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Bare root hedging

Spring is just around the corner and thank goodness for that, it's definitely felt a long time coming. The last hoorahs of Storm Eunice and Franklin seem to have blown the cobwebs away, quite literally - or should I say a good portion of the dead leaves, solitary plant pots and garden furniture. It has made me far more grateful for the sunny days that follow and who doesn’t love seeing the first signs of blossom erupting from the trees? This almost always sends me scurrying around getting the last minute ‘dormant season’ jobs done before the big grow. I've managed to get a bare-root beech hedge planted in a sunny yet sparse end of my garden here in Norfolk along with a new hedge in our drive.

Beech grows almost anywhere and will tolerate partial shade as well as full sun. Although it’s not evergreen, it spends its winter with beautiful copper coloured leaves that turn from their lush green in autumn. So you get all the privacy and noise reducing benefits of hedge in leaf, but with a seasonal twist - one that the birds particularly love because its so dense year-round. It’s worth having a look at purple beech too, which is an incredibly striking alternative. Beech is pretty resistant to disease and other things like a severe and inexpert haircut (I’m talking from the experience of a much younger, much less knowledgeable version of myself wielding a hedge-cutter) although to really rejuvenate a beech hedge is it best to do it over a few seasons. I’ve incorporated it in quite a few of garden designs too as it can be sculpted to fit all manner of design styles, from strong architectural shapes to very shaggy informal hedging.

Choosing to plant bare-root is a no-brainer for me, there is a huge array of choice for hedging whips (baby hedge plants) but also bare-root perennials, trees and roses. Since the planting season for bare-root is around November - March, when the plants are fully dormant, you can generally buy hedge whips with a heavy discount. Generally speaking, it is much more cost effective to buy plants this way anyway, especially in larger numbers. Plants are grown in fields with significantly less costs to grow, care for and for shipping when ready. They are fuss-free with no repotting or fancy compost requirements and are healthier for it as they have not been constrained by sporadic watering or lack of root space. They often establish much better than pot-grown counter parts because they are sold to order and have enjoyed the independence of growing straight in the ground. The other real selling point for me is they are much more environmentally friendly and when planning our gardens this needs to become a top priority. Bare-root plants require far less finite resources like water and are often shipped in minimal packaging. My beech whips were delivered in cardboard boxes with a single bin bag wrapped around the roots and I have simply repurposed this for the last of leaves to make some more leaf mulch. I've also planted up seven or so bare root roses from David Austin roses into the garden, which I just cannot wait to see bloom...

Planting bare root is also very simple. With hedging whips the main method is planting a staggered row in a pre-dug over trench. The trench should be a spade wide and a spade deep, some recommend dipping the roots in a special root-grow solution that you can buy and others talk about adding mulch. It’s actually quite difficult to get this wrong and I have been quite successful just ‘slot planting’ which is where you stamp your spade in, give it a wiggle, then slide the bare-root whip down the back of the blade as you pull your spade out, and then stamp it in. Always best to follow the advice of the supplier though and there are some great videos online too. It’s also worth considering whether you need to use a cane or spirals to protect them from pests (we’re fortunate that nothing has nibbled ours so far).

Anyway, that was the last of the late winter jobs for me and now we have everything reasonably tidy in the garden, ignoring the large expanse of soil near the house waiting for our patio works to start. I am very much looking forward to the longer, warmer days here as our newly planted space springs into action (no pun intended!) and the mass weeding ensues. The next job on my list is deciding what to plant in this years veggie patch, any suggestions?

Speak soon, E

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