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How Low Can Hedges Move? Discover Unusual Garden Borders

Individuals may have different ideas about what makes a hedge, but I see it like a linear planting maintained regularly trimmed, streamlined and impenetrable, or consisting of obviously compact footprints which require little or no clipping to keep up a constant barrier. If we consider this respect, does this not open up exactly what we think of as a hedge?

They’re as old as the hills and a common feature of the landscape in many countries; hedges are one of the most influential design characteristics of our gardens. Traditionally utilized to mark boundaries, create division within a yard or line a garden background, hedges now are back in fashion. But today’s gardens are moving away from traditional hedging materials and designs; we are seeing more intriguing uses for hedging within garden designs.

This beautifully inventive front garden got me considering the way the use of hedging has shifted in modern garden design and if we should redefine what makes a hedge.

Most people would agree that the closely clipped evergreens backing the plantings are hedging, but will be the rows of grass also hedges? Let us take a look at other ways hedges are being used in today’s gardens.

Types of Hedges

Stilted hedges
are hedges increased on stilts. The stalks of the plants are generally clear of branches for 4 to 6 ft, above which the plants are pruned into a hedge.

These hedges are a current development in smaller gardens, even however by no means a new idea. Stilted hedges can be found in formal French gardens and subtropical gardens, for example Lawrence Johnson’s Hidcote Gardens in Gloucestershire, England.

David Ward

As revealed here from the Brewin Dolphin garden in the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show, stilted hedges extend the height of border fences or walls, offering more privacy in modern smaller gardens.

The most well-known varieties used for stilted hedges from the U.K. are beech (Fagus sylvatica) and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), the reason being that they hang on to their leaves on the planet, supplying almost year-round cover.

Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design

Creating two amounts of hedging by underplanting the increased hedge is a nice twist on the stilted hedge that has become popular with garden designers in the past couple of decades.

Here we see a formal low-clipped boxwood hedge under the raised hedge of Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’. Both are evergreen, creating great yearlong interest.

Step-over hedges. I stirred up a hornet’s nest in my ideabook on step-over hedges. These closely trimmed low hedges are getting to be quite popular on new housing estates and are utilized to separate front gardens from the pavement or road.

The contentious issue is that the species that tend to be utilized, such as Viburnum tinus and Prunus laurocerasus, are big, powerful shrubs if left to grow unclipped.

Garden Architecture

There are several other less contentious areas of modern gardens where we can now see the use of closely clipped hedging. Instead of being used for marking a border or backing a border, the cubes of hedges here are building blocks of the plan. On a practical basis, producing controlled segments of hedging within borders, instead of having traditional plant groupings, lessens the total amount of maintenance to almost zero.

Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design

Undulating hedges. The title that always springs to mind when I’m considering cloud hedges is that of Belgian picture designer Jacques Wirtz. He is famed for its usage and popularization of evergreens that have been clipped into undulating mounds.

Recent years have seen undulating hedges as a regular feature in show gardens; the Laurent Perrier Garden by Tom Stuart-Smith in the 2010 Chelsea Flower Show is one example. It requires much more ability than you would imagine to achieve and maintain the required effect.

Secret Gardens

By closely substituting trimmed evergreen balls, an official model of cloud hedging can be produced. The best plants to use in any form of cloud hedging are those with little foliage that will take close clipping: boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), English yew (Taxus baccata),Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) and Osmanthus varieties.

Tim Davies Landscaping

Contemporary Hedging Plants

We see in this gorgeous contemporary design how hedging has become an integral part of the plan, including mass as well as colour and texture. I know that lots of individuals wouldn’t consider the glaucous agave planting as a hedge, but it does come within the definition of a hedge being a row of linear plantings.


This London patio garden by designer Amir Schlezinger is a fantastic example of elevated and mobile hedging units. By planting increased troughs with reduced evergreens, he’s produced a hedge border for the patio while still allowing light and air into the plan.

Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects

Grasses. Contemporary designs do not always need the mass made by traditional hedging plants. This driveway was lined with a loose planting of grasses, creating a hedge that not only matches its surroundings, but also gives motion in the open environment.

Sozo Landscape Design

Conifers. In urban concrete jungles, hedges are understandably rare. You may sometimes see big window boxes planted with boxwood to make mini proper hedging, but if space is valuable, hedges are not a priority.

Here we see a hanging monster of horizontally growing juniper conifers utilized to soften the concrete retaining wall.

Imagine Landscapes

My final thought on the definition of hedging is regarding size. How low can a hedge be to be a hedge?

Boxwood used as edging in knot gardens and parterres is still thought of as hedging. Do the lines of this low plantings in this garden also qualify? I think so, but what would you think?

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