Garden hedges – the highs, the lows and the law

Hedges can really finish off a garden if well maintained, they provide structure and privacy as well as being a home to nesting birds and hedgehogs.

When is the right time to plant them? 

  • In general, mild spring weather or early autumn is best as some hedges can be sensitive to frost (such as cherry laurel or yew).
  • If you are looking for a fast-growing hedge with a touch of elegance the Leylandii has the quickest growth rate of approx. 75 – 90cm per year.  If you plant between November and February, your Leylandii trees will need less water (or maybe none at all). However, you can plant pot-grown Leylandii from March to October without a problem as long as you water them throughout the spring, summer and autumn (but not in the winter).

Hedges and neighbours

Many a heated conversation has been had about a hedge boundary or how high they grow, blocking out light in a neighbour’s garden.

What is hedge etiquette?

  • If you cannot agree with your neighbour to jointly plant a hedge on your property boundary, it is wise to leave a gap of at least two to three feet between the boundary and your hedge.
  • Your neighbour can cut any branches that overhang into their garden as long as they only remove the bits on their side of the boundary.
  • The law states that a high hedge is anything more than 2m (approx. 6.5 ft tall) although if a hedge is below that height but is blocking too much light from your neighbours’ house or garden, they can speak to the local council to issue a notice to remedy the problem and prevent it reoccurring.
  • Boundary hedges between properties are the responsibility of both neighbours and each side is permitted to trim back any branches or roots that creep onto your property, this can be done with a petrol or battery hedge trimmer, take a look at the range available.
  • Just be careful not to go over the boundary line or legally your neighbour could take you to court for damaging their property!


  • Birds love hedging plants such as Yew or Privet, it make great nesting homes for them as the dense foliage creates a warm, safe environment where they can shelter and breed.
  • All bird nests are protected by law and it is illegal to intentionally disturb or destroy active bird nests; find out more.
  • Birds usually nest between March and August which is the main breeding season, it is not generally recommended to cut your hedge in this time-period but if you do it is very important to check carefully for active nests before cutting.


  • Hedges are important to hedgehogs, they offer them protection and cover from predators while allowing them to rest in daytime or bury a hole in the ground out of sight.
  • Hedges are a great food source for them with snails, slugs, caterpillars, and beetles living here too.
  • An ideal hedge for these creatures will have no gaps and connects to other hedges to allow them to move freely and safely.

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