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10 Plants for an Irish Hedge

Hedges can be used to create intrigue in the garden, for biodiversity, a wind break or noise filter, or simply just for aesthetic and design purposes.

Whether you consider the more uniform route is best for making your great outdoors greater or maybe, you simply prefer the planting a living photosynthetic softer approach between you and next doors; brought in instant or planted as youngsters, here are 10 hedge choices you may or not, have considered.

Hedge n 1 a fence or boundary formed by closely growing bushes or shrubs

1. Berberis – Barberry

There are more reasons to dislike the Berberis than to love it. All of those reasons seem to be it’s quite compact and thorny nature Nothing a pair of welding gloves won’t solve I should add. But thorns aside, it is a beautiful plant that is great for nature and should you be looking for a spot to block off or stop traffic passing through then this is the plant you want. A genus of around 450 species, I can only be a little vague in my specifics. I’ve bad memories of this plant and my resulting shredded legs as a child and pierced hands in my early days of the horticultural trade.

  • Peter recommends: Berberis darwinii

2. Forsythia

Possibly better for the more informal type hedge, but I absolutely love this plant for its Spring time yellow flowers on bare stems. A little like the more vigorous Fuchsia’s, you can cut this shrub back to about half it height every year, which may appear a little harsh, but worth it in order to get flower growth covering the stems. After flower it goes to green leaf and shortly after that happens I tend to cut mine back. My recommended type grows to about 10′ fall. Fresh flowers on my kitchen table in Spring.

  • Peter recommends: Forsythia lynnwood Gold

3. Cypress – Lawson & Leyland

Chaemaecyparis lawsoniana [Lawson cypress] and x Cupressocyparis Leylandii [Leyland cypress]. I remember years ago asking a friend his thoughts on the Cypress as a hedge and whilst I find it really hard to say anything good about these fellows, his answer contained the words petrol and box of matches. The Lawson can grow to about 125′ tall – The Leyland can to about 120′ tall – unless you own acres hectares [plural] of land – it is recommended you don’t plant these. People like to tell me they’ll keep them controlled, they usually don’t.

  • Peter recommends – none

4. Laurel – Prunus and Laurus

bay laurel

Asking for laurel as a hedge is like asking for a vehicle. It is that vague. The more common or usually used however is most probably the Prunus laurocerasus [cherry laurel] which can grow up to 30′ tall; make the mistake if you wish and choose the Prunus lusitanica [portugal laurel] which grows up to 70′ tall – or the Prunus otto luyken if you like it a lot smaller. Personally, I prefer the Laurus nobilis [bay laurel] which grows up to 40′ tall – but is very easdily controlled, produces a beautiful flower and berry and doubles up as a herb. I have about 20 of theses in my own back garden.

  • Peter recommends – Laurus nobilis

5. BambooFargesia and Phyllostachys


Knowing your plants, botanically, once again really does pay off. Take the simple example of the 2 bamboo types. The last Fargesia I planted will only ever grow to about 12′ tall – whereas the Phyllostachys aurea to about 30′ tall. Buy them in a little more mature and it is now growth per annum that is the only consideration one should have.

Either or I love the rustle, the more feminine flow and the less vigorous overall feel of the Fargesia. A little different as a hedge but, works extremely well for the less formal gardener.

  • Peter recommends – Fargesia nitida

6. Griselinia

griselinia hedge

Variegated or not, the evergreen Griselinia is without question the darling of the Irish hedge family. Although it did suffer a bad low temperature beating in the last seasons, it is pretty much indestructible. It’s glossy green foliage forms a beautiful back drop for any garden or divide, grows really well in the Irish climate and is a dream with which show off ones ability to cut hedges perfectly level. It can grow to around 24′ tall and get a little woody internally but that’s nothing a good hard cut back won’t solve. On a side note, I’m not overly keen on the variegated variety.

  • recommended variety: Griselinia littoralis

7. Ligustrum – Privot

ligustrum ovalifolium aurea variegata

Variegated or, gold or green, next to the Griselinia [nooted above] the Privot hedge was the Irish gardening must have of the late 1960’s and may never fully become dated. Works extremely well as a hedge as the internodal distance is quite short. Better than that, if it ever gets there, it does flower and produces a fruit. I’ve seen it grow up to about 12 foot tall and become quite woody beneath. A good hard cut back does this stalwart no harm.

  • recommended variety: Ligustrum ovalifolium aurea variegata

8. Fagus – Beech


A great hedge that for some estranged meaning and reason is labelled evergreen, which doesn’t really make sense when referring to copper beech. Humour aside [?], do consider that the same plant used for hedging has a bit of a split peronality and also thinks it will become a tree. In that context I tend to trim its centres with a lopping shears first and then a light trim with a petrol cutters. A haven for biodiversity, it’s nuts are edible and the new growth when it appears is just stunning. It can grow to about 75 foot tall. Best planted bare root or root balled.

