Which Hedge Should You Choose: An Evergreen Or A Deciduous Hedge?
Hedges are a wonderful way to provide privacy and beauty to your garden space. People have been using hedges in landscape designs for hundreds of years, and they are actually still gaining in popularity! The post is including information about an evergreen or a deciduous hedge.
What exactly is a hedge?
A hedge is by definition a “fence or boundary formed by a dense row of shrubs or low trees” (Merriam-Webster). Practically, a hedge is usually a closely-planted row of plants that are pruned to look like one long uniform wall of plants. They can be used just for design purposes (think about the knot gardens found on formal estates using low boxwood hedges), or they can provide valuable privacy to a landscape. They can be made by planting many individual plants side-by-side an carefully spaced, or they can be planted using a pre-formed hedge like those offered by InstantHedge.
What kinds of plants can be used to create hedges?
There is really not much limiting what kinds of plants can be made into hedges. Typically, they are made with trees and shrubs that respond well to intensive pruning, but that is the only really unifying characteristic. Many different species can be used to create beautiful hedges. There are two main types of hedges: evergreen hedges and deciduous hedges.
Evergreen Hedges vs Deciduous Hedges
Evergreen hedges do not lose their leaves with the seasons and provide a solid green border all year long. Deciduous hedges do lose their leaves in the fall, providing seasonal color changes and lush green foliage in the spring and summer. One type is not necessarily better than the other, but your reasons for planting a hedge may help you decide which one is better for your project.
Privacy vs. Screening
If you need solid, year-round privacy, you will want to plant an evergreen hedge. The persistent green foliage will create a solid screen even in the middle of winter. Examples of times when you might want year-round privacy: a hot tub area that is used even in cold weather, warm climates where you use outdoor entertaining areas even in winter months, tight city lots where you want to block your windows from your neighbors and the street, or areas with high foot-traffic where you want to keep people from entering your yard.
If you have an area where you want privacy in summer but don’t need it as much in the winter, you might really enjoy a deciduous hedge. The leaves on the hedges in summer will provide great privacy, but in winter the bare branches will allow light through. Examples of spots that would do well with a deciduous hedge: around a swimming pool area where summer privacy is needed but the pool is not used in winter, an outdoor entertaining area that is only used in the summer in colder climates, around a garden in deer-heavy areas to protect more tender plants from being eaten.
There is one notable exception that fits into both categories: European beech is technically deciduous, but it holds its copper-colored winter leaves from fall to right before the leaves flush out in the spring. This provides year-round privacy despite technically being deciduous!
Green all year or Seasonal color
If you have a landscape that tends to be dreary in the winter, with little color, you may want to plant an evergreen hedge. The warm green tones will help brighten up the winter tones. The dark greens will look good in the summer, too, providing a nice backdrop for other plants and flowers.
If you love having changes throughout the seasons, consider planting a deciduous hedge. Many types will flower in the late winter or early spring (look at Star Magnolia, Cornelian-Cherry, or Arrowwood Viburnum). Some hedge types will bear colorful fruit in late summer or fall, and other varieties boast a splendid show of fall color (check out Cornelian-Cherry, Flame Amur Maple, and European Beech).
Evergreen hedges tend to have the fastest growth of the hedge types (there are exceptions to this of course). You can find evergreen hedges that will grow up to 4 feet per year, like the Green Giant Arborvitae. Some types flower and bear fruit (like Firethorn and Cherry-laurel), while others have consistent green color throughout the year (like Arborvitae).
Deciduous hedges have a big variety of traits as far as leaf texture, flower type and color, and fruit. These tend to be a bit more forgiving with late pruning than most evergreen hedges. Pruning deciduous hedges is very simple to do in the winter while they are dormant.
Types of Evergreen hedges
These are some of the most popular types of evergreen hedges:
Arborvitae hedges are valued for their fine texture, rich color, cold-tolerance, and diverse shapes and growth rates. For example, American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is a fast-growing tree native to the northeastern United States. Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) is a selection of the same species that has improved bright-green foliage all year and grows like a tight pillar. Virescens Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is a variety of the US west coast native tree that is prized for its upright growth habit and fast growth rate. Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja plicata x standishii) is a hybrid between the Western Red Cedar and a Japanese Cedar. It has something called “hybrid vigor”, which makes it grow faster than either of its parents. It is one of the fastest growing hedge types available on the market.
Cherry-laurel (Prunus) hedges are extremely popular in warm, coastal climates. They are tolerant of poor soils, salt, and drought. They grow quickly and are “broad-leaved evergreens”, meaning they have large leaves as opposed to the feathery foliage found on arborvitae hedges. English Cherry-laurel (P. laurocerasus) can grow 2-3 feet per year, making it a great large privacy hedge. Schip laurel is a variety of P. laurocerasus that grows primarily upright. Portuguese laurel is a different species that has especially beautiful color and tends to grow in a more dense habit than the other types.
Other popular types include boxwood hedges, firethorn hedges, yew hedges, and holly hedges.
Types of Deciduous hedges
There are also many popular types of deciduous hedges:
European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is an enduring favorite for its ease of maintenance, beautiful summer foliage, nice fall color, and winter leaf retention. There is the traditional green variety, but there are also purple varieties and other colors on the market.
Amur Maple hedges like Flame (Acer ginnala) have fast growth and stunning fall color. They are a naturally multi-stemmed type of maple that are well-suited to hedging.
Hornbeam hedges (Carpinus sp.) are very similar to European beech, but they tend to not have as nice of fall color and don’t hold their leaves as long in winter. It is still a very popular hedging option, however.
Other popular types include Cornelian-cherry, Arrowwood Viburnum, Star Magnolia, and Bald Cypress.
Whatever type you choose, remember that any hedge is great for the environment, wildlife, and the health of your garden!
(Photos courtesy of InstantHedge)