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Hedge Planting in Dorset: How to ‘Get the Edge’ with your Hedge

Are you contemplating hedge planting in Dorset? If this is your first attempt, then you’ll be pleased to know that not only are hedge plants relatively inexpensive; they are also fairly easy to plant - and have the potential to form that attractive border much quicker than you might think. In addition to creating structure and a clear, safe boundary setting with both your neighbours and the public, hedges also provide a nesting place – a mini eco system, not only for birds, but for almost all groups of animals including hedgehogs, reptiles, amphibians, spiders, and many invertebrates…

Hedge Planting in Dorset: What should I plant?

It depends on the aesthetic you want and how much time/money you are prepared to invest. Most trees and shrubs have the potential to make hedges.

Hedging plants are often supplied as bare-root specimens, which are usually both affordable, and reliable. (Pot-grown plants are equally as effective, but they will cost you a bit more.)

Think carefully about what you want your hedge to look like when it’s grown. If you want to create a hedge which is dense and bushy from the ground upwards, you may want to plant young, small plants.

Small hedge plants (often called ‘whips’) are about 60cm (2ft) high, won’t break the bank and are also relatively easy to establish. Larger plants, naturally, require more care and will set you back a little more.

If you do go with larger plants, be prepared for a hedge that when grown, might have gaps at the base. Also, larger plants do come with more likelihood of failing than small ones. Especially if this is your first time (or one of several.)

Need a hand?

'Hedge fails' are obviously disappointing - and you will almost certainly benefit from expert guidance where planning is concerned (trust us!) Perhaps you don't want to 'hedge your bets' at all? If you are looking for the additional security and convenience of having your hedges professionally planted, 'in line' with your future goals/budget - and set up for success; then get in touch. As well as providing help and guidance on the most effective plans for your hedges, we will happily take care of the whole process, ensuring that you have an excellent border in no time. We're so confident in our approach that we offer a one year guarantee on all hedge planting projects.

Planting a native Dorset hedge

Planting a native Dorset hedge creates a diverse and interesting garden feature in its own right, providing year-round interest in the form of berries and seeds, flowers and a varied range of foliage (as well as the previously mentioned increase in the number of birds, insects and small mammals you will start to see in the garden.)

Depending on your preference, a native hedge can be kept to a formal shape if clipped regularly, or it can be left to have a wilder look.

What kind of hedge plants are Dorset Natives, and when should they be planted?

Hornbeam, Beech (aka common beech, copper beech…), Apple rose, Dogwood (Siberian dogwood), Guelder rose, Hawthorn, Dog rose, Field maple and Privet are all Dorset Natives. Early autumn is ideal for planting evergreen and semi-evergreen hedges. With deciduous hedges such as plant beech, hawthorn and hornbeam; any time from leaf fall (typically from mid-autumn until late winter) is recommended. In all cases, planting is best delayed until the soil can be worked easily, especially if the ground is frozen or waterlogged.

How to go about it

Planting and caring for a new hedge is very similar to that for any new tree or shrub. Good soil preparation beforehand will give your hedge the best start in life. Prepare the ground by digging over a strip 60-90cm (2-3ft) wide and one spade blade deep. If a herbicide (weedkiller) has not been used beforehand, remove all weeds. Add organic matter, such as garden compost or a proprietary tree and shrub planting mix. Rake in general-purpose fertiliser. (Soils that become waterlogged in winter may require a permanent drainage system.)

To improve the structure of the soil, incorporate generous quantities of compost, such as well-rotted garden compost, well-rotted farmyard manure, mushroom compost or composted bark. If the soil has poor drainage, add sharp sand or coarse grit (make sure it is lime-free). If the soil is heavy clay, take care not to create a solid basin at the base of the trench that will stop the water from draining freely.


Planting distances vary from 30-60cm (1-2ft), depending on the plants’ final size, the size of hedge required and plant vigour. Trim back damaged roots to healthy growth. Spread out the roots and work soil between the roots - firm plants in so that soil is in close contact with the roots. Water if the soil is dry. Mulch to a depth of 7.5cm (3in) after planting to prevent weeds. Ensure that evergreens are sheltered from drying winds during their first winter and growing season. If subject to strong prevailing winds, a protective windbreak such as windbreak netting should be erected. This will help to prevent the plants drying out before their roots are established.

Caring for Your Hedge

Make sure your young plants are kept well-watered during their first year (even in winter when they are dormant). It is important to keep them moist in March, April and May. As a guide, in dry weather at least two gallons (10 litres) of water per square yard/metre should be applied twice a week. Also, it is advisable to spray over the foliage of evergreens in the evenings as well as watering them (use a hose-end diluter to make the task easier). Do remember that in their first-year, plants often come into leaf and flower much later than established plants. So, don’t assume that the plants have failed if late into leaf.

After Care

Ensure that plants are well-watered during dry spells for the next two years. Top-dress annually with a general-purpose fertiliser, and re-apply mulch as required. Keep the hedge and 45cm (18in) on each side weed free.

Hambledons: Here to help

We live and breathe hedges, so whether you want us to check-in on your new babies on a regular basis as they mature or take care of the whole process for you, from planning to execution/maintenance – just get in touch. Our friendly and knowledgeable team have extensive experience and use only the best equipment. We wish you all the very best with your Dorset life lived on the (h)edge… and hope to play an ongoing part in it!

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