Hedges
Gardens Illustrated|February 2018

Domestic hedges are more than just dividing lines; they can be ornamental in their own right. James Alexander-Sinclair considers the options, depending on your taste and situation

James Alexander-Sinclair

Where would our gardens be without hedges? They are our boundaries, our walls, our dividing screens, our guardians, our supports and our skeletons. In spring they burst into fresh clean growth, in summer they shelter nesting birds and provide a solid background for our borders, and in winter they carry the snow and give architecture to our frosted gardens. To answer my own question, therefore, we would be up the creek and in the soup.

The history of the hedge is one of protection rather than ornamentation, beginning when man evolved enough to keep animals. It was generally considered a bad idea to have your sheep/goats/cattle/horses/ children wandering off unchallenged, so the field boundary hedge was invented. Initially, it was formed from thorny branches cut from nearby trees, but in time this evolved into a living hedge that could be laid to make a barrier through which even the most devious sheep could not escape. This idea was eventually extended from the field to the domestic garden. I have done a little survey of the hedges I have seen in various gardens over the past few weeks, and there are many different types. To make things simpler, I have divided them up into various categories.

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