Deciduous plants are plants that shed their leaves in autumn or winter. This means that deciduous plants are the opposite of evergreen plants which maintain their foliage all year round. However, the fact that deciduous plants lose their leaves doesn’t mean they can’t make great hedging plants. As a matter of fact, European beech, hawthorn and pivet ‘Atrovirens’ are highly sought after hedging plants. Although losing leaves may have some negative implications, deciduous hedging plants are fantastic plants in any garden. Although they may not provide privacy and screening throughout the year, deciduous hedges have some aesthetic features that prove there is more to hedging than providing screening and privacy.
Growing a deciduous hedge
Regardless of the fact that deciduous hedges are not planted mainly for purposes of privacy, there are a few advantages of growing a deciduous hedge instead of other common evergreen hedging plants.
First and most importantly, deciduous hedging plants have a more-natural look, providing an informal way for creating a hedge between two pieces of land or gardens. This is the main reason why people who are looking to create an informal, ornamental or basically attractive hedge for a natural garden should consider growing a deciduous hedge instead of evergreens. For gardeners who are cost-conscious, the price of deciduous hedging plants could be another reason to get them instead of evergreen hedging plants as they are fairly inexpensive. In addition, because most deciduous hedging plants are native, it feels like they belong in a UK garden.
Why you should grow a deciduous hedge
There are many reasons why deciduous hedge are considered more attractive and natural:
- Most deciduous hedging plants have beautiful foliage, blossoms or berries, which is usually not the case for evergreens that have a more “modest” look
- In addition, various deciduous hedging plants require very little care to no maintenance, whereas most evergreens need to be trimmed at least once a year
- When deciduous hedges are left unpruned, they will grow in a natural way, resulting in a more natural-look hegde that is less dense and produces flowers and may provide food and shelter for wildlife animals, including butterflies, bees and birds
- Deciduous hedging plants have a relatively open structure, and because of this, they are good at air circulation and they are less sensitive to win, making them excellent windbreaks as they don’t cause any gusts of wind
- However beautiful or healthy a year-long evergreen hedging plant looks, some people still prefer the fact that deciduous plants change color in autumn as well as the fact that the hedge plants have a completely different look after shading their leaves
- In addition, deciduous plants demonstrate the changing of seasons. Gardens with deciduous hedges take a different look every season. You don’t have to feel sad that your hedge has shed all its leaves as it could mean that you should look forward to spring when new green leaves will make your garden look livelier once again
Where to grow
Deciduous hedges grow well in many types of soils and they are tolerant to shade. They are happy in fertile, well-drained soil, but they dislike waterlogged soils; therefore, you will want to make sure that you don’t overwater them.
In addition, they can grow in full sun to partial shade as well as inland, exposed and coastal areas.
How to plant
It is important that you plant deciduous plants well if you want them to establish quickly and grow into healthy hedges. Follow these simple steps on how to plant:
- Water the plant deeply in its clod before planting
- Find a suitable planting location and remove weed and other debris in the area
- Dig a trench twice the width and same height as the clod and ensure that the sides of the trench are straight
- Loosen the soil at the base of the trench and mend the soil around the area you want to plant the hollies with rich compost. Till the amendment into the soil to a depth of 20cm. The compost will improve drainage while providing nutrients that the plants need to thrive
- Position the clod in the trench and ensure that the top of the clod does not protrude above the ground surface level
- Fill the trench with a mixture of compost and garden soul as you firm with your feet or hands
- Water the soil to settle around the roots
- Apply a 6-8cm layer of mulch around the ilex hedge. The mulch will play a significant role in regulating soil moisture and temperature
- Water deeply during the first growing season
Make sure that the plants receive enough water during the first growing season. This is important in ensuring that the plants establish quickly
Deciduous plants can be grown at any time of the year
As you probably know, spacing is very important in hedging. You need to maintain a certain spacing distance between the plants in the trench to create a compact hedge, without overcrowding. The recommended spacing distance for deciduous plants is two to three plants per meter.
Care & Advice
It is important that you water young deciduous plants deeply during the first growing season, dry seasons and in late fall before the ground freezes. Use a hose or drip irrigation for period of 20-30 minutes every week. Deciduous plants that have already established should only be watered during dry spells
Most deciduous plants usually spread out and cover large areas. Some (particularly Fagus Sylvatica) have shallow, fibrous feeding roots that protrude above the ground surface. This means that the surrounding soil cannot support other plants. It is therefore important that you apply a 6-8cm layer of mulch around the plant to suppress the growth of week and reduce the loss of moisture from the ground through evaporation. You may want to use organic mulch that may provide the young plants with nutrients along with serving the functions we have mentioned above.
Feed deciduous plants once a year. Sprinkle an all-purpose fertilizer on the soil under the plants about 10cm from the trunk. Under no circumstances should you allow the fertilizer to touch the trunk of the plant and its leaves.
When it comes to pruning a deciduous hedge, it is important that you prune them at the right time. One or two years after planting, pruning should be done in winter. Further maintenance pruning should be done in summer.
One of the most common misconceptions about pruning is that it will prevent them from achieving their optimum height. As a matter of fact, when you prune a plant regularly, it will strengthen, and is likely to achieve its full growth potential.
When pruning a deciduous hedge, help the tree to main a central trunk, also referred to as the leader. Prune other competing leaders and branches that rub against each other, broken limbs, old stubs, crowded branches, dead wood and thin shorts from lower branches or trunk.
A hedge that is well-maintained and pruned on a regularly basis will maintain its shape and you will be in control. There are a few pruning tools you can use to prune deciduous hedges. Use hand sheers if you have a short hedge to prune. You can use a petrol, battery or electric hedge trimmer.
Make sure that you are using a clean equipment to do the job. This is important in preventing infections.
Hedges may take a longer time to reach the desired size. You may want to buy semi-mature deciduous hedge plants, although it may be costly, they will give you an instant hedge. For semi-mature plants, they will require extra care during planting and watering
If you will be planting the deciduous hedges in exposed sites, they will need shelter. Like other trees, hedges are vulnerable to problems relating to establishment.
- They have beautiful foliage, blossoms or berries
- They require little or not maintenance
- If left unpruned, they will take a more natural look
- They provide shelter and food for wildlife animals such as birds, butterflies and bees
- Provide better air circulation to your garden
- They act as a windbreak
- Some people love the fact that they can completely new look each season
- They are indicators of a new season approaching
- They provide a more-looking and informal way of creating a hedge
- Ideal for people who want to create an informal, ornamental or generally attractive hedge
Deciduous plants are just as good, or even better, than evergreens. In fact, some people prefer deciduous hedges over evergreens because of the many benefits they present. First, they provide a more natural and informal way of creating a hedge or basically a boundary between two areas. And if you don’t have a large budget to spend on hedging plants, then deciduous hedges is the perfect choice as they are fairly inexpensive. When you see your deciduous hedge shading its leaves, you don’t have to worry because it could be an indication that spring is approaching. In addition, they are low maintenance plants.