Evergreen Hedges, Screens and Copses

 
 

How to grow Eucalyptus as Hedges and Screens  

In this section you will find information on the following:-

Definition of the two terms
The Hedge,
    Species to choose
    Planting distances
    How to grow a Eucalyptus Hedge

How to grow a Eucalyptus Screen
    Tall and fast screen
    Species for a tall and fast screen
    Moderate screen at a more sedate pace.
    Species for a moderately fast screen
    Combine fast and moderate species

Creating  a Copse or small Plantation

Water, Mulch and Feed Mantra

 

Definitions

What we mean by a Eucalyptus Hedge
The more bushy forms of Eucalyptus lend themselves to being pruned and trained as loose hedges. Not so much in the traditional sense of a square, tightly clipped Box or Yew hedge, but more as a linear, shrubby hedge, as you would find with Photinia or Pittosporum.

This is a practical way of managing these trees. You have the benefits of their robust evergreen foliage, in a range of silvery blue or green colours, with their wonderful fruity or spicy aromas (depending on the species).  The 'hedge group of species' respond very well to pruning, to keep them under control; both shearing and coppicing work well.  They can be comfortably managed at around 2 to 3 metres tall (approx. 6-10ft).

What we mean by a Eucalyptus Screen
This is where a single species or a couple of different species are planted to work together. They will form an evergreen screen of anything from 2 metres up to 4 metres tall (approximately 6 to 15ft) depending on which species are selected, what is required of them and how they are managed. They are planted either in a linear fashion to make a loose hedge or, where space allows, in a group like a copse or mini plantation, which may be used to visually block out a distant building or blot on the landscape.

The Hedge
Species to choose

Small leaved species which respond well to both clipping, shearing and coppicing are best. Also species which tend to have a bushy habit and keep their lower branches are good. However, please bear in mind that a Eucalyptus hedge cannot easily be maintained at 1.0 - 1.5 m (3-5 ft) tall as they will open up a little at ground level; it is the nature of the plant.

    Best species to choose:

Planting Distances
The spacing of both hedging and screening Eucalyptus are set far greater apart than those used for a conventional hedge. The reason for this is that Eucalyptus do not enjoy competition. They are fast growing and require space to achieve their full potential.  Plant them too close together in their formative years and they begin to compete, growing tall and thin and running the risk of becoming unstable.

How to grow a Eucalyptus Hedge.

    1. Prepare the ground by stripping off the turf and removing all the weeds. Perennial weeds will need spraying with a glyphosate based herbicide.
    2. Plant young Eucalyptus trees at 1.5-1.8 m (5-6ft) spacing either through a weed suppressing membrane or mulch heavily after planting.  It is essential to keep the hedge weed-free at all times.  Plant using our 'Planting is easy' guide
    3. Installing a simple irrigation system such as piece of leaky hosepipe connected to a garden tap with a simple automatic timer will make watering during their first summer easier and ensure good establishment, should there be insufficient rainfall.
    4. Begin shaping the plants into a hedge by pruning them in the September of their second summer. The timing of this is important as it encourages the naked buds to develop in good time prior to the end of the active growing season and plenty of time to begin growing next spring. The next opportunity to prune will be the following April and this then will delay new growth from showing until mid May.  However, by delaying the pruning until Easter time, you have a better hedge to look at throughout the winter months.  
    5. Pruning takes the form of reducing the overall height by 1/3 and shearing the side branches so that the hedge takes on the look of a pyramid with the top chopped off.
    6. 12 months later, pruning follows the same process, but this time remove only 1/4 to 1/3 of the growth.
    7. Once you have reached the desired height for your hedge, prune annually either September or April, into the flat topped pyramid shape.  Allow it to reach an overall width of 1.2m (4ft) at the base.

    The flat topped pyramid shape means that light reaches all parts of the plant, especially towards ground level; this ensures that the Eucalyptus plant retains its lower branches and in turn, they keep their leaves.  The minute the lower branches are cast into shade, they will shed their leaves, the branches will be dropped and the hedge will open up at the bottom.

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How to grow a Eucalyptus Screen
In a nutshell, there are fast growing species that will produce a tall screen very quickly and there are slower growing species which will produce a shorter screen and take slightly longer going about it.

