Ensuring that your garden has a well-balanced design involves more than just having an immaculate lawn, or filling it with numerous plants and shrubs. To add structure to the garden, you should also include hedges and trees in your design.
Hedge plants are generally inexpensive, easy to plant and can quickly form neat boundaries, which are attractive to all kinds of wildlife, including nesting birds. While a well-chosen tree will not only add a striking focal point but also, once mature, it can offer some very welcome shade in the summer. However, before you rush out and buy up container after container of plants and trees, take some time to consider the best placement for them within your garden, and the best time of year to plant them to give them the best chance of survival.
When to plant evergreen and semi-evergreen hedges
In general evergreen and semi-evergreen hedges, such as box, privet and yew, are best planted as autumn begins, although they can be planted at any time between late autumn and late winter.
Planting deciduous hedges
Deciduous hedges, such as hornbeam, beech and hawthorn, can be planted as soon as their leaves start to fall. Typically this means that they should be put in the ground from the middle of autumn until the end of the winter. However, if the soil is heavy with water or frozen solid, planting should be delayed until the ground has thawed or dried out, and can be worked easily.
If you do have to delay the planting of your deciduous hedges, you should keep them in a frost-free building and ensure that their roots are covered with either potting compost and a plastic sheet, or with moist straw or paper to prevent them from drying out. If this is not possible, they can be planted very close together in a temporary trench, ensuring that their roots are covered with at least 8 inches of soil. This technique is known as heeling-in.
Looking after bare-rooted hedge plants
Prior to planting, you should water or soak each plant for at least an hour. If your plants are bare-rooted, they will need to be soaked for an hour, then heeled into a temporary trough until you are ready to plant them. You should also keep your bare-rooted plants in water while they're waiting to be planted to avoid the bare roots being exposed. Once in their permanent planting place, give your new hedges plenty of water for at least the first two years after planting, and stake them if necessary.
Planting bare-root and root-balled specimen trees
If you're planning to plant a specimen tree, it's best to buy and plant it between November and March. Both bare-root and root-balled trees are only available to buy in autumn and early winter, and need planting immediately, as early planting will give the tree the opportunity to establish some root growth before the temperature goes up in spring.
Just like hedges, if you're unable to get them in the ground due to adverse ground conditions, it's advisable to give them a temporary home until the soil is ready to work. Always take great care not to disturb root-balled trees, and cover their roots with bracken or straw for protection against drying out.