Regarding pruning you will need to prune the Osmanthus Burkwoodii, Apple Blossom and Berberis Darwinii - if you choose to use it - after flowering.

------

Derek Haynes asks...

I am intending to plant a formal hedge in the spring, which I would need to maintain at a height of not more than 2 metres (and of minimal width, say 50cm max). I had considered the Griselinia Littoralis, but believe the exposed site may render it too tender? Prunus Lusticana (Portuguese Laurel) appears to be quite a slow grower, whereas I would prefer something with more rapid ambitions. Have you any other suggestions? Many thanks.

Bill replies...

The two plants you have mentioned Derek do make ideal hedges - Griselinia Littoralis is an ideal maritime shrub and it will tolerate exposed conditions and obviously salt spray. Your other shrub Portuguese Laurel once established will grow quickly and again, it does make a lovely formal hedge.  Other shrubs which make ideal hedges and are evergreen Derek are Berberis Darwinii (which produces a mass of deep yellows flowers during April/May time) and Osmanthus Burkwoodii (which produces a mass of white scented flowers in the Springtime).

----------

EVERYTHING ELSE

----------

Anne Frazer asks...

If I plant a hedge of say 80cm tall quickthorn, how tall will it be in two years time? I want one that will grow up to say 4 metres very quickly on clay and not get a great deal taller.

Bill replies...

I feel that you are asking a lot Anne for your quickthorn hedge to grow over 3m in two years on a heavy clay soil and, if possible, it would be worthwhile to work in any organic material into the clay soil to improve the texture.  With quickthorn I presume you will be planting open transplants/young whips and these will take some time to get established and to ensure that they do bush out you may need to nip the growing shoots out.

------

Paula Aubrey asks...

I have just planted some euonymus japonica aureopictus in a clay soil using some soil improver and compost, will this suffice and how often should the plants be watered initially?

Bill replies...

Euonymus Japonica is ideal for hedging and is very often used in coastal areas as it will withstand salt sprays.  Regarding the type of soils Paula Euonymus will tolerate a wide range of soils but you are correct in using a soil improver and well rotted compost.  Regarding watering - with our present weather conditions - this should not create any problems but, with your Euonymus being newly planted if we suddenly have a late Indian Summer you will need to keep an eye on the watering.

------

Tony Gooch asks...

Aucuba Japonica. We have a hedge of these plants, planted 5 years ago. They were pruned last September and some of the plants look very poorly. The leaves have gone black and limp, they do still have some green stems but not many. Any ideas as to the cause or treatment?

Bill replies...

It is difficult Tony to pinpoint what has caused the leaves of your Aucuba Japonica to go black and limp but, I do feel that you need to remove these leaves and prune back to healthy green shoots and it is important to use a sharp pair of secateurs - otherwise the shoots can easily be damaged.  Regarding pruning it is far better to prune your Aucuba Japonica early springtime and then the shrub has all summer to produce new shoots and leaves.

------

Patrick Gilheaney asks...

I want to plant an alder, alnus glutinosa hedge. When is the best time of year to do this?

Bill replies...

Weather permitting Patrick and providing the ground is not frosty you can plant your Alder Hedge as soon as possible (February) while your plants are still dormant.  Alder is an ideal hedging plant which, can be easily coppiced/cut back when the hedge gets too large and they are an ideal plant for very wet and damp soil.

------

Mike Channon asks...

We are planting a new hedge - Forsythia (Intermedia Spectabilis) around the garden (50m), we have dug the trenches and the where the soil was heavy/clay we are going to mix in compost and sharp sand (non lime) however we have a couple of questions please.

1. How much sand should we mix in where the soil is very heavy?
2. How much water should a new hedge receive a day? - I have laid a dripper cable around and put it on a timer to auto water but want to be sure I don't drown them. Thanks

Bill replies...

