Planning Your Garden

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Hello, and welcome to this, the first in a series of articles concerning the design and planning of gardens both old and new. In this world of instant access and information, it can be difficult to slow down and let time take its normal pace. The garden is one of these voids in life where this should naturally occur. “Patience is what produces a garden of real quality and character”

The following article concerns hedges, screens and shelter belts. Today in rural areas most houses are built on half-acre sites. Many new house owners are daunted by the size of their garden. Obviously, the lawn will be the first area that needs attention. (I will discuss the construction of a lawn in the spring edition of the Athenry Journal).

Planning is the most important factor in creating a worthwhile garden. There are many different varieties of plants which are suitable for use as hedges. However, people tend to choose the cheapest plants and also the fastest growing. Do not let price determine solely the type of plant you choose for a hedge. Remember almost any plant can be grown as a hedge and in years to come you will have completely forgotten what it cost initially. When choosing plants for your garden take your time and look around and don’t just pick the easy option.

Hedges of quality take time to mature and the speed of growth should not be the ultimate factor in determining what variety of plants you choose. “I just want something that grows quickly” is a very common statement. So it may grow very quickly but the problem with some of these plants is that they don’t know when to stop. Lets take the example of the very popular x Cupressocyparis Leylandii. This particular plant was created from crossing two different forms of conifer. Discovered in the late nineteenth century, it is now one of the fastest growing conifers in Europe. However, before you decide to use this variety of plant, remember that it is not an ideal answer to your border problems. If you want to grow a leylandii hedge, and by that I mean a neat and regular clipped wall of foliage, it is vital that it is pruned in the 1st few years of its growth. Decide on the eventual width and height of your hedge and don’t allow any foliage to pass is point.

You cannot grow the trees for a few years and then decide that you want a neatly clipped hedge. At this stage you you are only cutting into woody growth which does not bud as quickly as young growth. The distance for growing a leyandii hedge is about 3 feet. For a thicker hedge it is advisable to stagger the plants. Now, if you want to use leylandii as a screen or windbreak, space you plants about 6 feet apart. By spacing them at greater distance these trees will eventually grow bigger and faster.

If you are going to plant a hedge, screen, tree or shrub results will be greatly enhanced by adding fertiliser and more importantly organic matter such as well-rotted farmyard manure. Words cannot exaggerate the importance of organic matter in the soil. It adds bacteria which activates the surrounding soil, provides a vital source of moisture retention in dry summer spells, allows the new roots to establish at a quicker and it also adds an extra boost of important minerals.

Whatever you decide in relation to the planting of a hedge or screen, remember that there is a large selections of cheap bare-root trees available. These varieties include Ash, Beech, Sycamore, Mountain Ash, Birch, Willow, Aspen, Popular and many more which are available for planting from November to Spring. While there are many advantages to planting these kinds of trees on your site, however, you may have to wait a couple of years for them to mature.

When they do establish you will have a more natural and aesthetically pleasing hedgerow, which will blend into the countryside much more and encourage wildlife

“Remember gardening is a skill of patience”

Robert R Reilly, Dip. Hort

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Written by Robert Reilly

Published here 11 Jan 2023 and originally published December 1996

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