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The Fundamentals of Hedge Landscaping

Hedge landscaping may very well become the next big chapter of your gardening adventure this summer! Not only is it a fantastic way to add privacy and beauty to your property, but it also instantly boosts the curb appeal of your home. But where to begin? In this guide, we'll break down the fundamentals of hedge landscaping in Pennsylvania, from choosing the perfect plants to achieving your desired shape and fullness. We'll also address common challenges and offer helpful tips and tricks for keeping your hedge healthy and thriving. So, if you're ready to bring your landscape to the next level this summer, let's get started!



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Planning Your Hedge 


Plant Selection


Choosing the right plants for your hedge is crucial, especially in Pennsylvania's varied climate. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when selecting your hedge plants:


Climate: Ensure your plants are hardy enough for Pennsylvania's winters while also being able to thrive in our summers.


Sunlight: Choose plants based on the amount of sunlight your hedge location will receive.


Desired Height/Width: Determine how tall and wide you want your hedge to be and choose plants that will be able to accommodate your desired growth.


Maintenance Needs: Some plants require more upkeep than others, so choose hedges that best align with your landscape's current maintenance schedule.



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Popular Hedge Plants in Pennsylvania


When it comes to thriving in the Pennsylvanian weather, not all plants are created equal. Here are some of the best hedges for the Allentown, PA climate:


Boxwood: Known for its dense, evergreen foliage, the boxwood is perfect for bordering formal landscape designs.


Arborvitae: The arborvitae is a fast-growing evergreen variety that provides excellent privacy.

Forsythia: Forsythias offer vibrant yellow flowers in early spring and are relatively low-maintenance.


Holly: Holly provides year-round interest with its glossy leaves and bright berries and creates a dense hedge.


LilacFor a showy springtime hedge, lilacs, especially dwarf varieties, can make for excellent hedging plants.


Hedge Design: The Fundamentals of Hedge Landscaping


Designing your hedge involves more than simply planting shrubs in a line; it requires careful consideration of their shape and style to ensure they complement your landscape and meet your needs. Whether you're aiming for a structured look or a more relaxed, natural appearance, the design of your hedge plays a crucial role in achieving your vision. There are two main directions you can go with hedge design: formal hedges and informal hedges.



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Formal Hedges


Formal hedges are characterized by their precise, geometric shapes and clean lines. These hedges are meticulously trimmed to maintain their structured appearance, making them ideal for creating a sense of order and symmetry in your garden. Common shapes for formal hedges include straight lines, squares, rectangles, and even intricate topiaries. This style is perfect for those who prefer a manicured and polished look in their landscape.


Advantages: Formal hedges provide a sophisticated and elegant appearance. They serve as excellent boundary markers, precisely defining garden areas or property lines. Additionally, they can be used to create garden rooms or enclosures, adding a sense of intimacy and privacy to your landscape.


Plant Choices: Boxwood, yew, and Arborvitae. are popular choices for formal hedges due to their dense foliage and ability to withstand frequent pruning.


Maintenance: Maintaining a formal hedge requires regular trimming—typically several times a year—to keep its shape sharp and tidy. While this frequent pruning can be time-consuming, it yields a highly refined look.



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Informal Hedges


On the other end of the spectrum lie informal hedges, which are allowed to grow more naturally with minimal shaping. This style embraces your plants' organic growth patterns, resulting in a softer, more relaxed appearance. Informal hedges can be just as effective as formal hedges in providing privacy and defining spaces while offering a different aesthetic that is more in tune with natural landscapes.


  • Advantages: Informal hedges require less maintenance than their formal counterparts, as they don't need to be trimmed as frequently, or at all. They are ideal for creating a naturalistic or cottage garden feel, blending seamlessly with the other elements in your landscape.


  • Plant Choices: Plants with a naturally bushy growth habit—such as forsythia, lilac, and holly—are well-suited for informal hedges. These plants also often produce flowers, adding seasonal interest and color to your garden. For an even more relaxed, cottage style garden, and to increase biodiversity, try mixing a few similar sized flowering shrubs, like lilac and honeysuckle, together in your hedgerow. 


  • Maintenance: While informal hedges need less frequent pruning, they still benefit from occasional trimming to maintain their health and prevent overgrowth. Pruning should focus on removing dead or diseased branches to encourage a full, dense structure.


Planting & Maintaining Your Hedge


Planting Basics


The success of your hedges begins with how you plant them. Follow these steps to set your hedges up for success:


Soil Preparation: Test and amend your soil as needed to provide your hedges with a fertile growing environment.


Spacing: Follow the recommended spacing requirements of your chosen hedge plant to ensure proper airflow and allowing each plant room to grow evenly.


Watering: Water your newly planted shrubs deeply, especially during the summer months, until they establish themselves within the landscape.



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Pruning Practices


Proper pruning is essential for hedge health and appearance. Formal hedges are trimmed with shears or electric trimmers to create precise lines and edges. This will have to be done multiple times throughout the season, especially in spring, to keep those lines neat. Informal hedges may be sheared but are often pruned with clippers or saws to maintain their shape and health. 


Here's how to prune your hedges effectively:


  • Evergreens: Prune in late winter or early spring before new growth starts.


  • Deciduous Shrubs: For most species, prune in late winter, unless it is a spring flowering shrub, like forsythia or lilac. Prune these shrubs after the blooms have faded.


Pro Tip: For a full, lush hedge from top to bottom, ensure its base is wider than its top to allow sunlight to reach the lower branches.


Common Problems & Solutions

Hedges can face various issues, from pests to diseases. Here are some common problems and solutions:


  • Pests: Regularly inspect your hedges for signs of pests like aphids or spider mites, and use appropriate treatments or natural predators to control infestations.


  • Diseases: Prevent common fungal diseases by ensuring good air circulation between your hedges and avoiding overhead watering.


  • Maintaining Fullness: If your hedge becomes sparse, you can do a rejuvenation cut - cutting back the hedge near to the base to encourage more dense, fresh growth. This type of practice is done every 3 to 5 years.


Pro Tip: Mulch around the base of your hedges to retain moisture and suppress weeds.


Hedge landscaping offers numerous benefits, from enhanced privacy to increased property value. By selecting the right plants, designing thoughtfully, and maintaining your hedges with care, you can easily create a beautiful, functional landscape feature this summer. 


Still feeling stuck? Visit Lehigh Valley Garden Center today for more expert advice and hedge landscaping ideas, quality plants, and all the tools you'll need to start your hedge landscaping project this season!


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