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When planting a semi mature hedge is trough or root ball best? Also any other ideas please

Hi everyone, hope you’re well during this lockdown. 

I’m looking to plant a mixture of hedges and trees along the back border of my garden for beauty and nature but we are looking at evergreen specifically as we have an assortment of various things to screen – neighbours garages, Views of roads and many windows, pollution, light pollution and noise! I appreciate for noise it will only give us a little softening affect but any improvement  is welcome!

In the shadiest part we would like to put a Portuguese laurel hedge. This also is an area that we would like to really put something in that’s semi mature as we have the top of our neighbours trampoline above the 215cm high fence (their fence) which is bright orange and we often have many heads bobbing up and down plus a very bright street light that shines into our garden and home. With our budget we sadly won’t be able to put mature or semi mature trees and bushes in everywhere  but in this corner we have decided to spend a little more as it is the worst area for our lack of privacy, light and sound pollution.

I have been looking at pre-planted troughs from a company called hedges direct or tall- ish individual root balled plants from another online company called

I was wondering if one was healthier or better than the other?  I wonder if the individual plants which have their own root balls would be stronger overall?

Does anybody have any experience of this or knowledge? It would be greatly appreciated as they are rather expensive!

Also would love to hear about peoples experiences of other options? We have 20 m to fill and have looked at lots of different things.
One that I was particularly keen on when I saw it in a catalogue online was the evergreen Magnolia but when I saw it in real life at a nursery it looked very disappointing Despite being a semi mature! So would especially love to hear if anyone has one of those? 

Thanks in advance!


  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,909
    The best approach is to go for smaller, younger plants. They're much easier to get established, and less expensive too, but you need patience because they won't give you an instant screen. Larger plants may need pruning down quite hard to make them branch out from low down to make a dense hedge, so if you must have instant screening, the trough/instant hedge may be the better choice. I'm assuming that they are planted at the correct spacing and have already been pruned into a hedge shape.
    Magnolia are lovely trees but I've never seen them used for hedging.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • Thank you for your reply… Yes it would be ideal to put small plants in but it would take years for us to have any improvement Re: screening and there are certain things that are really spoiling our experience of being in the garden. 
    With the trough planted ready-made hedge I am concerned that maybe they’ve put them in too closely to create the product faster and more cost-effectively for themselves. Hence my wondering if it would be better to buy individual Portuguese laurels… Unless someone has purchased the trough grown hedges before from hedges direct and found them to be as healthy correctly / healthily spaced?

     With the Evergreen magnolia tree I was thinking to put it in a particular spot to  provide some natural screening rather than try to make it into a hedge.  But when I saw the evergreen Magnolia at the nursery it didn’t seem to be a very attractive tree after all and the leaves seemed very Large but also sparse. I wonder if maybe once it grows a little more and it’s been planted into the ground if it would fill out. I’d love to hear if anybody has one planted that has grown into a more dense tree?

    thanks again! 
  • Actually, you will find that the larger plants take years to sort themselves out and begin to grow. By that time your little 'uns will have taken over. Although it might seem counterintuitive, buying little plants will produce the result you want and be massively cheaper. 

    With larger plants, unless all staked and regularly watered, there will be numerous losses. Often the rootballs can't support the amount of top growth on the plant. With small plants, you can shape them as you wish to get them to bush out from low down and give you a denser cover, and they will grow as their roots expand, reducing the amount of water you will need to give during the growing season. 

    I'm not a fan of using Magnolia grandiflora as a hedge, but as a tree it will certainly give you good screening. However, it gets absolutely vast in time, so takes up a lot of space (widthways as well as upwards), though it can be clipped if need be. However, it wouldn't work well in shade. Prunus laurocerasus would be good, and also good in partial shade would be Osmanthus x burkwoodii. Holly is often recommended, but it tends to be very sparsely branching in shade. For a less formal effect, Viburnum rhytidophyllum is excellent, and would reach the height you need. You could get away with Viburnum tinus too, I think, if it's not too shady. The obvious contender is yew--this can be pernickety to establish (and the plants are expensive even when young) but will make an excellent dense hedge and is really good at silencing sounds; just try a yew maze. For all your need for speed, it is worth getting it right from the start, so if you can bear to exercise patience in the interests of a medium- and long-term lasting solution, young plants would be the best way to go.

    For other areas to be screened that have more sun, you're right that hiding the road from sight will make it less annoying and obtrusive. There's a wide range of good things to use--Cotoneaster lacteus and Photinia 'Red Robin' are good evergreens. Privet and Escallonia are also good for a sunnier spot. Even bamboo, kept within bounds (a clumping form would be best) will rise up tall and give you privacy and noise protection fairly rapidly.
  • Hey, thought I'd update this incase anyone else doing the same... we went for 2 x Portuguase Laurel angustifolia bushes - quite mature for the section we most wanted to screen.
    It was a bit of an expense but it solves a very annoying problem so we reckon money well spent- we'll take extra care of them to help them establish and we went for root balls- 2 separate bushes as in the end I thought best to give them their own space to grow in.
    For further along & in sunnier positions where we'd like to create our mixed screen we've gone for smaller & cheaper options as JennyJ & Cambridgerose12 advised here -which we'll have to be more patient for!
    we opted for Portuguase laurel myrtilfolia tree, Arbutus tree, Nellie R stevens Holly, Bay tree, Red robin tree and Osmanthus fortunei bush. Gives us various heights of screening & lots of options for wildlife.

    Cambridgerose12 Thanks for your suggestions... once the trees have settled in I'll add a few escallonias which are so gorgeous- but not as high as we'd have liked for the main screening but can be planted between the trees I think. Thanks for suggesting- I haven't really seen them before!
    And yes on further thought decided against the evergreen magnolia tree!
    Love the cotoneaster idea too but as we already have a huge Pyracantha I thought nice to go for some different looks. But if anyone thinking of this one I would 100% recommend as is an awesome screen in another area of the garden and our birds adore it plus added bonus of thorns- its on our outer boundary so good deterrent to possible intruders!

    Thanks again both for your ideas!
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