Beyond Leylandii

Hornbeam hedging

The Leyland Cypress, × Cupressocyparis leylandii, can produce a fine hedge when well cared for, but all too often it has turned into a monster, far outgrowing its allotted space before being hacked back to bare branches that will not regrow.

Even when trimmed more than once per year, such a hedge will tend to get wider and wider, leaving the soil beneath as dry as dust.

That said, many owners are reluctant to lose their leylandii hedge, fearful of the loss of privacy or the opening up of unwelcome views its removal would entail.

In general, my advice is to take a deep breath and remove the hedge.

Once the roots of the old hedge have been grubbed out and the soil improved with organic matter, suitable replacements would include:

  • Beech or hornbeam – deciduous hedges that retain their brown leaves through winter, affording privacy. Fast growing, and bare root specimens are widely available at up to 2m high, giving a substantial instant replacement at reasonable cost;
  • Yew – the premier evergreen hedge that, unlike leylandii or privet, requires just one trim per year. Bare root transplants up to 80cm tall are available at reasonable cost, and, contrary to popular belief, this is a hedge that will grow quickly in its early years, adding up to a foot in height per year. Coupled with a short-term fence, this can be an ideal replacement hedge, and will cope well with roadsides;
  • Hawthorn-based native hedge mix – creates a thick hedge that trims well and, being comprised of native species, looks good in the landscape and benefits biodiversity;
  • Laurel – a fast-growing large evergreen that trims well, and can be cut back hard if getting overgrown. Shiny leaves reflect light.
  • Fence or trellis – is a hedge necessary at all? A fence with climbers and a border in front could be suitable.

Don’t forget that an unsightly view can also be screened with specimen trees. A substantial evergreen Quercus ilex, for example, could be planted within a run of new hedging to screen a particular eyesore.

If you’d like to consider replacing a hedge, do contact me.