I’ve recently planted a beech hedge, which my wife has had in her mind for a while, just 10 days ago. We had an area of mown grass that was not really doing anything surrounded on three sides by borders, with a variety of flowers and shrubs. However, one end was simply a straggly hedge that had been laid about 20 years ago and the trees within the hedgerow have grown rather high. There is no border and it looks forlorn; an area of grass stopped at one end by a tall inelegant hedge, but with lovely borders on all the other sides.
My wife has a very good eye for garden design, using height when needed on flat areas of the garden, using natural planting to extend the garden that was formerly grassland and wanting to develop this area into a reflection of the semi-circular shape design on the opposite border.
It looks a bit bare in winter, but these little plants will grow to mirror the beech hedge in the background, which has just lost some, but not all of its leaves.
The soil is quite dark and looks in great condition, probably because it’s been left alone for 25 years and was part of a farm, so good rich soil.
We’re on the top of a hill, although subject to south-westerly winds, there is some element of being in the lee of the really strong gusts, due to the straggly hedge at the end of this part of the garden.
Having studied geology at King’s College, London University, I do know what rocks underpin our soil. We’re limestone with a clay capping, which is not always that easy to plant trees on. We have silver birch down the drive and have planted willow by our pond and copper beech in various parts of the garden, on the advice of the Royal Horticultural Society. When planting trees or hedges it always pays to have good look at what other trees, plants and shrubs grow on surrounding areas, especially along adjacent areas of the same altitude, therefore likely to have the same geology and soil composition. I did naively plant a weeping holly near our house, a beautiful tree when it thrives, and it’s now 20 years old and only 8 feet high! Needless to say there is no holly anywhere around us, but it is doing well despite everything.
There is a magnificent line of lime trees on a farm nearby, full of hundreds of crows that nest there. However lime trees do take a long time to grow, so I’m looking for suitable advice on what trees we could plant to cover off an area that looks down on an industrial estate about a mile or two away, that grows relatively quickly. One of my colleagues suggested a broad leaved lime, that is fast growing and covers a reasonable area. Have you any suggestions? Your help is appreciated.
We do get a few deer that are a real nuisance if planting any new trees and however much you protect them; they will try to nibble the new shoots. We’re not far from Longleat and I know a friend who asked for lion dung from the safari park to put off any deer thinking of trespassing on his land and eating any new plants. Apparently it works! It must be something to do with a deep instinct on the part of the deer, which were probably last hunted by wild cats in the UK 15,000 years ago.
So, back to the beech hedging (Fagus sylvatica). It’s native to the UK, deciduous and should be trimmed every August. It will grow in most soil conditions, although it prefers well-drained chalk.
Our mature beech hedge still retains its dried, dead leaves throughout the winter months and is therefore an effective screen between our drive and the now more formal part of the garden.
I will water the new beech hedge plants from spring to autumn, depending on the amount of rain we have, certainly for the first two or three years, so it doesn’t dry out. Regular mulching will also help to retain water. Here's a video on how to plant your hedge.
I’m confident that the beech is going to work well and really add a degree of formality to an area that was just grass. I’m looking forward to the next stage of planting which will be establishing flowers and shrubs that will work well with the other borders. I’m particularly keen on roses, however my wife has already done most of the planning of this next phase.