Thin, miserable, bare at the base and sparse
are all terms to describe a lot of Ulster garden
hedges. Neglect is often to blame, where weeds
and grass have been allowed to grow and smother
the lower branches. When planting a hedge it
is essential the plants are cut back by half
after planting. This pruning will encourage
them to produce side
shoots which thicken the bottom of the hedge.
Animals and small humans have a habit of taking
a short cut and where the same spot is constantly
used it soon becomes a gap. Old boundary field
hedges are usually
full of gaps with no vegetation close to the
soil. This is a good time to gap up filling
the spaces with new plants. There will be a
lot of competition from existing hedge roots
so make every effort to form a decent planting
hole and add bone meal and compost to give the
young plants a good start. Where there are weeds
spray with glyphosate weedkiller. It will not
harm bare stems without leaves.
Hedges that are mainly hawthorn and blackthorn
can be made more colourful and interesting by
adding Rosa rugosa. It has large red-purple,
summer flowers followed by tomato-shaped, bright
red hips in autumn. It is thorny enough to deter
holly (Ilex aquifolium) and spindle (Euonymus
europaeus), together with honeysuckle are good
hedge fillers. The holly provides evergreen
foliage, berries for
colour and bird food. The spindle will light
up the hedge with scarlet autumn leaf colour.
adds fragrance and is loved by insects. Informal
flowering hedges of escallonia and berberis
can be gapped up with more of the
the varieties the same to prevent the finished
hedge looking like a patchwork quilt.
Leyland screens are often bare at the base.
Before planting it will be necessary to dig
over the soil and water the area. Surface roots
can be removed. Check that the water has penetrated
the soil for at least 9 inches. Once planted
the fillers will require regular watering as
rain can’t penetrate the evergreen canopy.
Try planting Lonicera nidita
‘Baggeson’s Gold’. It is evergreen
with small, bright yellow leaves and can tolerate
impoverished, dry soil.
Evergreen perennials and bulbs planted under
the hedge will add to the display.