Plants with a Purpose
When you plant a hedge soil preparation is most important the hedge will be in place for many years and so a good amount of food is vital as is soil structure. Having broken the soil up and corrected any excess acidity or alkalinity, incorporate manure or garden compost so that good structure is maintained, and finally add some blood, fish and bone which will release nutrients slowly and some Growmore which will look after the plants more immediate needs.
What sort of hedge do you want? How high? Do you want it to flower? Or fruit? Evergreen or deciduous?
Tall Hedges Evergreen ones might include leylandii (beware you might need planning permission in some urban areas) this will quickly make a good hedge, but you must cut the top off when it is about 20 cms lower than the required height and trim it at least once a year otherwise it will quickly get out of hand. Alternative tall evergreen hedges include yew, Lawsons Cypress and holly. Deciduous alternatives would be beech, hornbeam, or maple. Note that you must not trim cypress (including leylandii) back beyond the green, if you do, it will not then re-grow so you will have a bare patch forever. Prunus Laurocerasus is a fast growing evergreen with spikes of white flowers in Spring
Shorter Hedges Most of the above can be kept short, but either of the cypresses will grow fast and take a lot of trimming to keep tidy. Yew is ideal, or for really short hedges box is popular as it has small leaves, more in keeping with a very small hedge. Lavender is also good, and smelly too! Sea buckthorn with its orange berries is a deciduous alternative.
Flowering Hedges Roses are useful, you can choose your colour and scent, but they can be painful if you need to be frequently rescuing balls from the middle. Potentilla is small and fast, but will not be the neatest, but does come in a range of flower colours. Tamarisk is especially useful in seaside locations.
Scented Hedges Some thujas can make very tall scented hedges thuja plicata for one. Cupressus macrocarpa has yellow foliage and a lemon-like scent. Lilac can make an informal hedge. On the smaller side the roses and lavenders are good.
Coloured Hedges The red new growth of photinia is always cheerful and will produce a hedge anywhere between 2 and 6 feet tall. Purple beech is impressive especially as a backdrop to a largely white border.
Informal Hedges Here a mixture of plants of similar size can be good, ideally native species. Otherwise choose some flowering shrubs such as berberis, forsythia, fuchsia, pyracantha (thorny), lonicera, santolina or viburnum (bodnantense has fragrant flowers in winter) and trim them as required as soon as flowering is finished