I would mix into your clay soil Mike approximately 25% of a sharp grit sand plus compost and any organic material such as well rotted farm yard manure.  With reference to watering your Forsythia Hedge - after planting I would give your hedge a thorough watering and I would apply your automatic watering system when the top two to three inches of the soil looks dry.  If we have another very hot summer this year you will need to keep and eye on the watering but I would refrain from overwatering your hedge - the roots do need to go searching for water.  It would be much appreciated that when your hedge is established you could forward a photograph to BBC Radio Lancashire for use on the Gardening pages.

------

Dave Andrews asks...

I have recently moved into a new house and the front is very open. There are no boundaries between neighbours. I planted 15 buxus plants about 8 inches high, they are growing well but some are tall and thin and some have bushed out a little. I intend to make a 4ft hedge out of them in time but haven't a clue how to prune them to encourage them to grow thicker and uniformly. Please could you advise? I have 17 ft of open space at front of house and intend to put a hedge in there as well. Would you recommend still carrying on with buxus or use privet or something more colourful?

Bill replies...

With new hedges Dave it is impossible for the growth to be completely uniform but, it is advisable to prune back any straggly shoots to encourage branching and as long as your hedge is reasonably uniform I am sure your hedge will be fine.   You will however find that you will always get some vigorous growing shoots and you will have to allow these to grow until they reach the required height (four feet).  If you require a change of hedging at the front of your house you could quite easily use privet which is becoming very popular and if you do decide to use privet I would suggest the Golden Privet (Ligustrum Aureum).

------

Esther Bell asks...

A 2 ft section of a 7ft high lonicera nitada hedge that borders our garden has flopped over in the recent high winds.  The hedge is pretty old, top-heavy in places, woody and scruffy, but I would like to save it if possible as it borders a road.  Can I rescue it by proping it up, pruning hard, or is it too late to save it?  Please help!

Bill replies...

A Lonicera Nitada Hedge like Privet Esther can be pruned back hard early springtime and will produce new shoots and recover and I feel that if your hedge is looking 'worse for wear' and top heavy this would be the best method to use.  I would prune your hedge back 6 to 12 inches from soil level.

------

Pam Barmby asks...

I have mixed hedging down one side of my garden - privet, hawthorn with some lilac at the end. It's all quite old and hard to reach so I have pruned the privet down to 4ft in the hope that I can keep it in check wihtout using a ladder, but because the lilac and hawthorn are both in bud, I dont want to ruin them by pruning at the wrong time (they currently have buds on the top). When is a good time to prune them right down and still ensure flowering?

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Lilac (Syringa Vulgaris) is after flowering Pam and they can stand pruning back quite hard.  Regarding your Hawthorn the correct time to prune is during the dormant period, but to keep the Hawthorn in unison with the Privet it is now getting rather late but I would be inclined to prune it back within the next two weeks (21 March).

------

Simon Glemsford asks...

About two months ago I planted a pyracantha 'orangeglow' hedge. The plants were about 120cm tall. After planting they were all trimmed at the top to be 1 metre tall. My priority is for the plants to bush out as much as possible rather than attain height although I'd like them to eventually be around 6ft high. My question please is when should I trim them again and should I trim from the top or the sides, bearing in mind I want them to bush out as much as possible? Thank you!

Bill replies...

Pyracantha is a lovely evergreen shrub Simon and I am sure that it will start to bush out in time. It  can however become very straggly and you will get long stems protruding from the sides - these will need to be cut back to encourage the hedge to bush out, and I would concentrate on this procedure rather than trimming the hedge from the top.

------

Bruce Collins asks...

We are re-landscaping a garden which is in a flood plain of the Towy Valley. While the garden itself is most unlikely to be flooded, its soil is very damp for much of the year. We would like to grow a new hedge up to two metres in height, and using a shrub/plant which is evergreen, ideally with some variation of colour in the seasons, and which can grow quickly even in rather wet conditions. Is there anything you would recommend?

Bill replies...

