6 Best Hedges for Privacy

One of the most common requests a gardener will be asked is….

“how can I get more privacy in my garden?”

There are a multitude of reasons why you might need to screen yourself from something or someone.

  • Neighbours new extension overlooks your garden
  • Passing traffic and pedestrians can see straight into my front room
  • Unsightly structures in neighbouring gardens
  • However, as much fun they are having, perhaps you do not wish to see the kids next door bouncing 4ft over the fence line on their trampoline
  • To obtain a totally private space, a snug hideaway perhaps where you can disappear from the world outside, no matter how briefly.

The list goes on……

Whatever the reason, with some research and the right hedging plant anything is possible.

Considerations when choosing the right privacy hedge.

Evergreen or deciduous?

Do you need privacy year round or just Spring through to Autumn when the leaves start falling? If you need privacy when in the garden then there are deciduous options that can also be included in your list of suitable candidates.

Eventual height?

Some hedges perform better at height than others, so, careful consideration is needed here. You do not want to plant something that provides privacy at the top but is messy and bare at the bottom.

Neighbours – high hedge law

There is currently a high hedge law in the UK. If your intention is to plant something along a fence that divides you and your neighbour and you (yourself and neighbour) are not in agreement then you could expect a letter from the council if you allow the privacy hedge to get too tall and out of control.

This law is to allow garden to enjoy the sunlight they have previously enjoyed.

The law is a bit of a grey area but seems to apply more to evergreen hedges than deciduous ones.

Light Levels

Few hedging plants enjoy both shaded and full sun conditions. Monitor the area that you wish to plant the privacy hedge and make a note of how much sun light it gets during the day. Remember, best to plant one hedge and it be a roaring success than replacing something that looks messy in a couple of years or has not grown an inch

No sun – look for full shade hedging

Half of the day sun – look for partial shade hedging

Full sun – look for hedging that grows in full sun

I know this all sounds very simple but you would be surprised how many projects I have looked at where the client has told me the area gets full sun only to turn up to a site that gets little or no sun at all.

Not matching the species of hedge suitable for its location and you could be very disappointed.

How much maintenance are you prepared to carry out yourself?

This has to be very real consideration when choosing species of hedging for the screening of your boundary. Some are ridiculously fast growing such as Lleylandii or fairly slow growing such as Holly.

Who is going to trim it back when it goes above 2 metres in height? Do you have or prepared to invest in the proper tools and equipment to carry out the maintenance in a safe manner?

Equipment needed to tall privacy hedges includes :

  • Long pole electric or petrol hedge trimmers
  • Adjustable height cutting platforms (to safely stand on when hedge cutting)
  • PPE equipment such as full face protection and ear defenders.

Of course, if budget allows, you could just call the professionals in. Word of caution, use a reputable gardening company, I’ve seen too many hedges completely ruined by the bob a job leaflet boys.

This is especially import when it comes to Lleylandii cutting and trimming. Cutting back into old, brown growth is a big mistake as Lleylandii never recovers unlike the hedges recommended below.

 Budget

Now the all important. What is your budget?

With all plants, the larger the more expensive. Everyone desires the privacy from an ‘instant hedge’ from day 1 but this can sometimes be  cost prohibitive, unless you have deep pockets.

Fast growing hedges require more maintenance, slower growing species require less maintenance but more time to get to the desired height (if budget does not allow to buy large plants from the start)

How can you make a hedge grow quicker?

Give your new hedge plenty of organic matter in the planting hole / trench.

Watering . If possible set up simple leaky hose irrigation system, running along the soil above each hedge plant. One really good soak per week will encourage the roots to branch out into the surrounding soil.

Feeding. At time of planting a sprinkle of chicken manure pellets around each plant will give them a boost.

Mulching. Well rotted manure is perfect for dressing around the hedge. It will help keep moisture locked into the soil, feed the hedge and also keep the weeds down.

Best Hedges to grow for Privacy  – The Contenders

Please note I am omitting Lleylandii from this list. Although it is the fastest growing of all evergreen hedges it is a nightmare to maintain properly. I have suggested alternatives.

1.) Photinia Red Robin

lush foliage on photina red robin
Photinia Red Robin lush foliage

At a glance

  • Evergreen
  • 1.5 – 4m in height
  • Easily maintained
  • Most soil types
  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Attractive red foliage on emerging leaves

Photinia Red Robin makes a loosely structured tall hedge. Stunning, deep red new leaves appear in Spring followed by creamy white flowers.

