Landscaping with hedges is a no-brainer when it comes to adding easy structure to your yard, whether it's a soft natural screen, smart edging for paths and borders, helping to divide up spaces or adding a clipped eye-catching feature.
Depending on the variety you choose hedges can add a dark, dense backdrop that's perfect for colorful borders to pop against, while low hedges are ideal for dividing up spaces and adding definition to break up planting. To mix things up you can get flowering hedges and varieties with colored leaves, and it goes without saying that birds love them, especially the ones laden with berries.
It's a good idea to strike a balance between evergreen and deciduous species in your landscaping ideas if you have the space. Evergreens are effective year-round screens, but can look a bit dark and gloomy in winter, while deciduous hedges filter light for most of the year, and offer seasonal color, too. Either way they're unbeatable to add to the mix.
14 expert ways of landscaping with hedges
Beautiful in summer providing a backdrop to planting, in autumn, the best hedging plants add injections of color that lift a gardens as flowers fade. In winter, hedges provide an architectural quality set off by the starkness of the light.
'I often use hedges rather than walls to create the three dimensional framework of a garden,' says garden designer Amanda Patton. 'They're softer and, with the right varieties, hugely beneficial to wildlife as they provide shelter, food and nesting opportunities.
'Hedges are also much cheaper to install than walls, even if planted semi-mature, so are a cost-effective way of creating spaces and enclosures within a garden setting.' This makes them ideal as part of your cheap landscaping ideas if you're transforming your yard on a budget.
1. Smarten up your front yard with a clipped hedge
Including smart clipped hedges as part of your front yard landscaping ideas will help to frame the entrance to your house. Choose varieties that look good all year round, are multi-purpose and need only light snipping to keep them tidy.
A variety of hedge that ticks all the boxes is the classic privet. It's tough, easy to grow and easy to keep in check. Another option is boxwood. Plant it as either a low hedge, to edge the path to your door, or to plant up in containers for the porch. It also works as a boundary if you choose taller varieties.
Landscaping with boxwood works whether you like classic or contemporary designs, so it's a super-easy choice.
2. Use hedges to create privacy for a pool area
Some of our favorite pool landscaping ideas are when the pool slots into the overall landscape, blending seamlessly into the wider space. In this modernist garden design clipped hedges provide a simple screen that complements the horizontal expanses of paving, lawn and water while at the same time helping to create a private and secluded space.
A look like this doesn't come cheap of course, but there are plenty of ideas you can adapt for your own backyard. One key look to take away is that a clipped hedge works well in combination with a flat water surface, so this is something to consider for other water feature ideas, whatever the size of your space.
'The shaping, sculpting, and forming of shapes in any garden provides a bone structure that gives a real sense of place,' says gardener Terry Winters. 'Shrubs and trees can be trimmed into hedges to create a feeling of order and formality, but they can also be carefully pruned so as to be loose and free providing a wildness to the garden but still allowing a sense balance and form.'
Having one of the best hedge trimmers will help you keep tall hedges like this clipped neatly into shape.
3. Zone small spaces with mini hedges
Space is at a premium in urban spaces so natural features such as hedges need to be smaller too if they're to be incorporated into our smaller plots. Try planting a low hedge in a wall and use it for dividing up your outdoor space to add interest to a patio or other seating area as part of your small garden layout ideas.
'Instant hedging, especially the smaller sizes, can be particularly effective in these situations,' says Morris Hankinson, director of the hedging plant specialists Hopes Grove Nurseries . 'A ready-grown small hedge gives the effect of ‘bedding in’ to add immediate landscape maturity. If the budget can't stretch to instant hedging, more affordable individual plants provide a similar effect within a couple of years.'
There are plenty of options for fast-growing hedges if you want to create a boundary or zone a space quickly, but just remember to take note of the eventual height and spread of your chosen plant to make sure it won't end up taking over your space.
4. Double up the look by layering different hedges
Sometimes it's nice to think outside the box and come up with something different when landscaping with hedges. Try using interesting clipped shapes and fragrant planting, and even better if you combine them to layer up a look that's unique to your yard.
Use instant box hedging to recreate the look of a zigzag hedge like this one. Instant hedge plants are grown in troughs that are regularly clipped to shape as they grow. When you buy them they're already knitted together to form a complete, ready-made hedge with an established look. Another plus is that instant hedges can be planted all year round for immediate impact.
If you're also landscaping with lavender, clipped lavender makes a great choice of hedge for edging paths and borders, so why not give it a whirl?
5. Pair a flowering hedge with a picket fence
The combination of a flowering hedge and a picket fence makes a magical addition to the garden. Weigela Florida 'Pink Princess' is one of the best summer flowering shrubs and works really well as an informal hedge that will grow up to six feet tall.
