As you will know from my fascinating communication a week or so ago we are now in the season for putting in bare root plants including fruit trees, hedging and roses. Bare root season makes the winter fun when you plant what often looks like a few dead twigs which then transform themselves, over the years, into a key component of your garden.
I want to stick on hedging this week and look at more informal planting and how to liven up an existing hedge. Hedging comes in many guises from the clipped geometric shapes sculpted from privet or box to more natural versions with a mix of varieties and shapes.
Unruly Hedges My background is in graphic design so I quite like ordered, linear shapes and although I don't have any, I do get a kick out of a well clipped hedge. Informal hedges can look just as good and provide year round interest for both the gardener and local wildlife. Most clipped hedges never get to flower (because we keep trimming off the flower buds) but many of the common hedging varieties would if allowed and can also be used in an more informal planting. Privet, for example, is rarely seen in flower but is a superb pollen producer and loved by bees.
Rosa Canina and Rosa Rugosa Due to an increasing desire to be more environment friendly informal hedges are becoming more popular, you can have a more unruly flowering and fruiting boundry without your neighbours thinking you can't be bothered to use your shears. If you are opting for a more varied hedge wild roses are a great addition.
Rosa canina (the dog rose) is the wild hedgerow rose with it's characteristic pale pink flowers fading to white around a yellow centre. Rosa rugosa or 'apple rose' is the cultivated relative of the dog rose and is commonly available in white, pink and red. They are available at this time of year in bundles as bare root plants or 'whips'.
Both canina and rugosa make an excellent informal hedge with a long flowering period. They also have the added bonus of red hips in Autumn which provide food for birds and can be used in the kitchen to make syrups, jams and jellies.
Planting a rose hedge You can plant as a new hedge by spacing plants approx five plants to the metre in a staggered row 40cm apart. Both canina and rugosa are very hardy plants and will establish quickly in most soils. Unless soil is very poor simply make a slit in the ground with a spade deep enough to cover the root of the whip.
Once planted, hedging whips should be trimmed to 250mm above the ground to encourage new shoots in Spring. Wild rose hedges are tough and can be easily kept tidy with a hedge trimmer if they begin to look a little shaggy. Once established plants are fast growing and can grow up to 6ft high if required and add 2ft of growth each year so provide fast and effective shelter.
Planting in an existing hedge You can also plant these versatile roses within an existing hedge to add variety and colour. If planting in an established hedge dig a hole approx 300mm square to about a spades depth and mix in well rotted compost at about a 50/50 ratio with the existing soil.
Bear in mind the rose will be competing for moisture with the more extensive roots of the hedge so will need watering in dry weather. Once the roses have become established (usually 2 years) they won't need additional watering.
Where can I get these fabulous plants? As if you didn't know...... I have added pink Rosa canina and a red and white Rosa rugosa to our hedging section. We also now stock red and golden dogwood whips (dogs everywhere today) and the beautiful white puff ball Guelder rose which can be planted in the same way as the roses. To view our new hedging plants please click the blue button below. They are all available in packs of 10.