It is going to be difficult Bruce for any evergreen hedge to survive in constant wet conditions and, for this reason I feel that you would be far better planting Willows (Salix Alba) which you can coppice back and keep to a height of two feet.  Also, another tree which grows in damp conditions is the common Alder (Alnus Glutinosa) which, again, can be coppiced back.  I also suggest that you could plant in your garden large perennial plants which thrive in wet conditions and, listed are a few examples:

Rodgersia Padophylla
Astilbes
The Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum Palmatum)
Gunnera Manicata
Plus quite a number of the Corus Species (Dog Wood) will also tolerate damp conditions.

------

Jackie Steed asks...

On reading your web site it sounds like we have Honey Dew Fungi in our Privet hedge.  I have also lost two Lilac trees and a butterfly bush.  How can I stop it from spreading.  If I move the plants near the hedge to another part of the garden will I spread the disease in the earth around the plant roots?  Our garden is 200 feet long with Privet hedging on both sides so we do not want to loss it all.  Please can you help me?

Bill replies...

Honey Dew Fungi (Armillaria) attacks a wide range of trees and shrubs Jackie but, I feel that it is important to check whether your shrubs have been infected with this disease and, listed below symptoms which you need to look for.

If your shrubs are infected you will probably find late summer/autumn time amber coloured toadstools up to 15/20 metres cms high around the base of the diseased shrubs and, you will also find strands of white fungal growth.  Another symptom is that close to the soil level and also just beneath the bark, again at soil level, black strands of fungal growth which are similar to boot laces - hence the nickname Boot Lace Fungi. It is important to remove any of these infected dead shrubs and also the roots which, them need to be burnt.  What usually happens to hedges similar to your Privet is that the strands of fungi work along the hedge killing the roots.  It is a very difficult disease to control but there are one or two Honey Dew Fungi solutions which are available at Garden Centres which can help to control but not eleviate the problem.

I would not move any of the plants which are near your hedge to another part of your garden as this could quite easily spread the disease.  There are however certain plants which are reasonably resistant to this disease which are listed below:

Holly, Sumach, Tamarisk, Eleagnus, Clematis, Robinia and Box.

------

Norma Reid asks...

My veronica hedge has been partly eaten by sheep - will it regrow?

Bill replies...

Providing that your Veronica/Hebe Hedge has not suffered too badly by the greedy sheep Norma I feel sure that your hedge will recover.  Veronicas will tolerate a wide range of soils providing that it is not too alkaline and badly drained but I am afraid that I am not aware of any deterrent which will keep the sheep at bay.

------

Douglas Fearn asks...

I have a 10 metre Lawsoniana cypress hedge about 3-4ft high, been in for 3-4 years. I would like to replace with a green leylandii but think easiest way would be to plant a row of leylandii along the front of these Lawsoniana, as removing them could be difficult. would I be okay to do this and basically have a double hedge? Also what spacing should I plant at? Many thanks

Bill replies...

It is Douglas going to be difficult to remove your Lawsoniana Hedge but you can as you suggest transplant a row of green Leylandii in front.  However, the problems which will arise are that you are going to have two vigorous hedges - especially the Leylandii - competing for nutrients and water and the Leylandii in time will outgrow and shade your Lawsoniana Hedge.  I would wait until the autumn before planting your Leylandii but as I have said above this hedge will suppress your existing hedge.

------

Mike Mitchell asks...

I have had a box hedge for over 14 years and until last year everything was fine. However since last year and this year parts of the hedge are dying off; its as though no moisture or food is being drawn into the parts effected. A friend says it may be caused by cats/dogs urination on certain parts of the hedge but I doubt that as I had no problems with the hedge for over 12 years. Can you please advise.  Thank you.

Bill replies...

There is Mike a fungi disease commonly known as Box Blight as this disease causes die back to Box Hedges.  I am however sorry that there is no cure for this problem at the present time but it would be advisable to feed your hedge with a general base fertiliser to try and rejuvenate new growth. Another cause for the die back of your hedge could be Honey Fungus commonly known as the Boot Lace Fungi and you can find information regarding this disease on this page.

last updated: 19/05/2008 at 11:09
created: 23/10/2006

You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Hedges



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy