Why Container Grown Hedging Makes Sense

by : Annastenning

The vast majority of hedge plants are best bought bare-rooted. A bare-rooted plant has been grown in fields where its roots were able to grow without being restricted by pots. As a result bare-rooted stock tends to be bigger, stronger and healthier than its container grown cousins. Less labour (and fewer chemicals) are involved so bare root plants are much cheaper than potted ones and, as if all that were not enough, the relative size and strength of bare-root plants means they tend to establish faster and grow away better than pot grown stock.

In a perfect world therefore, no one would plant containerised stock and we would all be busy creating hedges from large, cheap, healthy and vigorous plants grown in open ground.

Unfortunately, the world is not perfect. In the context of hedging, its biggest imperfection is that bare root trees and shrubs can only be planted between the months of November and March in England and Wales (and until April in Scotland). With very few exceptions (notably yew, box, privet and laurel) the best hedging plants are deciduous - in other words they drop their leaves and go into dormancy in winter. All bare-root plants, whether deciduous or evergreen, are best moved and planted when they are as dormant as possible. Therefore, Spring, Summer and Autumn are no go areas for bare-root planters.

The other major flaw in the perfect world of hedging is that some plants will simply not survive bare-rooted. Holly, camellia, escallonia, griselinia and photinia to name a few die if they are lifted and not transplanted within a day or so.

Add to the above the need to create barriers at other times of year (to satisfy the planners, hide the neighbours, screen a meat rendering plant, whatever) and the attractions of container grown hedge plants begin to emerge. A potted plant has soil around its roots and so is less susceptible to drying out. It has all its own roots and there is no root disturbance when it is planted which is increasingly important with larger plants.

A 60cm yew moves very happily when bare rooted while a 100cm yew suffers too much root damage when lifted and so does not. Container grown plants therefore enable you (and your gardening) to be instant. Being in a pot means there is an immediately available food source so potted plants do not have to be planted within days of receipt if the weather is grotty. They are happy to sit and wait outside, while you stay warm and dry indoors.

The single biggest advantage of container grown trees and hedge plants however, is that you can plant them all the way through the 'non-planting' season from April to October with an excellent chance of first surviving and then flourishing. They cost more than bare-rooted stock, but container grown plants work when bare-root plants would simply die.

It is true that planting container grown hedging is a bit more trouble than bare-rooted ones. Each plant needs a relatively large hole (and a trench makes planting easier if you are planting a hedge). The flip side is that rabbits and other pests tend to have enough food elsewhere to leave your plants alone, which gives them a chance to get bigger and stronger before the ravages of winter.

Summer planted hedging also needs watering assuming the weather is not like that of 2007. However if you do have a hosepipe ban, you can always use the bathwater (which by the way is also good for roses and keeps the greenfly off).