If I was paid for how much time I have spent thinking about hedges, I would have enough money to invest in a hedge fund.
Vita Sackville-West spent a lot of time thinking about hedges, and she advocated a sort of mixed hedge. When I was there last, I noticed that they do that a lot in England for hedgerows to keep the livestock in. As I don’t have livestock, and would mostly prefer to keep the neighborhood dogs and small children out (but don’t want to increase my liability with a thorny hedge), I look for compact hedges with good cold tolerance and attractive looks year round (whether evergreen or not).
Boxwood is a great short hedging material, it likes shadiness (but not darkness) good drainage and protection from winter winds. Usually I accomplish winter protection by piling snow on it. Sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and chooses to melt the snow and dump freezing rain on it. That is a bit tougher on the hedges- but so far so good.
I also have a long lilac hedge. As the garden approaches its 5th spring, I realize what a mistake the long lilac hedge was. Being as overwhelmed as I was by the amount of planting one has to do when they have a cookie cutter lot with no “landscaping” I cheaped out and bought lilacs by mail order. They were 6 inches tall, and now four years later are 1 foot tall.
Later, when I had more money, I decided I wanted a shorter lilac hedge, and planted larger lilacs in a much smaller space. This is another foolish idea– sometimes you forget how large a plant will be when you start out, or you don’t know. After a visit to Mackinac Island this past summer (lilac capitol of the Midwest), I realized my folly. The lilacs will have to come out. They are too close together and too large.
So what to put in the short hedge area? It must have disease and pest resistance (no rose hedges for me), look decent year round, be hardy as heck, but be small. Dwarf evergreens are probably the perfect plant for that location. Given their incredibly slow growth habit I will need to find some that are already large or I will be 100 years old before I stop looking at my neighbors vegetable beds. In gardening, large=expensive. (sometimes cheap and large means disease, poor handling, or bad plant choice)
So I’m in a quandary. Anyone who has ideas for full sun, decent drainage, medium growth but narrow hedges is welcome to comment and let me know what they would choose.