  • Peter recommends – Fagus sylvatica

9. Crataegus – Hawthorn

Of the same family as the Rose [rosaceae], if you ever wanted to do something for the environment, I highly recommend planting some of these beauties. Thorned, flower producing, edible berries as a fruit and a real beauty when you think just what the Irish climate has thrown at it over the centuries. This fellow can also grow to become a tree about 24′ tall, is steeped in Irish mythology and is almost guaranteed to grow just about anywhere. I’ve about 20 or so of these in my garden.

  • Peter recommends: Crataegus monogyna

10. Buxus – Box

box hedge

Low and slow growing, when the box hedge is trained and grown properly, it’s new growth is a beautiful and stunning lush dark green. Very reticent of the ye olde type gardens, surprising maybe it can grow to around 14′ tall which may come as a surprise for some to hear. Then again do considers it is of a genus of about 70 species – once again pick the right Buxus. Family members aside, it can get a little woody and one whilst one may get away with the ill pruning of other hedge types, errors here may not grow back within one season. I love it dearly. One should have no problems at all if managed correctly.

  • Peter recommends: buxus sempervirens

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Irelands Native Irish Trees [listed & detailed]

With the lead into the winter spring/ tree planting season I went searching for a list of native Irish trees recently. Fair to say I was left extremely disappointed by what I could find.

There are many lists of trees available. On many [state involved] websites I found it extremely difficult to find any details at all. Some showed up but the pages were down or the site ‘suspended’. On others the details were so inaccurate [botanically], or the advice that came with was merely illogic horticulturally. One in fact noting that the Alnus was suitable for growing in a container, others simply a list.

I came up with what I can only describe as the most definitive list of native Irish trees that I have ever seen. That said, I don’t believe I am missing any ?

Before you go any further… I have excluded as best I can what may better be described as  a shrub. I have also chosen to list the trees alphabetically by their botanical names rather than their often variant common titles.

If you are thinking of going native Irish this season have a quick read first… you might just change our mind 😉 but I hope you dont.

1. Alnus glutinosa [alder]

[betulaceae] the commn alder. This deciduous tree can grow up to 25 metres tall and 10 metres wide. It has dark green leaves and produces clustered catkins in winter and ovoid fruit in summer. It grows quite well in poor soil and wet lands. Easily propagated by seed or hardwood cuttings. I always remember this one for its use in farmland shelter belts.

2. Arbutus unedo [Strawberry Tree]

[ericaceae] This evergreen beauty is a big shrub, if it is to be considered so, growing up to be considered so. It can grow up to 8m in height and width. For me it is the reddy peeling bark [kind of eucalyptus like…] that does it for me. Throw in a mass cluster of white flowers in autumn and some red fruits [not to be eaten!!]. Great in a mixed woodland or a specimen. Love it. That said, I’ve rarely seen it on a request list.

3. Betula [birch]

[betulaceae] there are 2 native birches in this list. Another catkin grower, produced seperately, these fellows are most famed for their white/ silver bark and their small leafed autumn foliage. The Betula pendula [silver birch] can grow up to 25 metres tall and 10 metres wide whilst the Betula pubescens [downy birch] can grow to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

4. Corylus avellana [hazel]

[betulaceae] there are many cultivars of the avellana variety. Probably most famed is the C. avellana ‘Contorta’. But they are not to be confused. And one should pay particular attention to the last part of the name, not only here, but with all trees. You have been warned!! Generally speaking the C. avellana’s can grow up to 5 metres tall and wide. Obviously they are most famed for their edible nuts and their yellow and very beautiful winter catkins.

5. Crataegus monogyna [common hawthorn]

[rosaceae] that rose family….once again, pinky white flowers borne in late spring adorn this thorny tree,that are followed by dark glossy red fruits; the seeds of which will cause some stomach upset if ingested. Whilst it is more often grown as a hedge [scioch] and wuite suitable for that, as a tree it will grow to 10 metres tall and eight metres wide. One of these most resiliant trees I have ever met and an absolute must for any garden that is seeking to attract nature. For logic reasons, they’re not a gardeners favourite for a planting nor puning – but I love them.

6. Fraxinus excelsior [Ash]

[oleaceae] The common ash. A deciduous tree, easily spotted in winter by its black buds and grey stems, personally, I love this guy purely for its autum [foliage] colour. The feathered like leaves can grow to about 12” long and go almost bright yellow – the tree itself however can grow up to 30 metres tall and 20 metres wide. Famed for its use in making hurleys…

7. Ilex aquafolium [common holly]

[aquifoliaceae] this fellow make the list of trees but really is more of a shrub or bush, to you and me that is. A more obvious member of the evergreens, its dark green prickly leaves grow to about 10cm, its red berries produced in winter are followed by spring to summer flowers. It can grow up to 25 metres tall and 8 metres wide. Not the prettiest of the holly family… but great for wildlife.

