Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "Love your neighbor, but don't tear down your hedge." Sage advice from one of our Founding Fathers. A hedge is a fence or boundary formed by densely planted rows of shrubs or low trees. Typical hedges are usually deciduous or evergreen plants to guarantee, all year round, the desirable privacy and security they offer. These natural fences are typically easy to plant and provide a low-maintenance, inexpensive, and attractive border.
Selecting the appropriate planting site is very important. Good soil and the proper exposure to the sun are vital to giving your hedge a great start. Similar to trees and shrubs, hedges take time to get established. During the initial years, if they are in an exposed location, you might have to shelter the plants during the winter to avoid windburn. A hedge can indeed take years (three to seven) to reach its desired height, but if you want to speed things up, try buying semi-mature plants.
When positioning plants for a hedge, it is best to place them at the smaller end of the spacing recommendation on the planting instructions. For example, if the recommended spacing is 3 to 5 feet, space the plants 3 feet apart. If winter screening isn't essential to you, then you might consider growing a hedge with flowering plants. If you make the right choices, they can be as easy to care for as an evergreen hedge, give your garden structure and even provide shelter for wildlife.
Here are five of our favorite flowering shrubs that can make a great hedge:
Azalea - Azaleas will brighten up any landscape with their beautiful blooms that come in an array of colors. These showy flowers bloom in the spring and make an ideal informal hedge. They are known for their spreading abilities so make sure you give them plenty of room and adequate spacing to ensure good air circulation to prevent disease. When getting started, make sure you select an Azalea that is right for your hardiness zone and some light to moderate shade in the country's hotter areas.
Hardy Hibiscus – Hardy Hibiscus plants are known for their large, showy flowers, which grow, on average, ten inches, making them the most prominent perennial flowers in North America. In warmer northern climates, Hibiscus starts to bloom in June. In cooler regions, the flowers may not appear until August, but they will continue blooming until the first frost arrives. These plants thrive in full sun, in well-drained soil, and grow up to six feet tall. Hibiscus attract hummingbirds and butterflies and, depending on the variety, grow best in hardiness zones four and higher. Plant several Hibiscus together, and you can create a colorful, attractive hedge.
Hydrangeas – Using Hydrangea as a hedge is quite common because of the beautiful flowers and the fact that they are easy to grow. Hydrangeas grow more slowly than most shrubs which allow the plants to never get out of control. While they do not grow too tall, they still provide excellent privacy. Your Hydrangeas need moist, fertile soil. The shrubs will usually produce flowers from the beginning of the spring through the fall. Annabelle Hydrangea is a great variety to use as a hedge as it is drought and cold-tolerant and produces large white flowers in the spring and again in the fall. Bigleaf varieties are also an excellent choice for a hedge, and the flowers bloom in blue, pink, and purple depending on the acidity of your soil.
Lilac – If you are looking to add some fragrance to your garden, try growing a Lilac hedge. With its mauve, pink, purple, or white flowers, this beloved plant will take some time (5 to 7 years) to get established, but you will have an eye-catching and beautiful wall of flowers each spring. Lilacs need full sun and the spacing that is at least 4 feet apart. If powdery mildew is a problem in your area, try Lilac varieties that are resistant to this disease.
Shrub Rose – Shrub Roses are an excellent selection for a hedge since they bloom for an extended period during the growing season. With their shiny green leaves and bright flowers, Roses can undoubtedly make an impact in the garden. Some landscape or shrub roses are an excellent choice for such a project. Proven Winner's Oso Easy Double Red® the Rose of the Year in 2020 is a perfect choice for a border. Two other new varieties of Rose you can try include the Knockout and Easy Elegance series. These selections are all disease resistant, and like most Roses, prefer full sun to produce the highest number of blossoms.