A hedge is a dense row of shrubs, trees or perennials that are planted and trained to form a green fence or living wall.  Hedges are beautiful as well as functional in the landscape.

Hedges, like fences serve a number of purposes in the landscape:

  • as a divider
  • privacy
  • screens (block unsightly views)
  • background 
  • windbreaks  
  • protection from trespassers  
  • noise barrier
  • living fence or wall
  • decorative

When choosing hedging materials there are a number of factors to consider.

  1. What is the main purpose for the hedge - discouraging trespassers, windbreak, privacy, blocking a view, decorative
  2. What is the exposure - full sun, full shade, partial sun or shade
  3. What kind of elements are going to play into the survival of the hedge.  Soils, wet / dry sites, wind, salt spray in the winter, animal grazing etc.
  4. Available space for growth and desired height
  5. What style of hedge - formal (sheared) or informal (more natural)
  6. Budget - evergreens are more costly then deciduous shrubs
  7. Availability of plant material. Depending on the type and variety of plant material there may not be a huge selection to choose from.

The most important thing when choosing hedging material is hardiness, pick plants that will survive the winters.

Types of Hedging

In Calgary, Cotoneaster is the most popular hedging plant for a number of reasons:

  • Affordable
  • Hardy
  • Quick growing
  • Dense habit
  • Can be sheared
  • Brilliant fall colour

Other plants that would work well as hedges are:

  • Barberry
  • Caragana
  • Currant
  • Dogwood
  • Hardy Roses
  • Highbush Cranberry
  • Honeysuckle
  • Junipers (slow growing)
  • Karl Foerster Reed Grass
  • Lilac
  • Nanking Cherry
  • Pine (slow growing)
  • Potentilla
  • Spirea
  • Spruce (slow growing)
  • Willow


The easiest, most efficient way to plant a hedge is to dig a trench.

  • the trench should be 12" (30cm) wide and at least 12" (30cm) deep when using 1 gallon sized plant material.  If the plants are in larger containers adjust the width and the depth to accommodate the size of the root ball.
  • prepare the backfill by mixing 1 part compost or manure to 3 parts existing soil
  • scarify or break up the bottom and sides of the trench with a fork
  • spacing will depend on the variety of plant and the desired effect
  • recommended spacing for Cotoneaster is 12-15" (30-38cm)

After placing plants into the trench, with the correct spacing, start to backfill the trench.  Ensure that plants are not planted any deeper than they were sitting in the containers.  Water in with a starter fertilizer (10-52-10) to encourage strong root development and keep plants well watered until they become established.

It is beneficial to build a well around the base of the plants for watering.  A temporary fence along the side of the hedge is good for discouraging people and animals from cutting through and damaging new plants.

Routine Care

Hedges require regular pruning to maintain the desired shape, size, and increase density.  Formal hedges should be pruned at least two times a season.  Informal hedges require pruning to remove dead, damaged, and diseased branches and unfavorable growth.

With hedges that have not reached their desired size pruning should remove ¼ to of the shoots length.  This will help encourage compact, dense growth.

When pruning or shaping hedges the general rule is the sides should slope inwards from the base to the top.  The top of your hedge will be slightly narrower than the base.  This allows light to penetrate the lower branches to encourage the production of new shoots.  This will help to maintain dense growth and prevent dieback.

Other maintenance involves keeping the bottom of the hedge weed-free.  Older, established hedges will benefit from an annual top-dressing of compost or manure.  Mulching around the base of the plants keeps soil cool and moist, helps prevent weeds and adds aesthetics.