The expression “cutting the garden hedge” will be synonymous for many gardeners with “taming the wild beast” and will bring back memories of Sunday afternoons spent wrestling with monster privet or leylandii hedges. If you are lucky enough to own a decent hedge trimmer and pair of loppers, your task will have been made somewhat easier, but will still have been one of those big gardening jobs that keeps getting put off.
There are many smaller low maintenance shrubs which make great hedging plants – they might not give the privacy of a towering 10 foot privet hedge but where the main purpose of your hedge is to have a neat dividing line between you and your neighbour, the shrubs listed below will do just fine and will often give a more picturesque view than the classic hedge.
One important thing to consider before choosing your smaller hedge shrub, is whether to buy a broad leaf or small leaf variety. If you prefer a neater formal look then smaller leaf varieties will be better since these are easier to trim into that “knife edge” look. For a less formal finish and for gardeners who really want minimal maintenance then choose a broad leaf variety.
Varieties of Broad Leaf Low Maintenance Hedging Plants
LAUREL: Latin name Prunus
The laurel is commonly seen as a large hedge, however it is relatively slow growing and can be kept low much more easily than the privet. A similar alternative to the laurel is a shrub called aucuba. This is an even better choice for a slow growing hedge and a variegated variety is often available from garden centres.
The griselinia plant is a real beauty with eye-catching shiny egg shaped leaves often decorated with cream markings. This shrub has tough pest resistant leaves and is the perfect choice for a slow growing hedge. Unfortunately for reasons that I can’t comprehend this isn’t such a popular plant and can be quite hard to find. Although nowadays even if they aren’t stocked by your local garden centre you should be able to buy them from an online hedge plant seller.
The euonymus and a similar species the elaeagnus are also ideal candidate for low maintenance garden hedges. Although these shrubs have smaller leaves than the laurel, aucuba and griselinia species, I haven’t categorised them as small leafed varieties since they do not give the sought after knife edge finish when trimmed frequently. Both the euonymus and elaeagnus can be trimmed to a very low level; this together with their beautiful variegated leaves and general hardiness make them an ideal choice for a low level easy hedging plant.
Varieties of Small Leaf Low Maintenance Hedging Plants
YEW: Latin name taxus baccata
The yew shrub’s inter-locking tiny leaves create an eye-catching focal point in any garden. A mature well-trimmed yew hedge will certainly make you the envy of your neighbours! The yew is slow growing and needs minimal maintenance. If left unpruned in spring it will produce lovely red berries – beware though as they are poisonous.
BUXUS – Box
The buxus or box hedge really needs no introduction. This is the shrub of choice for topiary enthusiasts and can be trained into the most fantastic shapes, many examples of which are on proud display in the gardens of stately country homes. Box hedges make fantastic neat low growing hedges and can be trimmed to almost millimetric precision – ideal for the even the most fastidious of gardeners. Although relatively hardy and low maintenance, buxus shrubs are susceptible to box blight, so choose the B.microphlla variety if possible as this is generally more resistant. Quarantine any new box plants for at least four weeks before introducing them into your garden.
All of the above varieties of hedging plants can be kept in check with a simple pair of secateurs or hand held shears – so you can say good bye to your noisy and heavy power hedge trimmer!