By far the majority of our customers who ask about hedging want fast growing varieties. Fast growing hedging is a double edged sword, yes, you can get a hedge quickly but the long term maintenance required to keep it neat and under control is dramatically higher.
Personally I prefer slower species which initially require a little patience but are much less work in the future.
Following is my list of best low maintenance hedging varieties
Beech makes a superb, dense hedge of 6′ plus and is very cost effective when planted in the winter as bare-root transplants, a quarter of the cost of leylandii.
The leaves begin bright, lime-green in the spring, darkening over the summer through to a deep bronze over the winter. Beech is deciduous but the leaves are retained over the winter so privacy is maintained.
A beech hedge is very low maintenance, give the new growth a light trim in June, but be careful to avoid any nesting birds. This can be followed by a heavy trim for form in September/October.
It is best suited to a well drained to dry situation, it will not do well in water logged soils.
Thuja occ. Smaragd
This is not to be confused with Thuja plicata or Thuja plic. ‘Atrovirens’ which are very fast growing and high maintenance species. Thuja Smaragd will make an excellent, dense, evergreen hedge upto 8′ tall. Once mature it looks very similar to the fast growing species but without the required constant trimming.
Unlike leylandii all Thuja species will regenerate from bare wood. This means you can give it a good hard cut back without risking the bare patches that are often seen with leylandii.
Personally a prefer the green variety for hedging but we also supply Choisya Sundance if you would like gold foliage.
Choisya will make a dense hedge upto 6′ tall with profuse, white flowers borne in spring and early summer. It is very versatile, growing well in full sun or heavy shade but not so well in water logged soils.
If you are looking for an armoured, thorned hedge for security then Berberis should be on your list of options. Berberis comes in many forms from green leaved thunbergii, purple leaved Atropurpurea, multi-coloured leaves of Rose Glow and the evergreen varieties of stenophylla and darwinii.
All these varieties flower well in the spring and summer and will provide a dense, armoured hedge of between 3′ and 8′ depending on variety.
If you are looking for a flowering hedge then you should consider Potentilla. There are many varieties of Potentilla and not all of them are suitable for hedging. Two of my favorites are Potentilla ‘Abbotswood’ (white flowered), Potentilla ‘Goldfinger’ (yellow).
Potentillas will flower heavily from spring right into summer, they are very tolerant of poor ground conditions and will grow well in most situations.