8. Malus sylvestris [wild crab apple]

[rosaceae] another member of the rose family, you can gather therefore its most promnent features are its fragrant cup shaped flowers, in ths case pinky white produced in spring. The flowers are followed by, of course, its red fruits. Often thorned this quite susceptable beauty can grow to 9 metres tall and 7 metres wide.

9. Pinus sylvestris [scots pine]

[pinaceae] with its greyish crackily blue bark at the bottom and a more reddish bark at the top. This pine really [in my opinion isn’t, in my opinion, the prettiest fellow in the book at all. The male ‘cones’ appear like catkins [tiny slim soft pendulums] the females of the pine family are more cone-like, are green conical, 6cm long approximately and can take 2 – 3 years to ripen to a red brown finish. In height up to 30 metres tall and to a width of about 8 metres.

10. Populus tremula [poplar]

[salicaceae] One of the fastest growing upright looking trees I have ever met. The small diamond leaf, spring catkin producing tree [green for the female and red/ grey for the male] has one of the most vigorous root systems I know of. It also grows up to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide. This is another that I remember famed for its use in shelter belts in farmlands.

11. Prunus [ornamental cherry]

[rosaceae] Once again there are 2 in this block. We’ve all seen a cherry tree at some stage or other…. The Prunus padus [or bird cherry] produces white fragrant flowers in spring followed by black fruits. The difference between this and any other variety of cherry…. this one can grow up to 15 metres in height and 10 metres in width. Like most natives, not exactly one for grandma’s 2 bed town house.

The second is the one I would be more familiar with, the Prunus avium or commonly called wild cherry. I prefer this for its glowing red bark, its white flowers followed by its more coloured red fruits. Once again however it can grow to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

12. Quercus [oak]

[fagaceae] Two oaks enter the native Irish category and here we’ve really hit big boy territory. The Quercus patraea [sessile oak] can grow up to 30 metres tall and 25 metres wide. Whilst the Quercus robur [common oak] can grow up to 35 metres tall and 25 metres tall. In general and as most already know,the oaks are famed for its acorns, the fruit it produces. But I love knowing the fact that its minute male and female flowers are produced seperately but on the same plant usually around late spring.  The males then follow in catkins whilst the females follow in the form of a cluster of flowers on a central stem [raceme]. Then follows what we know as the acorn [fruit]. In my opinion – these guys will grow just about anywhere. I also love their foliage in autum.

13. Salix [willow]

[salicaceae] a genus of around 300 species, the willow in my book holds so many personal memories from baby baskets to simply getting the back of my legs whipped as a nipper by my friends! To horticulture…. a deciduous tree that grows in almost any condition but much famed for that near excesses of water. Its greatest asset, after its stem [for me] is it silhouette through the winter sun – or its form and its smooth, soft catkins that grow upright. Famed in its weeping format… once again be careful the variety that is chosen. Too many varieties to be extremely specific.

14. Sorbus [sorbus]

[rosaceae] thats right, another of the rose family and 2 of to the group…. who’s more than just a pretty face?!! The Sorbus is a great producer of late spring flowers, in clusters that are followed by amazingly spherical fruits – not to be eaten by the way!  The Sorbus aucuparia [rowan or mountain ash] foliage is almost identical in layout to that of the rose [yes valentines etc as you know it] but these grow to about 8″ long. It grows to 15 metres tall and 7  metres wide. Its fruits are reddy orange in colour. 

The Sorbus aria [whitebeam] – now heres a totally new equation – yet still related. Its leaves are round and silvery hairy on the base. It produces white flowers in spring and then produces dark red berries just after. This chappy also grows up to 25 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

15. Taxus baccata [yew]

[taxaceae] an evergreen shrub on the poisonous [all parts except the arils are toxic if ingested] and the conifer list, this chappie kind of also hits the I don’t know whether I’m a tree or a shrub/ bush list. That said the reddish flaky bark is stunning when it is grown for that. The alternate is of course that it is kept as a hedge. It has dark green matt leaves, produces yellow [male] cones in spring and its fruits are green surround by red [arils]. It can grow up to 20 metres tall and 10 metres wide.

16. Ulmus glabra [wych elm]

[ulmaceae] Now here’s one thats a toughie. This species suffered its own variation of the plague when Dutch Elm disease hit and almost wiped an entire species. As a result, you wont see too many of these guys around. No way hosé!! To the spring red flowering tree that is the U. glabra – that is followed by the production of winged green fruit; it is deciduous, its leaves grow up to 15cm long and turn a delightful yellow in autumn. It can by the way reach a height of 40 metres tall and 8 metres wide. Give one of them to your mother in law as a gift!!