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The Etiquette of Hedges

etiquette of hedges

I was recently asked to help the Government with their High Hedges bill to help resolve hedge-related conflict between neighbours and it got me thinking about the thorny issue of hedge etiquette (I love puns!).
So before I met with them, I did a little research. I trawled the internet, scoured my well-thumbed issue of Debrett's and asked various opinionated people in my village about the unique etiquette of hedges. But to no avail. The internet didn't help, Debrett's seemed to avoid the issue entirely in favour of letting me know how to address the First Sea Lord whilst at dinner (not a likely occurrence in my village in the middle of the hills) and what I got from the opinionated people in the village was neither relevant nor printable!
So I relied on our customer service team's 25 years' experience of chatting with customers across the UK about their hedge-related problems. And it seems to come down to a differing idea about privacy. After all, most people grow a hedge because they 'want a bit of privacy', which is a very British euphemism for 'I don't like my neighbours'. So should we be surprised that hedges can cause so much angst between people? Especially when hedges can grow so tall as to block out light or when the roots grow so much as to cause damage to buildings and drainage.

So, in the spirit of a hedge peace-envoy, here are my handy tips to keeping on good terms with those neighbours you are trying to block out of view:
1. Choose your species wisely. Many people ask for the fastest growing hedge possible because they want instant impact. But once a conifer hedge has rapidly grown to its desired height, it keeps on growing, and growing and growing! If you are going to grow a conifer hedge, be prepared to prune it upto 3 times over the summer just to keep it in check. If not, go for something which will still grow quite quickly, but requires less maintenance, like hawthorn or beech.
2. Keep it at eye height. So if your hedge is only waist height, your nosey neighbours will still peer over at you lounging in the sun enjoying a Pimm's, with hopefully a good dose of envy - it's only natural! So grow your hedge to eye height and they will have no excuse to 'accidentally' peer over at you. And at that height, the hedge is easy to prune and not too tall to block out all the light from their garden.
3. Prune their side too! Hedges grow in all directions, so if it's your hedge you should prune all of it, even on their side. Just ask permission first (or build a fence on their side).
4. Remember the fruits. If you have fruit trees in the hedge, birds will pick them and then clumsily drop them all over the place. It will never be much of a nuisance, just the odd little plum or cherry on the lawn, but if your neighbour has a severe case of OCD it could just tip them over the edge!
5. Remember the roots. When hedges go to court, it is normally because of their roots. Tree roots do not actually cause as much damage as they are blamed for, but roots do grow into cracks and can suck out water from mortar in foundations, making them crumbly. So if you are planting near old foundations, maybe consider not choosing a very thirsty plant like a conifer and try Beech instead.

So good luck, keep neighbourly and avoid the dreaded hedge wars!

07 June 2013 at 16:57 / Comment


Cant get my purple beech hedge high enough to block out the ugly 6 foot wendy house and various plastic accoutrements in next door's front "garden"
This year I've fed it with chicken pooh - result

Comment posted by: Annie / 16 June 2013 at 15:19

Chicken Poo!

That made me smile, Annie! Chicken poo - the latest weapon in the war on bad taste! :) It smells quite bad, but can be a great fertiliser

Comment posted by: Grant Murray / 17 June 2013 at 11:01

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