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Mixed native hedgerow - minimum thickness?

LucidLucid Posts: 351
Hi everyone,

We've recently moved house and I'm currently trying to work out a plan for the garden. It currently has conifer hedging running down both sides which I would much prefer to be replaced with a mixed native hedgerow. The main reason being to provide a better habitat for the wildlife. We have a dog so we're going to need to run fence panels along the boundaries to ensure he can't get in to the neighbours' gardens, but we'll have plenty of hedgehog/wildlife gaps in the gravel boards. The plan is to then plant mixed native hedging in front of the fence panels and I'm hoping to do so on both sides of the boundary(North and South facing). But I'm having troubles with my design as depending on how thick the hedge needs to be to retain fruits and flowers etc, I don't necessarily have room for everything else we're hoping to get in.

I've found it quite hard to find out how thick you need to let the hedges get and have seen it said they can get up to 2 metres thick/ I contacted a hedge company and they got back very quickly to say that they think the minimum thickness it could be kept pruned to would be 40cm and that they'd recommend planting a single row at 5 plants per metre. I just wanted to check in as to whether people have experience of keeping mixed native hedging well pruned, and whether it still provides flowers and fruits? We probably wouldn't keep it that well pruned as we want it to feel natural, but it's useful to know how much space it can take up.

Thanks for any help and advice,

Lucid :)


  • Ladybird4Ladybird4 Third rock from the sunPosts: 28,666
    Morning Lucid. Growing a native hedgerow against a wooden fence would have a problem with light only being available from one side. This would tend to make the plants grow away from the fence. As you mention wanting to get other things in your garden, you would have to prune back the hedging constantly which would inevitably mean a loss of flowers and fruits. 5 plants per metre is far too many plants as well unless you were prepared to stagger the planting and this would need a hedge depth greater than 40cm. Could you perhaps put a chain link fence in rather than a wooden fence and then your plants would get light from both sides?
    Cacoethes: An irresistible urge to do something inadvisable
  • LucidLucid Posts: 351
    Thanks @Ladybird4, that's really useful to know. I'd seen another user who had planted the hedging along along a fenceline and had found it ok but I imagine they were letting it grow much thicker so probably not an issue. I wasn't necessarily thinking of keeping it as thin as 40cm but was more wondering what the minimum thickness could be whilst still keeping its wildlife value as I want to have other plants around too. 

    Here's a satellite image of the garden just to help visualise what it's like:

    The issues we have regarding the fence is the neighbours, on one side in particular. We know that they don't like the conifer hedging as they don't like to maintain what isn't theirs, which is fair enough, so they've stuck up screening their side of it. So we know that they probably wouldn't appreciate a whole other hedge being added as their direct boundary, which is why we thought putting fencing in was the better option. I guess putting in a chain link fence wouldn't look that great for them either. We were just trying to come up with the option that causes the least issues for the neighbours but gets us what we want, which is the native hedging - something I've always wanted in a garden but never had space for. My current design is based on 90cm thick hedging but that ends up taking up a lot of space away from other things like the planned pond and perennials, as well as leaving little room for lawn. We're having a bit of an extension added and there will be a large workshop at the bottom of the garden, so where the garden narrows it starts to lose space for the actual garden area. 

    Lucid :)
  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 1,130
    Do you think your desire for a hedge is realistic for your garden?
    Maybe you could have  a couple of shrubs to attract wildlife which wouldn't overwhelm the neighbours.
    Most have to compromise on something in their gardens or go ahead and spend ages trying to make it fit the space. 
    What sort of plants were you considering as someone who has them could give you more specific information?
  • LucidLucid Posts: 351
    Thanks @K67 - there's hedging on both sides now so it's not changing what's already there, other than going for something a bit more interesting than evergreen conifers - and a fence to appease the neighbours. I am thinking that we may only be able to do it one side now though, as hadn't appreciated how much thickness they'd have to take up, so we may opt to do it on the side where the neighbours might not mind so much.

    On the plants, I was hoping for mixed native hedging which seems to be sold as a mix of hawthorn, blackthorn, bird cherry, field maple and hazel, and had seen it said that you can mix in some dogwood too - and once established you can grow honeysuckle through it etc. I kind of assumed when the hedge supplier replied to suggest 40cm was the minimum that all those could be kept quite thin but it seems as though that might not the case. I'd definitely appreciate input from anyone who has experience of those plants in a hedge as would like to fit it in somewhere. We've got many more types of birds in the area now so I'd love to be able to have them supported with a hedge.

    Lucid :)
  • micearguersmicearguers CambridgePosts: 383
    Supporting @K67's suggestion, you could have one or two (or more, staggered on opposing sides) hedge islands extending from the fence/boundary into the garden, and a path meandering around. It could be a way to hide the workshop from sight if you so wished. It would also be nice in that it would make the garden feel less like a box, which would be an issue with a narrow straight hedge all along the boundary.
  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 1,130
    Looking at the hawthorn around here they do send out long stems. I'm sure there was a thread about hedging. I'll see if I can find it
  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 1,130

    Found this one not the one i was thinking off but there are a lot of discussions on native hedges and pruning that might help you
  • LucidLucid Posts: 351
    Thanks for the replies @micearguers and @K67.

    micearguers - At the moment I'm trying to figure out different designs and thought it might be useful to show a couple of them as it hopefully shows we're trying to add a bit of shape to the garden. I do want some kind of division to hide the building at the back so will have a think about using the hedging there instead. We do have privacy issues to consider as well as my partner wants to make sure we're not overlooked at all But I will take on board about maybe not using them along both boundaries.

    K67 - thanks for the link to the thread. It helped to remind me that crab apple is another native hedging plant to consider. I do remember reading on here about hawthorn spreading through suckers so maybe that's best to avoid. 

    Here are a couple of the designs so far but they're both based on 90cm thick hedging. It'd be great to know if the hedging can be kept a bit less thick than that? It's all still work in progress at the moment but hopefully gives a bit of a better idea of what the garden might end up looking like.

    Design 1 - preferred pond size with a bog area in the middle but more limited space for a perennial bed. We're also trying to fit in a little wildflower meadow.

    Design 2 - compromise on hedging on both sides and not as big a pond.

    It all kind of depends on how thick you need to let the hedge get as to how much hedging we put in. I think we'll definitely need it along most of the North facing side - the lower boundary on the images as we've got houses on that side so it'll help with privacy. I did really like the idea of a hedge backing the pond area but maybe that's not going to work so well. 

    Lucid :)
  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 1,130
    I'm in awe of your design skills!
    Personally I'd prefer the trellis design but then I love clematis and detest hedge cutting, I always moved into places where the hedges were 30m long, leylandi,  didn't belong to me and if I wanted the view had to cut and dispose of the cuttings.
    The only observation I have that you would need working space left in front of the hedge to be able to lay a sheet to collect the clippings as speaking from experience they are difficult to collect from among plants.
    Also larger ponds are easier to get a balance with algae, blanket weed and green water. I am assuming you are not having fish as that pond is dinner on a plate for herons!

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 2,648
    I pass by a very sharply trimmed hawthorn hedge in a front garden when I am walking the dog. It's quite attractive, it has grown very dense and small-leaved. You could keep hawthorn quite thin if you regularly trim it as a formal hedge, but this would mean no blossom and no berries. At which point you may as well plant beech etc.

    This is probably why you are getting different widths quoted by different people. 2m would be a loosely maintained hedge that is allowed to flower and set berries.
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