(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 23, 2008.)
The good old hedge. Hedges have been in existence for centuries and they can be used in many ways: livestock enclosures, privacy, windbreaks, or just plain ornamental. We all dream of those beautiful southern hedges using Azaleas, Hibiscus, and other tropical flowering beauties. Alas, it is not to be for we in the north face harsh, cold winters. Do not despair though because there are some flowering beauties that are hedge worthy and will survive our frozen conditions.
Pictured to the right is Hydrangea 'Annabelle', a beautiful old cultivar that is hardy to Zone 3a. Growing well in either full sun or partial shade, this beauty is often overlooked as a hedge plant. I think it deserves a comeback!!
Purple Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena). Hardy to zone 2. Pretty pink flowers in the spring and beautiful maroon leaves all summer long. Prune after flowering to keep the desired height. Can grow to 8 feet tall. Prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Reasonably drought tolerant.
Dwarf Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus 'Compactus'). Hardy to Zone 4. Grown primarily for its bright red, fall foliage. Prefers full sun but also tolerates partial shade. Slow growing so regular trimming is not needed. Deer resistant as well which is a bonus. Tolerates any soil conditions but does not like to have wet feet. Small yellow/green flowers in the spring.
Japanese Barberry. Hardy to Zone 3a. This thorny bush makes a great barrier. The purple foliage remains all summer. Bright red berries in the fall are a favourite of birds. This bush is also deer resistant.
Lilac. Why not? As a hedge or windbreak, you can't get much prettier than a Lilac. Imagine the scent!! Hardy to Zone 3a the lilac is versatile enough to be a hedge. Careful trimming is all that is required since they bloom on last year's growth.
Spiraea. Hardy to Zone 4a the Spirea is a popular hedge bush. Newer cultivars can be hardy to Zone 3. Will grow in full sun or shade. One of the easiest flowering shrubs to grow.
There are many others. I left out the evergreens since we are all familiar with them: cedar, juniper, etc. There are many roses suitable for hedges as well. Mock Orange would make a wonderfully scented hedge.
Hedges are basically living walls. They can be used in a number of creative ways. They can mark property lines, different areas of a garden, line a walkway or a driveway. They can be wind breaks or privacy screens.
Hedges require little maintenance. They need to be trimmed, some a couple of times a year, others every few years. It all depends on what you want from your hedge. Occasionally one of the pieces may die for one reason or another. They would need to be replaced.
My grandfather made me a fan of the hedge. He had tall hedges between his property and the people next door. He lined sidewalks with scented, flowering hedges. He hid the mulch pile with hedges. He used a hedge to separate the vegetable beds from the flower beds. As kids, we had many hours of enjoyment using the hedges to play games of hide-and-seek. The ancient hedges provided caves for us to crawl in. Some of the hedges he trimmed neatly, others he allowed to grow wild.
There is no end to the possibilities a hedge can provide. Go ahead, experiment. Plant a hedge, or two or three.
Many thanks to LarryR for his Hydrangea hedge photo. bootandall for the Purple Sand Cherry, kniphofia for the Japanese barberry and Spirea, spklatt for the Burning Bush and zone5girl for the Lilac. I thank you all for the wonderful additions to PlantFiles.