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How to deal with Leylandii hedge behind a border?

ThankthecatThankthecat North DevonPosts: 421

Hi all - I haven't been very active on here for ages - work seems to have taken over my life - but I hope you'll forgive me and perhaps come up with a magical solution to my problem. I inherited a stretch of Leylandii hedge, about 20ft long, with my garden. I have created a border in front of it, and have got plants which seem happy there (granted, they get a LOT of enrichment each year in the form of thick mulches, feeding and extra watering). What I didn't think about when I did that was how to trim the hedge twice a year without all the cuttings falling on my plants! It is mostly shrubs (Viburnam, Philadelphus, Syringa and Ceanothus) and spring bulbs, which don't suffer too much, but there are also pulmonaria, foxgloves and Japanese anemones which do get squashed, despite being planted a good three feet in front of the hedge. I was going to remove the hedge and replace with a fence, but so many garden birds use it as cover, including my favourite little wrens, that I have almost 100% changed my mind about removing it. Any tips?



  • floraliesfloralies Haute-Garonne SW FrancePosts: 2,172

    Do you have room in front of your hedge for a tarpaulin? We always lay one down in front of our hedges tucked in as far as possible before cutting and move it along as we go, but this may not be possible if you have shrubs planted up close.

  • ThankthecatThankthecat North DevonPosts: 421

    Hi Floralies, some of the shrubs, although not planted particularly closely, have spreading branches that get in the way a bit, but I'll give that a go in March when we make the first cut on it. Such a simple idea, I don't know why I didn't think of that - duh!

  • ThankthecatThankthecat North DevonPosts: 421

    I really want to remove the hedge altogether and replace with fencing, but the birds use it as cover and that is the only reason I'm keeping it, as I do garden very much with wildlife in mind (I've planted mixed native hedging elsewhere in the garden).

    I did wonder about cutting the Leylandii right back to brown wood, so it won't rejuvenate, and then planting some vigorous clematis to disguise it. Obviously I'd have to train them onto it so they didn't attach themselves to the shrubs in the border. The other side of the Leylandii (in my neighbour's garden) has a fence planted right up against it, so they can't see it.

    If I did cut it back to brown wood on my side, and on top, I know I would effectively be killing it, but does anyone know how long the trunks would stay put, providing support for the clematis and therefore hidey holes for birds?

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,201

    You won't kill it by cutting on your side only TTC, but you might create another issue as you'll need to get in and water and feed the clematis and guide it in right direction.  You could  plant a montana though, which doesn't need a lot of effort once established and tied in. 

    The alternative would be to prune your shrubs back on the side nearest the hedge, giving you a bit of space to get inbetween. Take individual stems out back to the main trunk of the shrub. Not ideal, but would mean leaving the established hedge in situ if you like it. image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,298

    Leylandii hedging which has been cut back hard into the brown wood is , IMHO, one of the ugliest sights I've ever seen in a garden (or elsewhere for that matter)... If you have a soul (and I think you do image) my guess is that you will regret it. 

    Ive seen many attempts to camouflage it - none successful. 

    I would either cut it down and replace it with something beautiful and wildlife friendly, or find a way to keep it trimmed regularly and keep it as a formal backdrop to what sounds like a lovely border. 


    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Joyce21Joyce21 Posts: 15,489

    A near neighbour has a very narrow Lelandii hedge and he trims it monthly in the growing season. This means that the trimmings are small and easy to clear up.  He views it the same as cutting the grass and it has kept the hedge nice and tight. 

    SW Scotland
  • ThankthecatThankthecat North DevonPosts: 421

    Thanks for all your answers!

    Dove - I know what you mean about it being ugly. I've never seen attempts to disguise such a monstrosity, but I'm a bit concerned having read your reply! There's one other issue which I haven't mentioned yet ('cos I forgot!) which is that my neighbour's fence is actually held up by the Leylandii. The previous neighbour - a complete ar*e, actually built the fence by nailing the horizontals TO THE TRUNKS OF THE LEYLANDII. Yes - you read that right! So if I cut it down altogether - which was the original plan - we have to replace it with a fence because the neighbour's fence will come down with it. Just having a hedge between us isn't an option as we both have multiple dogs. 

    Joyce, but I'd be worried about doing that while birds are nesting in it. There's too much of it for me to manage with shears and I'm worried the electric hedge trimmer will frighten them off. Apart from that, I don't want have to battle my way through all the summer growth in that border to get to the hedge! Also, we have to put a stepladder on the bed to reach the top of the hedge safely; it's 6ft high and we don't want to have it any lower for the sake of privacy. 

    Gosh, this is turning out to be a bigger headache than I thought. Every year I think, "I'll just keep it, and cope with squeezing in there and be good and pick up all the trimmings, but there are so many small things that grow where we need to walk... and I HATE cutting hedges! I think Fairygirl's idea of a Montana might be tried before I give up completely though.

    Ah well, back to the drawing board - taking all your good suggestions with me image

  • ThankthecatThankthecat North DevonPosts: 421

    image if only I could!

  • You may have noticed, I'm not fond of leylandii... image

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