Mixed hedges of flowering shrubs can serve a range of functions in the garden. They can simply be used to mark the edges of your property. They can also be effective wind-breaks. This can be beneficial if you wish to create a more sheltered spot to position a polytunnel on your property.
Mixed hedgerows can also serve a range of other functions – from providing edible yields, to adding fertility, to attracting wildlife in your garden. Of course, the best flowering shrubs to use for hedges can serve at least one of the above functions and provide visual interest in your garden throughout the year. Here are just 12 great options to consider:
Elaeagnus (Various Varieties)
Elaeagnus umbellata, Elaeagnus x ebbingei and Elaeagnus multiflora are three potential options to consider when it comes to flowering shrubs to use for hedges. These shrubs may not have the most spectacular of flowers, but all these flowers can go on to produce edible berries. What is more, Elaeagnus subspecies are all excellent nitrogen fixing plants. So they can help to add fertility to your garden. When you trim your hedge, the clippings can be added to a compost heap, or used as mulch.
Sea buckthorn is another interesting option for hedges. Again, the flowers themselves may not be the main event. But this is another option with edible berries. And this is also another nitrogen fixing plant. Sea buckthorn flowers with yellow blooms in April, and the berries are usually harvested in early autumn. Sea buckthorn requires full sun, but can cope with a range of soil types and conditions – including maritime exposure.
Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa), can be deciduous or semi-evergreen. This is another shrub that could be great for a mixed hedgerow for edible berries. The berries can be cooked and used to make jams and jellies – they are especially good as flavouring in apple based recipes. And they contain, like the other options above – plenty of vitamin C and other beneficial nutrients. Red, sometimes pink or white blooms come out in the spring and fruits are ripe in October. This is an option that can cope with full sun or partial shade. It prefers moist soil, but is quite tolerant of a range of conditions and can tolerate atmospheric pollution.
Mahonia aquifolium is another great choice for a flowering hedge. Also known as ‘Oregon grape’ it can flower and fruit even in reasonably shady conditions. Like the options listed above, it also has edible berries. The berries are acidic in flavour but when cooked, have a blackcurrant like flavour. Yellow blossoms appear very early in the spring, providing an excellent source of nectar for pollinators early in the year when fewer nectar sources are available.
Berberis darwinii is another flowering shrub that I would recommend using in a mixed hedge. This is another option that can give you an edible yield. The fruits, like those of the above, can also be cooked or used for preserves. The flowers of this hedging plant are also very attractive – bright orange and plentiful, these emerge in the spring. The flowers are great for bees and other insects, and birds very much enjoy the fruits.
Lilac is another of my favourite flowering shrubs to use for hedges. Though the flowering period in spring is fleeting, the purple of white blooms are delightful. They have a great fragrance, and you can enjoy them in your garden, or use them in a range of ways inside your home. Lilac is best for use in full sun, though it can also cope with some dappled shade. This plant is famed for being great at attracting wildlife to your garden.
Hawthorn is another hedgerow plant which is well known for attracting a wide range of wildlife. It can cope with a wide range of conditions, including relatively strong winds. But it will not do as well with maritime exposure. You can also eat the leaves, and the fruits too have some edible use, as well as being loved by birds and other wildlife. It is in flower, with its attractive whitish flowers, in around May.
Ribes sanguinea has vibrant pink flowers that are not only attractive in a hedgerow, but which also help pollinators early in the spring. The berries are edible, but not particularly palatable. They can be picked when ripe in August however, and kept until November, by which time their flavour will have improved somewhat and they can be added to jams and jellies.
Forsythia is another great spring flowering hedge shrub to consider. It’s yellow blooms also arrive relatively early in the year, attracting bees and other beneficial insects. It prefers a sunny position but can also do relatively well in partial shade. The bright and showy flowering display can really brighten up the garden when used in a mixed hedge.
Wild Cherry/ Gean
Wild cherry is a wonderful native plant that can be excellent in mixed hedgerows. This plant is not only known for its edible fruits, but for its beautiful spring blossoms. When pruned, it can be part of an informal hedge, as well as being grown as a full-sized tree. Even if you yourself do not cook and use the wild cherries in preserves, wild birds in your garden will love them.
Viburnums (Various Varieties)
There are a huge number of different viburnums (both evergreen and deciduous) that can be used to create mixed hedgerows in your garden. There are varieties with different coloured foliage and flowers, so there are a great many ornamental varieties to choose from.
Roses (Various Varieties)
Roses are also, of course, a popular hedgerow option. And again, there are a huge number of different varieties to choose from, with a range of different blooms. Some offer not only the attractive and sometimes fragrant flowers, but also hips that can be harvested in autumn or early winter and used in a range of recipes in your kitchen.
These are just a small number of the many flowering shrubs you could consider for a new hedge on your property.
Choosing Flowering Shrubs for Hedges
Remember, when choosing flowering shrubs for a hedgerow, it is important to consider:
The climate and microclimate in your area.
You soil type, nutritional content, moisture level and pH.
Whether the site is sunny, in partial or deep shade.
If the site is sheltered or exposed. And whether there is maritime exposure.
How quickly you would like the hedge to grow.
The rooting habits of potential plant choices.
The growth habit/ form of potential plant choices.
When each potential flowering shrub is in bloom (and the visual interest that will be created throughout the year with your plant selections).
How potential plant choices will impact wildlife in your area. Are they particularly wildlife friendly species, and which species will they benefit.
What you want from your hedge personally. i.e. wind breaking, privacy screening, noise/ pollution control, specific yields etc..
Whether the plants you are considering are deciduous or evergreen. (And which you want for your specific requirements.) Often, a mix of both is best.
How tall you need your hedge to be.
Any design decisions/ colour schemes already in effect in your garden, and how well plant options for your new hedge will fit within the existing scheme.
Think about all of these things and you should be much more likely to make the right choices and find the right plants for your garden.
Which are your favourite flowering shrubs to use for hedges? Let us know your favourites or what you already have growing where you live in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.