A fast growing hedge will increase privacy, while also adding texture and interest to your landscaping. Looking to turn your garden into a secluded oasis, or just block out your view of passing traffic? A fence or brick wall might offer an instant solution, but a lush green hedge will act as a natural and attractive screen.
Fast growing hedge plants - what are my options?
One of the most popular choices for privacy hedging, the cherry laurel is extremely fast growing. Also known as common laurel, this evergreen species thrives in shadier conditions as well as in direct sunlight. Growth wise, you can expect about 60cm per year in average conditions. However, the cherry laurel can also be very toxic.
Valued among the Ancient Greeks, the bay laurel had strong associations with the god Apollo - and its leaves were even fashioned into wreaths for the victors of an early incarnation of the Olympic Games. Attractive and aromatic, today laurus nobilis is prized as a fast growing privacy hedge.
While the bay generally won’t grow as quickly as the cherry laurel - about 40cms a year is average - this can be a plus point once your hedge is fully established. If you’re able to be slightly more patient now, you may well be glad you did a few years down the line.
Once ubiquitous, privet has somewhat waned in popularity in recent years. However, if you’re seeking a more formal edge to your landscaping, it might well be what you’re looking for. Its dense growth will ensure privacy, and is ideal for shaping.
It’s also very fast growing - 30 to 60cm per year is to be expected, particularly if you use a plant feed - which means that it will need pruning several times a year to keep it under control and looking its best.
Almost as popular as the laurel, leylandii is a fast growing species that, with a little maintenance, will soon give you a dense protective screen to lend your garden the privacy you're seeking. One of the fastest growing hedge plants, leylandii can grow up to 90cm in a year - so have those pruning shears at the ready!
If you’re looking for a hedging plant that will create a visual screen without taking up too much space, bamboo can be a surprisingly viable alternative. Golden bamboo or fountain bamboo will create a screening effect while also adding a lush and informal ambience to your landscaping. You can also purchase bamboo that has been formed into rolled screening ready for you to attach to posts.
Privacy hedge planting tips for fast growth
Autumn to early spring is the ideal time to plant your new Laurel or Leylandii hedge, although your task will be easier if you avoid periods of ground frost. Planting outside of this optimum time is still an option, although it will mean that you need to pay a little more attention to ensuring the roots don't dry out.
It’s imperative to prepare the ground first. Ensure the area you'll be planting in is thoroughly weeded six weeks earlier, then give the area another once over for new weed growth before you start. Finally, add some plant food at the same time as your new plants.
For speed, opt for more mature plants to start with. Hedge plants are usually sold as either bare root, root-balled or container/pot grown. While neither option is definitively superior, if you want to increase privacy in your garden quickly, container grown is the strongest option.
For Laurel and Leylandii, spacing plants at a distance of no less than 60cm is ideal. If you're not so concerned about achieving a screening effect quickly, you can even afford to space out a little further up to 1 metre apart. Bamboo should be spaced according to the size of the particular species, but as a guide you’ll usually be aiming for 1 plant per 100-150cms. Privet should be planted closer together - 4 plants per metre is perfect. How deep you need to plant will depend on the size of the plants you’ve purchased - your supplier should be able to advise you on this.
Communication is the key
Finally, if you’re planting a privacy hedge along a shared border, considering having a friendly chat with your neighbour before you begin. Tall, dense hedges can block out natural light, so your neighbours may be concerned about this. Make a point of reassuring them that you’ll be keeping your new hedge maintained to a reasonable height over the years to come.