Autumn for new hedges

Berberis thunbergii Atropurpurea
Berberis thunbergii Atropurpurea

Hedges may not be as instant as fences, but they are a softer, friendlier kind of garden wall — a permanent living structure that underlines the character of your garden, whatever the season. Whether tall, short, straight or curved, they bind the garden together and help make it flow.

Although great for property boundaries, hedges are also useful inside the garden. A large garden seems more intimate when divided into rooms, and flower beds and mixed shrub borders can be hugely enhanced when framed by a low hedge.

Flowering hedges like lavender and hebes give a gentle, soft effect in bloom, but have a more formal look when trimmed. For a taller flowering hedge, sasanqua camellias combine shiny dark green foliage with colourful winter blooms.

Deciduous hedges such as the red Berberis varieties bring colour and seasonal interest. Even without leaves they add valuable structure and texture in winter, and allow light to filter through their branches.

Combining evergreens and deciduous can lend depth and year-round interest. This is a more informal look, which can be spectacular with the different forms, textures and colour.

Almost any tree and shrub can be grown as a hedge, but generally the plants that make the best formal hedges are densely foliaged, long-lived and require trimming no more than two or three times a year — ideally they’re also quick and easy to grow from cuttings. Most importantly, you need to choose a hedge that suits your soil and climate.

Autumn is a good time to plant a new hedge, but keep it deeply watered. Early pruning ensures even, dense growth, and hedges planted now should be cut back by a half in late spring, with a lighter trim in late summer. During the second winter (or in early spring) trim moderately to remove half the previous season’s growth.

Keeping a hedge looking good requires regular trimming. Box hedges should be trimmed twice a year, in spring and autumn, however fast-growing hedges benefit from more frequent trimming. Flowering hedges are generally pruned once a year immediately after flowering.

A lack of light often causes a hedge to lose its lower leaves. You can avoid this by shaping a taller hedge with slightly sloping sides so it’s widest at the base.

Feed your hedge at least once a year with a balanced fertiliser, preferably in spring.

Good hedges to try in your garden

Corokia rate among New Zealand’s best low to medium hedges. The fine foliage is perfect for clipping and plants are frost hardy, although a well-drained soil is essential. ‘Frosted Chocolate’ and ‘Gentry’s Green’ are popular choices, but the grey-green Corokia cotoneaster is outstanding.

Griselinia and olearia make ideal hedges in exposed, coastal locations. Griselinia is best pruned with secateurs.

Port Wine Magnolia
Port Wine Magnolia

Michelia figo enjoys the same conditions as camellias, and the shiny, light green foliage makes an appealing formal or informal hedge. A flowering hedge of port wine magnolia will fill a garden with heady perfume in spring.

A Feijoa hedge provides excellent shelter with fruit as an optional bonus. The attractive grey-green foliage needs protection from frost when young.


The pretty silver-grey and dark green foliage of fast-growing Teucrium fruticans requires regular trimming to keep growth compact — the ideal height range is 50cm to 1m.