Rebecca Govier: Plant sense

I love the look and tactile nature of a groomed hedge. One client has a fine example, however underneath it is a patchy weedy stretch that detracts greatly. A few roses have survived, half absorbed by the expanding hedge. 
In between are some old euphorbias, full of hollow, dried-up stems, which is a useful indicator of the growing conditions. So what can be done?

I love the look and tactile nature of a groomed hedge. One client has a fine example, however underneath it is a patchy weedy stretch that detracts greatly. A few roses have survived, half absorbed by the expanding hedge. 
In between are some old euphorbias, full of hollow, dried-up stems, which is a useful indicator of the growing conditions. So what can be done?

• Remove the roses; they are past their sell-by date. Hybrid teas require fertile, moist and well-draining growing conditions that many gardens are rarely blessed with. Next to a well-established hedge, they will be overshadowed.

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• Learn from the euphorbia. The soil is heavy clay (not the growing conditions enjoyed by this type of euphorbia). It looks like Euphorbia characias, which prefers life on the dry side so indicates just how much drier the hedge makes the growing conditions.

• Use glycophosphate weed killer to get rid of pernicious weeds. It is the only way to rid the ground of ground elder, bind weed and couch grass. Used in the correct quantities, the hedge should not be affected. Several applications may be required, so leave the border at the base of a hedge empty for a least two springs to be sure of eradication.

It is worth being patient after using weed killer. Digging-up, cleaning and re-potting expensive perennials is painful.

• Rejuvenate the soil with a good depth of compost.

• Plant ground-hugging perennials to anchor the hedge and reduce the need to weed.

My client’s situation is moist, south-facing on heavy clay with a woodland feel so once mulched the ‘hedge border’ could be planted up with Geranium, Ajuga, Heuchera, Omphaloides, Tiarella, Hellebore, Liriope, Luzula, Dicentra, Crocosmia, Brunnera, Pachsandras, Polystichum, Anemone or Alchemilla.

In winter the rusty orange beech hedge around my allotment at Pilrig Park looks wonderful under planted with ivy.

Rebecca Govier (0781 750 5571, www.greenedgegardendesign.co.uk)