    1. This sort of screen could be used for providing privacy at the end of your garden, screening out an unsightly factory or electricity pylon in the distance.
    2. The species that lend themselves to these screens are high altitude forest dwellers. If grown as single isolated specimens, in an exposed environment with strong winds, they suffer leaf tearing, dessication (scorch) and even wind-throw. However, they naturally grow in groups, where they provide each other with stability and protection from the wind.
    3. Typically these trees will produce 1.5 to 2.5 metres of growth per year. They are fast and will shed their lower branches after a few years (about 3-5 years), becoming open at the bottom.
    4. Plant a single row at 1.8-2.5m (6-8ft) spacing, observing the same method as planting a single Eucalyptus tree (see planting is easy).  
    5. Their canopies will join up after about 3-4 years, providing you with that desirable screening.

    Long term management of this screen:
    (i) either thin out the trees, as they mature and start to crowd each other. This option is for where you can afford to let the trees grow very tall and more importantly, they are not close to any buildings or structures.  
    (ii) alternatively, (and this is the system we would advise) adopt a pruning management system whereby you coppice every other tree, on alternate years. That way you keep control over the trees, they don't get out of hand and you maintain a bushy, vigorous screen.
     

     

    Moderate screen at a more sedate pace.
    A moderately fast screen for planting around a tennis court, swimming pool or to hide a garden shed

    The suggested species for this category are selected from the sub-alpine group of trees.  
    They are robust, hardy and used to exposed conditions in their native environment; the snowy mountains of Australia.  They grow at a moderate pace for Eucalyptus, at around 1-1.5 metres (3-5 ft) per annum.  They are smaller in maturity, tend to be multi-stemmed, bushier with branches and leaves closer to the ground, at the outset. This lower leaf cover will dissipate in maturity and the screen will open up at the bottom.  However, to counter this, you could always plant a second row of shrubs in front of the Eucalyptus to complete the privacy screening.  For example, Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp. niphophila planted with a row of Ilex aquifolium in front produces a robust, stylish and effective privacy screen. The height is provided quickly by the Eucalyptus and the much slower bushy Holly fills in the gaps as they gradually appear at the bottom.

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    Other species to consider:

    The above species sit between the fast screen and the moderate screen.  They are reasonably quick to produce a screen, but also tend to be quite bushy; the best of both worlds.

    E. stellulata is a bushy species with beautiful foliage: worth trying as a screen. It does well on damp ground, but needs to be grown in a sheltered environment i.e. not exposed windy moorland.

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    Combine fast and moderate species

    Option 1: alternately plant fast forest dwellers and moderate sub-alpine in a single row, as 1.8-2.0 metre (6-8ft) spacing.

    Option 2: if you have plenty of space, plant a double staggered row at a spacing of 2.8 metres between each plant and 2.8 metres between the rows. The fast species shoot away providing early screening and the slower growing species fill in the gaps with their lower wide crowns. Long term management is to coppice the fast growing species or even to remove them altogether.

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Creating  a Copse or small Plantation

    Eucalyptus make excellent cover for game birds and wild life.

    To achieve a small copse to provide a wild life habitat (or simply just for fun),  combine a mix of fast growing and moderate slower growing species and under plant with shade tolerate shrubs, such as Aucuba japonica, Viburnum davidii, Mahonia aquifolium.

    Plant the Eucalyptus at a spacing of 3.0 - 4.6 metres (10-15ft). Do not be tempted into planting at a higher density.    If you plant the trees too close together, they will compete for light and become tall and narrow with high crowns.  Bushy Eucalyptus species will be less bushy when planted close together. Further, close spacing combined with their natural tendency for rapid growth will result in the trees being floppy.  They may lean and the trunks will not be as sturdy as they should. Counter this by pruning the leaders down, in April, by up to half the height, to a thicker shoot. This will help improve stability and allow the roots to catch up with the shoots, making more robust trees. To maintain a healthy copse, the trees should be cut down to just above ground level every 5 to 10 years in April. Cut down a few trees each year to maintain your visual cover.

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Water, Mulch and Feed Mantra

    During periods of dry weather, water your hedge or screen during its formative years. Once established it should not require watering.

    Continue with the mulch to keep the roots happy

    Feed your hedge or screen during the growing season as you would any other Eucalyptus.

    See Care after planting.

    A high potassium feed in August will help increase the Eucalyptus resistance to cold winter weather.

    A feed of Bonemeal in the autumn will build a healthy, robust root system.

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Return to the Eucalyptus 'Growing Tips' page

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