This hedging plant is evergreen so will provide year round privacy.

Photina is happy growing in any normal soil conditions and provides a growth rate of around 20 – 40cm a year.

Give it a yearly prune to keep in shape  with either secteurs, garden shears or a petrol / electric trimmer.

2.) Yew ( Taxus Baccata)

foliage of yew provides privacy cover
Yew makes great privacy screening

At a glance

  • Evergreen
  • Dark green fine, needle like foliage
  • 1.5 – 6m high
  • Growth rate – 30 – 40cm per year
  • Easy maintained
  • Full sun to full shade
  • All soil types except water logged
  • Provides good nesting for birds
  • Can be pruned into a very formal hedge.

Pruned formally, Yew is the quintessential English hedge. Its dark green foliage provides the perfect back drop for planting.

Yes is an exceptionally dense hedge, perfect for providing a secret, hidden place to hide from over lookers.

The late autumn berries are a welcome food source for birds however they are  poisonous. Maybe not the best hedge if you have a child or pet that is likely to think they are a tasty treat.

Maintenance is easy. The new growth is soft and can easily be trimmed with hedge shears.  

3.) Cherry Laurel

glossy leaves on laurel hedge
Big leaved laurel hedge

At a glance

  • Large, glossy mid green leaves.
  • 1.5 – 6m
  • Growth rate : 30 – 60cms per year
  • Full sun to full shade
  • Creamy, fragrant bottle brush type flowers followed by black berries
  • All soil types except water logged
  • Good wildlife hedge
  • Drought tolerant

A very popular choice of hedging for creating privacy and screening in the garden.

With its large, glossy green leaves and gorgeously fragrant flowers the laurel hedge is a firm favourite amongst homeowners.

Happily, planted in both full sun to full shade, the cherry laurel is a perfect choice for privacy screening where thee new hedge might be in both light level.

Maintenance. If possible, it is recommended to use secateurs when pruning Cherry Laurel alterntely if using hedge shears or electric hedge trimmers  carry out  maintenance early Spring. This is so any half-cut leaves will be hidden by new foliage growth.

4.) Privet

boundary privet hedge provding screening
Privet hedge looking resplendant

At a glance

  • Evergreen Small green leaves
  • Beautifully fragrant flowers
  • 1.5 – 2.5m
  • Great for wildlife
  • Any soil type except water logged
  • Drought and pollution tolerant

Possibly the most popular hedge to be planted in front gardens up and down the country owing to its ability to tolerate urban and city pollution.

Privet is a fast growing hedge, up to 30cm per year and is best planted in a full sun to semi shaded spot.

If your looking for a super low maintenance hedge then this may not be the species for you, to get a great looking, formal hedge it will need trimming at least twice a year.

5.) Pyracantha

At a glance

  • Evergreen
  • Fragrant flowers, beautiful berries
  • Great for security (savage thorns)
  • Full sun – Partial Shade
  • All soil types except water logged
  • Perfect for wildlife and nesting birds.

You’re either going to need thornproof gloves or an understanding gardener if you choose to grow Pyracantha. They have vicious, inch long thorns.

However, if your not put off by that you will be greatly rewarded with it’s plentiful display of brilliant white flowers in Spring and endless display of hot red or orange berries in Autumn.

Pyracantha be trained either  into a formal hedge or as a wall shrub and will easily grow 30 – 60cm in a year.

To keep in shape prune after flowering, just try not to prune out all the flowering stems which will subsequently turn into berries come the Autumn months.

Little known but the berries make delicious jams and marinades. Eaten raw the berries could cause a mild stomach upset so ensure you use a recipe that involves cooking, stewing etc. For best results plants in a full sun to semi shaded spot.

6.) Holly

At a glance

  • Dense growing hedge
  • Glossy, prickly, small leaves
  • Vivid bright red berries in winter
  • Good for nesting birds and a good source of winter food
  • 2 – 6m

This is one for those that want a low maintenance evergreen privacy hedge. Growing at maximum 10cm per year means less time spent with the hedge shears and more time spent admiring its beauty.

Holly is one of our native hedge plants and birds absolutely love the bright red berries (and you have a free supply of Christmas decoration)

Ilex aquifolium can be planted in full sun to full shade and is tolerant of coastal, exposed sites and is tolerant of  city and urban pollution.

Due to its slow growing nature I would suggest you try to buy large plants from the offset.

Best hedges for privacy is just one of our articles on selecting the right hedges. Be sure to check out our box hedge replacement article if you are struggling with box caterpillar.