Looking ahead is always fun, and if you are planning to put in a new hedge in 2018, what are likely to be the most popular plants, and why? Looking back can be a guide to the future, so what plants sold well, and performed well, in the last few years?
The top hedging plants continue to be, depending on where you live, Thuja Green Giant, Emerald Green Arborvitae, Leyland Cypress, American Holly and Italian Cypress. You can see hedges made from many, many other evergreens, both conifers and broadleaf trees, as well as from deciduous trees, with Boxwood being very popular for short hedges. But these are the top five plants, and so let’s take a look at each one, and see if it is a good choice for that new hedge you are planning for the New Year.
5 Top Hedging Plants
- Emerald Green Arborvitae – top choice for cold regions
- Thuja Green Giant – top overall choice for most areas
- Leyland Cypress – still popular, but best in moderate climates
- American Holly – good for damp and shady sites
- Italian Cypress – best for hot, dry regions
Emerald Green Arborvitae
This plant, a selected form of Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), is by far the biggest seller and top choice in the coldest parts of the country. This dense evergreen is hardy to minus 50 degrees, so wherever you live, it can’t be too cold for this reliable plant. Not as fast growing as some others, it will still put on a couple of feet a year when young, and mature into a lovely, dense hedge that could be 12 feet tall if you need that much height. Because you are probably living in a snowy area if you choose this tree, make sure you taper the sides and round the top – keep it narrow to prevent your hedge collapsing under the weight of snow or freezing rain.
Thuja Green Giant
Proven by science to be the fastest evergreen available, this tree, since its introduction around 2000, but known since the 1930’s, has been a real winner. It is a hybrid, and so very vigorous and capable of growing 3 to 4 feet a year. With that growth rate you will have a sturdy, tall hedge in just a few years. It is hardy right through zone 5 and warmer. If you live in most parts of the country, as long as you have moderate rainfall, and don’t get any colder than minus 20, you cannot pass by this plant easily. No wonder it’s the fastest seller in most garden centers. One great advantage over Emerald Green Arborvitae is how green it remains all winter. No bronzing or browning, so your hedges will always look perfect in winter – exactly when we notice them most. Choose it for any hedge over 8 feet tall. Although it is fast-growing, it will slow with maturity, so if you trim just once or twice a year it will always look great.
This hybrid tree has been a reliable standby for half-a-century or more. Not quite as fast-growing as Thuja Green Giant, it is still capable of very rapid growth, especially if fed and watered well. It definitely grows best in moderate climates – not too hot and not too cold, and although fairly drought resistant it will do best with a good supply of water. In hot, humid areas it tends to suffer from disease, but in temperate climates it will do well. One area where they are especially valuable is on the coast. One of the parents is the Monterey Cypress, which grows hanging out over the Pacific Ocean. So if you need a hedge or screen at the coast, look no further than this reliable evergreen for salt resistance.
Remember that Leyland Cypress will grow very large. This makes it excellent for tall barriers, to block out noise or salt-spray. Don’t plant in restricted spaces – a 40 to 60-foot tree that can be 25 feet across has no place in a small yard. Because it has sometimes been planted in unsuitable places, causing problems for neighbors as well as home-owners themselves, this plant has got a reputation as a ‘bad boy’. Don’t be put off if you have plenty of room and need a big screen, this tough, reliable tree is a top choice.
Not everyone has a bright, well-drained sunny garden. Shade from trees, and low-lying areas are not top choices for planting most evergreens. If you need a sturdy hedge, but your soil is often damp, and trees throw shade across the area, consider using the American Holly, or other holly varieties. This are broad-leaf evergreens, with glossy leaves of a rich, deep green. Many produce bright red berries in fall and winter as well, brightening the garden at a dark time. They clip well, and grow tough and dense. The spiny leaves will protect your garden from all kinds of intruders too, so you will be safe and snug behind a holly hedge.
American Holly will grow a little more slowly, probably one or two feet a year, but it’s a great choice for any shady, damp areas. If you love the look – and who wouldn’t? – it is also reliable in sun and even in areas that have season drought, once established. So it’s a good all-round choice too.
Everyone has seen those pictures of Italy or Provence, with dark, narrow green fingers pointing towards the blue sky. This is the Italian Cypress tree, an evergreen that thrives in zones 7 to 11. It is especially useful in the south-west, where the weather is hot and dry, like its Mediterranean home. Easily the most drought-resistant of all the evergreens, the Italian Cypress clips into a solid wall of rich dark-green you will love. The dark coloring gives a touch of real class, and is cool on the eyes when the sun is blazing down.
Make Your Choice
By now you should have a much better picture of which evergreen will be an appropriate choice for your new hedge. Make sure you prepare the ground well, and give your new trees, whatever choice you make, regular water through their first growing season. Trim lightly right from the beginning, to build a sturdy, dense structure, and you are well on your way to a healthy hedge you can be proud of.