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A hedge bordering a stonework wall around a tree
Take your garden to new heights with a hedge that’s right for your space.

On the hedge

Hedges are one of the best ways to create privacy and define outdoor zones. There are many styles to choose from – tall, short or in-between – and autumn is a good time to plant one; the air is cooler, but the soil is warm, giving plants time to settle in before winter.

Handy to have

There are plenty of benefits to having a hedge, says Katy Schreuder, Bunnings Greenlife buyer. “A hedge can be home to wildlife,” she says. “It can also provide cool shelter during hot weather and act as a windbreak.”

Plus, it’s a versatile design element, says landscape designer Jason Hodges of Buxus Balls of Berry (@jasonhodgesandco). “It can line a path, create boundaries, reinforce a garden’s design, provide a sense of security or disguise an unsightly view,” he says. But be careful with your plant choice. “The height will ultimately impact the overall look and feel – a towering conifer will make a small space feel even smaller, so choosing the right plant is important.”

Hedges line a gravel and paver pathway.

Plant possibilities

Not all plants are suitable for hedging. Of those that are, check the plant label for more information. “It will specify the height and width of the plant, as well as its suitability,” explains Katy.

Consider the style you’d like. Formal hedges require plants with a dense growth habit that tolerate regular pruning, like buxus, abelia or Acmena and Syzygium species of lilly pilly.

Informal hedges are more relaxed, imparting a softer structure. They also need less maintenance – try azalea, callistemon or weeping lilly pilly. While many hedging plants are shades of green, some offer more drama with new foliage coloured red, pink or bronze before maturing to green. There are silver-leaved options, too. “Coastal rosemary, teucrium or licorice plant provide interesting texture and colour,” says Jason. You can also use flowering and/or edible plants like camellia, loropetalum, feijoa, rosemary, bay tree and native midyim berry.

English box hedge creating boundaries and zones in a traditional backyard

Growing tips

When planting a hedge, spacing is important: too close and plants will compete for water and nutrients, but too far apart and the hedge will be sparse. To calculate the optimum distance between plants, divide the final height of the hedge by three. Dig a hole at each interval, ensure the soil is well draining, and add organic matter before planting.

For a lush, thick hedge, Jason recommends a regular haircut. “Do not let it reach its final height before you start trimming,” he says. “Lightly prune a few times throughout the year – from September through to March – to encourage new bushy growth.” Failure to do this can result in bare patches, especially in the lower parts of the hedge. If you do have bare patches, don’t leave them unattended. “Tip-prune these areas to stimulate growth,” advises Jason. Also, feed regularly with an organic liquid fertiliser to boost growth and improve the overall health of the hedge. For pruning, Jason suggests using battery-operated tools. “They’re easier to use and less physically demanding,” he says. However, if trimming large-leaved plants, it pays to tidy up afterwards with shears and secateurs. “Don’t leave torn leaves, as this can be stressful for the hedge and also make it look untidy,” says Jason.

Popular hedging styles

Hedges that double as screening: For privacy and protection from weather, look for tall, dense, fast-growing plants. “But check how big it will grow and how much maintenance is required,” says Katy.

Top picks: Sweet viburnum (below), Acmena ‘Goodbye Neighbours’, Photinia ‘Red Robin’, Syzygium ‘Backyard Bliss’.

Vibrant sweet viburnum growing

Informal hedging: If you prefer a more relaxed look (along with less maintenance), try plants with a loose, ‘weeping’ habit. They can have flowers, too.

Top picks: Weeping lilly pilly (below), grevillea, plumbago.

Pink leaves of a weeping lilly pilly.

Short or low hedging: Low hedges can border paths, define beds or add greenery to retaining walls. Try a stepped or double hedge, where a small hedge is planted in front of a tall one.

Top picks: Pittosporum 'Golf Ball’ (below), Japanese box, germander.

Round pittosporum ‘Golf Ball’ hedges.

Using unconventional plants: They may not be seen as go-to hedge options, but with the right maintenance, these plants can grow into lovely lush specimens.

Top picks: Native oregano (below, also known as round-leaf mint bush), blueberry, metrosideros (New Zealand Christmas bush).

Close-up of native oregano flowers

Hedging for boundaries: “A hedge adds a softer touch to the garden than a fence,” says Katy. Use it to hide an unsightly fence or define a boundary. If not needed for screening, look for medium-size plants, between 2-3m.

Top picks: Murraya (below), Pittosporum ‘Miss Muffet’.

Murraya hedge growing.

Keep in mind:

  • Safety tip: Always wear the appropriate safety equipment and always follow the instructions for the product or equipment.
  • When using a hedge trimmer, wear gloves and eye protection and always stand on a steady, level surface.
  • Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

New to growing hedges?

Learn how to successfully plant and grow a murraya hedge with our easy guide.

 

Photo Credit: Sue Stubbs and Alamy Stock Photo.

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.