Native and Non-Native Hedging Species

We are often asked what species of our hedging plants are native or non-native and so we wonder how many people know how few native species there actually are but we are here to help you on your journey of planting a fully native hedge, or if that’s not what you are after, we can help advise and find you a non-native hedge that does the trick!

Native Hedging

There are two evergreens that jump to mind as being native and both are fantastic but both quite slow growing.

1. English Yew (Taxus baccata)

English Yew (Taxus baccata) is a dense, dark, evergreen species with bright green spring growth and autumnal red fruits which are much sought after by birds but harmful to humans, pets and livestock. It is often thought to be very slow growing but actually normally grows by 30/40cm pa so not as slow as many people think – but once it reaches its desired height, its easy to maintain.

Yew plants needs plenty of water in the first couple of seasons but should not sit in waterlogged soil. If you are concerned that you have clay, wet soil, please improve the drainage when planting Yew. Apart from its requirement for water, its very easy to grow, shade tolerant, very hardy, and likes all soils particularly alkaline. You can include Yew in a native garden feature to add interesting texture and winter cover.

2. Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

English Holly is a beautiful and versatile evergreen, famous for its prickly leaves, red berries and attractive aesthetic. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is an ideal hedging plant for many reasons. It is slow growing, so needs little maintenance, its dense form and prickly leaves are a good intruder deterrent, its berries on pollinated plants provide food for native birds throughout the Winter and it can be trimmed into a superb formal decorative hedge which provides an excellent windbreak and is also pollution resistant.

Being evergreen, Holly keeps its fantastic foliage year round providing you with year round interest and winter cover. Holly is also a very popular choice to include in a native mixed hedge (it is one of the few native evergreens) to provide some winter colour and protection for wildlife. Consider adding a number of our native plants to a mixed feature as this will create a hedge full of diverse colours, shapes and textures. You can also see our whole collection of prickly hedge plants which can be planted alongside Holly for an outstanding, intruder proof hedge.

Ilex aquifolium leaves are glossy dark green and berries can be either red or orange. It grows by approx 10-15 cm p.a. and should be trimmed in autumn (and mid summer too if you wish). It likes full or partial shade and moist (but not wet) soil and is suitable for exposed sites, seaside gardens. To prevent hungry birds eating all the berries (so that there are some left for Christmas decorations), tie netting over selected stems or cut a few stems in early/mid December and stand them in a bucket of water in a cool shed and they should stay fresh. Always make sure there’s plenty of alternative bird food available, see our new bird food range on our new website My Garden Wildlife.

Other Native Hedging Species Are:

Non- Native Hedging

There are many beautiful, wildlife friendly, evergreens that are not native – Escallonia, Berberis darwinii or Berberis stenophylla, Osmanthus , Pyracantha, some Cotoneaster varieties, Olearia, and the deliciously scented Choisya just to name a few! A lovely range of evergreen flowering (and some berrying) hedging plants and not one of them are native.

Our Top 5 Non-Native Hedging Plants are

1. Cherry Laurel

Cherry Laurel is our best selling evergreen hedging plant and it produces modest white flowers in spring and red berries in Autumn, but both are insignificant and really it is chosen for its vibrant foliage.

2. Box (Buxus sempervirens)

The Box hedge plant (Buxus sempervirens) is the ideal species for formal low hedges or pathway hedging as well as being a classic topiary plant.
Because of its versatility and appearance, Box hedging has a universal appeal in both urban and large formal garden situations and can be used to great effect for borders, partitions, green walling (think mazes and pathways) and even beautiful and intricate parterre knotwork gardens.

3. Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ 

The Photinia Red robin hedge plant (Photinia x fraseri) is a marvellous alternative choice for an evergreen hedge because of its brilliant red glossy young leaves, which give a spectacular display in spring and summer before maturing to dark green. Photinia Red Robin is not a particularly dense shrub, so it has some movement in the breeze, attractive for many sites but not recommended where a security hedge is required.

4. Leylandii

Leylandii x cupressocyparis leylandii is a very popular choice amongst those who recognise its superb attributes and those looking for a good height on a small budget. Regular clipping of the mid green, spray like citrus scented foliage, in midsummer and autumn, can make this a superb, dense, formal garden hedge, ideal as a windbreak and for noise reduction. 

5. Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is a great alternative to Leylandii hedging, as it is slower growing but still provides a dense, evergreen, conifer hedge. The tall stature and delightful green shades of Western Red Cedar makes it the ideal background to smaller, colourful plants as it magnifies their colours making them stand out within a garden.

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