26 August 2014
A word on hedging
I should probably preface this blog by admitting that I'm
something of a hedge cutting addict. For me there are few things in
life more rewarding than turning a scruffy hedge or topiary into a
crisp architectural foil for beautiful planting.
Hedging and topiary are used in different ways to create different effects but they can in fact be interchanged pretty freely to block views, to direct movement, to give winter structure and to act as a backdrop for the the more flamboyant garden elements!
Hedges form the backbone of the garden but can be overlooked for the beauty they posses in themselves. Topiary is the antidote to this unfair, but often intentional recessive quality. Topiary is attention grabbing and here at Ally-y-bela that is probably best represented in the courtyard where a full cast of box and yew shapes create a real sense of drama.
The clouded box hedge on the northern side of the house highlights where the usual distinction between hedge and topiary can be blurred, taking the traditional roll of box as an edging plant and giving it form and interest that, at times, almost upstages the border plants.
The majority of the hedging and topiary at Allt-y-bela consists of yew, box and beech. Both yew and box are traditionally used because they form dense, uniform hedges. Yew is much more suited to hedges as it is naturally stronger when it is taller, and box, a scrubby loose bush in the wild, is much more suitable for forming smaller rounded shapes.
Beech is an interesting choice for topiary, it can form very large and complicated shapes and is very strong. It loses its leaves in winter and so becomes a much lighter garden element than when in full leaf during the summer.
I should also confess to being rather a fan of loud petrol driven cutters for cutting most hedges and topiary although the choice of cutting tool is a very personal matter. I do however use small hedge shears to cut the box!
The hedging and topiary cutting at Allt-y-bela goes on right throughout the summer, the plan is to get at least two cuts across the yew topiaries this year. The majority of the topiaries at Allt-y-bela are relatively new and are still in the process of being formed. Topiaries and hedges, especially of yew and box, can be incredibly long lived and the process of cutting helps to keep them in a juvenile form.
Words: Steve Lannin, Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer