Probably the most fundamental aspect of a garden is its boundaries. These may be along the property line, or they may be internal divisions, separating one part of the garden from another. For some gardeners they are just the beginning, to be followed by trees, shrubs, beds, and a complex garden design. For others, just a lawn and a shade tree are all that needs adding, once that important privacy is found.
When it comes to those boundaries, there is an on-going debate about how to make it – should I erect a fence, or should I plant a hedge? As well, if a hedge is chosen, then what plant should it be? Both fences and hedges have their cheer-leaders, and there are pros and cons for both, so let’s consider them, to help you make the best decision for yourself.
The Benefits of Fences
Probably the major reason many choose a fence is that once done, its done. That is to say, it’s finished the day it goes in. Full height, solid barrier, there is nothing more to do. Installation is often quick, using a post-hole driller, and panels attach quickly too. A day or two, and a professional will have it all done. Even if you save money by doing it yourself, it probably will only take a couple of weekends, perhaps with the help of some friends, and the job is done.
If you choose a suitable material, perhaps good-quality vinyl, or coated metal, then you can be looking at 10 or 20 years without any maintenance. Wooden fences have a shorter life, and they are cheaper too, unless you choose high-end lumber for it.
Fences are a good choice for a smaller space, particularly if you don’t have much space between your property and your neighbors, since it takes up very little room. It looks neat, and it won’t intrude on your neighbor’s property, even if it is right on the property line.
Problems with Fences
A large factor against fences is cost – the generally cost significantly more than a hedge to install, and cheaper options usually need more frequent maintenance, and deteriorate more quickly too. $20 to $40 a foot, installed, can easily be the cost of a fence, which is significantly more than planting a hedge.
A second problem is height. While a fence may be a reasonable choice at 4 to 6 feet, a 15-foot fence is a daunting proposition, and very expensive too. A hedge of that size, while perhaps tricky to trim if you need to, is perfectly feasible.
Thirdly, some communities require planning permission for fences, but not for hedges. That permission often comes with height limitations, and it may require the consent of a neighbor too, which can be a problem if you want that barrier because of a problem neighbor!
Benefits of Hedges
Beauty is one of the primary benefits of a hedge – in most cases, once a fence is installed people try to hide it with plants anyway, so why not just use plants from the get-go? That lush wall of green is a garden feature in its own right, and many people take pride in their hedges in a way they never would with their fence.
Then there is the quality of the screening. While a hedge creates a visual barrier, it does little else. A living hedge filters out noise, dust, air pollution and wind, while a fence can often increase wind speed, and doesn’t reduce noise very much either. This is an especially important benefit if you live along a highway, where a hedge really can bring tranquility, and create a micro-climate for gardening behind it. In summer a hedge even has a cooling effect, as moisture evaporates from the foliage, cooling the air as it does so.
Remember that 10 to 20-year life for a fence? It sounds good at the beginning, but as they say, time flies, and you could be ready to sell your property just when that fence needs replacing. A broken-down fence is a big negative to buyers, and you might find yourself having to invest in a new one. A hedge, on the other hand, will just be getting into its stride, and will look great after 20 years, if it has been well-maintained.
Another benefit of a hedge is to wildlife. Your hedge is a miniature wild-life sanctuary. Even if the hedge doesn’t provide food directly, it gives nesting sites and protection to birds, which in turn bring you song and excitement.
Problems with Hedges
The main problem most people see with hedges is the time it takes to grow, and its maintenance. It’s true that you must wait a while for a hedge to establish, fill-in and reach the height you want, and this is where a fast-growing evergreen like Thuja Green Giant gets into the picture. It has been proven to be the fastest plant on roots, yet it forms a solid, durable and long-lived barrier. In good conditions, and during the early years of establishment, a hedge of Thuja Green Giant can add three to five feet of growth in a single year. So it really won’t be long at all before you have a good visual barrier, and in a few years you will be looking at a beautiful barrier.
The other thing often raised is maintenance. People think they have ‘black thumbs’, not green ones, and they will soon kill their new hedge. Others have busy lives and they are not sure if they have the time needed. The good news is that a plant like Thuja Green Giant is very easy to grow. If you put down a simple irrigation line when planting, you can easily take care of watering. With modern slow-release fertilizers, feeding a hedge is a once a year quick job, and with Thuja Green Giant pests and diseases are never a problem – even deer usually leave it alone.
As for trimming, if you have a larger garden that doesn’t even need doing at all. Thuja Green Giant has a naturally dense, upright growth pattern, and forms a solid barrier without any trimming needed. Sure, it will not be that immaculate wall of green, but it is still lovely and green, and does everything a more formal hedge can do.
If you do choose to trim, the exercise is great, and you can always hire professionals to do it – consider the money you saved from that expensive fence.
Make Your Choice
There are lots of things to consider, and of course the choice is yours to make. But consider that there is something special about working with living plants, that an inanimate fence can never provide. Of all the hedging plants you can choose, Thuja Green Giant ticks more boxes than any other – which of course is why it is the number one evergreen across most of the country.