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Desperately need ideas and suggestions for hedge/fence line

Anna33Anna33 Posts: 316
edited August 2021 in Garden design
Morning, I really need some help with trying to figure out what to do with my fence line.

At the moment it's been planted with a mix of living willow and leylandii, both of which I really dislike. It was planted by the previous owners, and we've been here now for 9 months.

The leylandii I hate, and it will be coming out. It is too oppressive, thankfully not too huge yet (compared to what it could get to), and grows way too quickly. I also hate the look of most conifer types.

Likewise the willow - lovely idea, but grows like a bugger, is too hard to stay on top of, is waaaay too big, and is a magnet for swarms of wasps making it untouchable.

So...the technical bits. Behind the garden is a steep drop to a stream/ditch (delete as necessary!) about 2m down. Both the leylandii and willow have been planted just the other side of our fence line at the top of the ditch-bank, just before the drop. The other side of the stream/ditch is a small copse of trees, which don't belong to us. We've got riparian ownership of our side, although is not technically part of our garden boundary. But it means that we've only got glimpses of the houses beyond, so is still fairly private. Our fenceline is east facing, the soil is clay, ph is on the acidic side.

I am completely stumped by what I can replace this whole boundary with.

I don't want high solid fencing as it would be too severe, but would maybe consider things like willow/hazel hurdles. I don't know much about other fencing options, so any suggestions welcome.

OR, the other option is to plant another hedge, but I have absolutely no idea about what I could plant or what works. I don't want anything that would grow too tall (eg leylandii!) or wide, and it has to be something that is fairly easy to maintain as access to the other side isn't great.

The bonus would be if whatever goes in is also wildlife friendly, as there are loads of birds and other wildlife round here, which I love.

Will post the series of photos on the next post!

Edited to add: we don't have a huge budget for this at all, so whilst there are probably loads of super fancy ways to deal with this, we can't afford most of them...!


  • Anna33Anna33 Posts: 316
    Fromt left to right... Patio area:

    Scrolling right to the main bulk of leylandii:

    Scrolling right a bit further:

    What is the other side of the garden (this is the narrowest bit, further up there is more planting area on the other side of the fence) - the drop to the ditch below:

    Area to be developed, trees on the other side due to be trimmed back in winter, but this shows the current fencing from when originally built 40 years ago):

  • Anna33Anna33 Posts: 316
    Panorama from left to right:


    (imagine the willow about 3 ft thinner, you'll get to the boundary line!)



    Further to the right of this picture is where the composter is from an earlier photo. Area definitely still to be developed!!
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,009
    Seems to me you already have a hedge beyond your boundary line with all those trees so I would suggest you rip out the leylandii and willow and just put in a basic stock fence - wire mesh with quite a large gauge so hedgehogs can get in and out - to stop people falling over the edge but be more or less invisible so you "borrow" the further landscape for your garden..

    Then you can improve the soil with compost and manure and plant a mix of shrubs, perennials and bulbs that please you and will provide nectar, pollen and shelter for birds and insects for a long period.  I would add at least one small tree such as an amelanchier - blossom, berries and good foliage colour.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Anna33Anna33 Posts: 316
    Thank you. I think I had in mind something that would give us more of a sense of enclosure than a wire fence, but also because although the trees beyond are lovely, they are heavily mixed in with brambles, sedges, scrub etc, and it would be nice to have more of an enclosed edge to our garden.

    But you're right about us borrowing them for our landscape - we're very lucky to have such a nice backdrop! Having moved from a more urban setting, we treasure these trees!
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,511
    I am inclined to agree with Obelixx, and would start with ripping out the willow and leylandii and then step back and live with it ‘bare’ for a couple of months, to assess what planting, if any, is really needed to screen anything visible or unsightly. You may find you prefer the more open feel and need to plant very little.

    If, after that, you do want more major planting, with wildlife in mind, consider a mix of strategically placed smaller flowering/fruiting trees and shrubs such as crab apple, quince, damson etc., outside the suggested simple stock fence. Maybe some well-mannered once-flowering rambling/species roses that set good hips, along the inside of the fence at the back of your borders. You really don’t want to overdo it though, otherwise in a five year’s time you may end up feeling just as enclosed and oppressed as you do now!
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • zugeniezugenie Posts: 834
    I think a lower fence, maybe 4ft? But painted black would look great, then you can get some other shrubs or plants to add to the border and the boundary should disappear. I hope you'll share what you end up doing, I love seeing what people decide to do :)

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,811
    I'd agree - clear then live with it for a little while. All of that will have robbed the immediate area of moisture and nutrients, so some improving will be needed, and autumn is a good time to do that. 
    If you decide you want another hedge, go for something like beech or hornbeam as they can be kept tight. It would be worth keeping a space between that and the other trees/hedging/shrubs for access to maintain it. It's approaching bare root season, so that's a good time to buy hedging with less outlay financially.
    A borrowed landscape is a real asset  :)

    You may feel it's not needed to have a hedge and would be better to have a selection of other planting which would suit your needs better. It pays to take a little time to think about it though, to make sure you choose wisely and according to the aspect and climate, and you can then buy suitable planting, or even grow some plants from seed yourself. Gardening isn't instant - unless you have unlimited funds  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Posts: 8,300
    You say the copse of trees the other side of the ditch/stream belongs to someone else.  Presumably they don't have plans to fell them and sell the land for housing or anything like that... obviously this would affect your privacy.

    But assuming the trees are going to stay, I'm with those who say "remove the willow & leylandii and see what you're left with", before deciding what to plant or put up instead.  
    Since 2019 I've lived in east Clare, in the west of Ireland.
  • Other than what has been suggested above, if you have Riparian Rights, you will need to ensure you can access the stream bank in order to ensure free flow of your bit.
    I only mention this because we have streams here going every which way and the Parish Magazine is full of reminding people of their Riparian oobligations .  May just be worth bearing in mind when you come to do your hedge :)
  • Anna33Anna33 Posts: 316
    Thank you all, really interesting suggestions, and given me lots to think about.

    Thankfully the trees have all got TPOs on them, so they are there to stay, so no danger of the area being developed. 

    I guess I was thinking that by replacing what's there with another living option (ie hedge etc), it would give the birds somewhere else to nest if they chose, and maybe have some species with flowers for the bees. I'm so out of my depth with hedging, though, that I need help with what works in spaces like this, and what plant ideas there are. I know what I don't want (things like laurels, red robins, conifers etc), love the idea of damsons etc but worry they'd get too big, but desperately need help with ideas and options.

    But if I went down the fencing route, then I agree, a shorter fence would be nicer, but then it doesn't really help the wildlife as much. But the benefit of fencing is that it still keeps a physical boundary for our cat, to avoid him falling down the steep ditch bank. Thankfully he's too old and arthritic to be able to jump it...!

    The wire fence that is in one of the photos already runs the length of the garden, and I find it really ugly to look at which is why I want to either plant a hedge to disguise it, or to take it out and replace with another fence.

    I'm so ready to get out there and just chop what we've got down, so there will be a gap for a bit, however I would ultimately like something else as a plan in place. And it has also occurred to me that bare root season is coming up! :)
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