Prune it right after the flowers fade to keep it at the height you want but go easy as this one works best left a little on the wild side. Shear it too hard and you will ruin the elegant fountain-like habit of the lovely arching branches with their profusion of beautiful pink tubular flowers.
6. Use hedging in a courtyard garden
If you're looking for low maintenance hedge plants you can't beat hornbeam. Much loved by garden designers, it's a popular and classic hedge known for its lush green serrated leaves.
It's perfect for screening to bring privacy and security to your garden, as well as providing an effective barrier against noise and wind, making it ideal for sheltered courtyard gardens and other urban spaces.
7. Opt for a hedge on wheels for movable screening
If your garden tends to have unsightly piles of plastic toys or bags of compost stacking up which ruin the overall aesthetic, how about an instant hedge as part of your garden screening ideas that you can move around according to your needs?
'I created this innovative movable hedge on castors for one of my garden designs,' explains Sam Proctor of Chiltern Garden Design. 'It's a great idea for screening play equipment when children aren't using it, but can be easily moved out of the way when the basketball hoop or ping pong table is in action.'
8. Plant ornamental grasses in hedge donuts
'This design takes its inspiration from 18th century parterres, but with a strong contemporary twist,' explains John Wyer, lead designer at Bowles & Wyer. 'It's a contemporary interpretation of a parterre, in a design that ripples and swirls and is unrestrained by the usual edges of a parterre.'
It shows how landscaping with hedges can be used in a different way to the standard role of screening and boundaries. Here hedging is interspersed with perennials to create plenty of year-round interest as well as bringing a new twist to landscaping with grasses.
9. Jazz up a flower bed with pretty mini hedges
Small hedge details are a useful addition to a planting border because they add a degree of permanence and a change of character to the looser planting. Short shrubby evergreen hedges at the front of a border act as a foil to perennials that come and go.
Choose shapes like circles or squares to offer a contrast to more unstructured planting, then finish the look by landscaping with gravel to add add another layer of interest.
10. Screen a vegetable garden with hedging
If you love the idea of a separate area to grow vegetables, it can be a good idea to screen your kitchen garden with hedging to create a sense of enclosure. As well as providing a more sheltered space for your crops to grow it will act as a magnet for wildlife too.
'Beech (or hornbeam if the conditions aren’t suitable for beech) makes a wonderful deciduous hedge, largely retaining its leaves over winter and so providing enclosure all year round,' says Amanda Patton. 'Offering seasonal variation and plentiful habitats for wildlife, it really is worth considering hedges in place of walls to create the structure of a garden.'
It's also worth learning how to trim a hedge properly so that you can keep these boundaries looking neat and under control all year round.
11. Edge flower beds with low hedging
This garden’s design is based on curves, circles, globes, spheres and balls, and all of these ideas can be used when landscaping with hedges. The central round planting bed shown here is the very heart of the garden and all curves ripple out from this point.
'This circular bed of low box hedging contains several hawthorn Crataegus prunifolia trees, which have been cloud pruned to float above the plants below,' explains Terry Winters. 'Offering a long season of interest, this small deciduous tree carries clusters of white flowers in late spring and early summer, followed by bright red fruit.'
The planting plan itself is built around a color palette created from drifts of allium 'Purple Sensation' and white 'Mount Everest'. Early summer sees foxgloves and Thalictrums take center stage before moving into the lavender season.
12. Create a sense of enclosure at night
'We didn’t need to add much in the way of new hedging in this garden as luckily the boundaries were screened already with tall laurel hedging,' explains designer Sam Proctor. 'If the boundaries had just been fenced then new hedging would have been critical to softening and blurring the boundaries.
'I did feel the need to break up the laurel hedging so it didn’t just feel like a green box and the slatted cedar panelling does a good job of creating a backdrop to a garden room with its own atmosphere for the lounging area, enhanced in the evening with downlighting picking up the horizontal slats.'
It's a great example of how landscaping with lights can bring a magical glow to the night-time garden.
13. Create a secluded seating spot with hedges
Hedges are a key planting feature in more formal garden designs, helping to define space or views, or add a feeling of enclosure, while dwarf hedging can be used for garden edging ideas and to create parterres or form knot gardens. This balanced design is often achieved through symmetry and a clear layout.
Hedging also provides shelter and increases privacy to create quiet places to sit, and by landscaping with evergreens you can create a space that remains secluded all year round.
14. Go for a series of tiered hedges to flank steps
Garden designer Charlie Albone put a modern spin on traditional formal style in this elegant garden which uses landscaping with hedges in a really creative way. Layers of clipped box walls help to define the symmetry, while cottage-style planting softens the lines.
Clipped hedging, typically box or yew for evergreen structure, is used here to help define the space. Topiary provides architectural definition, and dwarf box hedges are used to form interesting patterns.
There are plenty of tips on pruning yews in our dedicated guide so you can ensure you keep your hedging looking its best.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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