mylandscapes contemporary garden design london

manicured landscape hedge design

garden hedging topiary designs

blog / minimal upkeep

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Spatial Definition

Hedge designs form ultimate expressions of order in man-made landscapes, and while their primary purpose of unwavering spatial definition remains constant, novel cultural articulations have been progressing hedging into a specialist art form. Chiefly, hedge designs are rooted in monoculture, and for garden design landscapers, each minimalist line of a single species effectively defines a hedge; it's the definitive segmentations of outdoor spaces by timeless hedges which produce clean contemporary linearities and architectural verve in the modern garden's renewed parameters. As many hedge design layouts are relatively easy to maintain across residential scales, this infinitely rewarding, diverse landscaping practice is continually updated into staple elements of modern garden design as long-term solutions.


Topiary designs form universal landscape expressions, from popular culture to social status, and when this classic discourse is simplified in modern gardens inventively, new compositions emerge – expanding our perception of its vast potential. Hedging remains a personalised portrayal of one's labour of love; whether in a provincial back garden or an urban roof terrace, a virtuoso hedge-like master stroke yields a horticultural chef d'oeuvre like no other garden design speciality.

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1. culture 2. species 3. framing 4. cultivate 5. structure 6. enclosure 7. sculptural 8. horticulture 9. monoculture 10. maintenance

small town garden box hedge layout
modern roof terrace evergreen hedge
whimsical cactus indoor hedge modern london penthouse

1 culture

For the interior of this roof terrace project, a minimalist line of Barrel cactus greets guests by the entrance, placed below an Andy Warhol artwork. This low maintenance monocultural approach was continued throughout the residence, extended into a sequence of three rooftop terraces. We produce distinctive, intricate living art when we transform mere hedges into upbeat focal points; designed imaginatively, their figurative or abstract outlines redefine garden environments. Allain Provost, the French landscape architect, has integrated such qualities into public spaces in London and Paris in the late 20th century. By utilising geometric shapes, curves and lush three-dimensional blueprints, Provost created embracive, tactile and entertaining modern art with hedging and topiary, notably in Parc Andre Citroen and Thames Barrier Park.

2 species

A low rectangular hedge preserves the view to St James's Church in this Clerkenwell roof terrace, displayed in a bespoke planter plinth; its linear geometry provides horizontal balance beside a tall, vertical Portland stone modern sculpture. We plant diverse native hedging species, and it's a truly energising experience integrating these pure agricultural plants into urban garden and roof terrace settings. Except for evergreen Box, Yew and Holly, most native hedges are deciduous, such as Beech, Elder, Field maple, Hazel, Hawthorn and Hornbeam.

wirtz family

Combining evergreen and deciduous hedge species defines a specialised and growing art form, mastered by the Wirtz family of landscape designers in Belgium. Whether sourced as bare roots, root balls or pot grown, cultivated in shade or sun, shelter or wind, the objective is to produce sustainable architectural lines of beauty. This intrinsic connection within a site expands its matrix of vistas, while enfolding, accentuating and unveiling central design motifs.

3 framing

patio design

The angular hedge design in this Primrose Hill patio garden defines transition between split levels, and softens a clean, minimalist hard landscape. Hedges provide natural, permanent green lines, forming effective alliance with integral garden focal points, while producing much-needed energy in constructing vistas towards a distinctive tree, or the horizon line. Hedging generates a greater sense of space, when vertical and horizontal design elements align to form garden viewing apertures, where its inherent raison d'etre is remarkably elevated by creating a foreground equally essential as its landscape backdrop. This versatile, timeless hedge technique is sublimely displayed and conserved in Ham House, Richmond, where intricate 17th-century parterres, colossal topiaries and surrounding hedgerows form a distinct verdant landscape – maintained by the National Trust.

4 cultivate

penthouse terrace

Our Shoreditch roof garden features merely four hedging species, where sheer simplicity and contrasting texture, scale and colour are expressed through groupings of grasses, Bamboo and Box spheres – providing the setting for a Zen-like roof garden. Every hedge design represents a feat of horticultural engineering, and depending on the scope, it's essential to plan access for feeding, irrigation, trimming, pruning and clipping. Many hedges would grow unevenly when the ground isn't prepared uniformly and irrigation or water saturation is irregular. Yet, cultivating hedges successfully is often achieved with minimal effort, freeing up precious time to admire one's handiwork with a tour around the family's manicured piece de resistance!

roof terrace modern clipped box spheres tall chic vases
lavender hedge trough stylish town garden
elegant low square hedge landscape architect design country garden

5 structure

country garden

The 4-square-metre low Box hedges which frame the elevation of this Essex home echo the symmetry of a grand facade. A hedge naturally establishes structure, forming a pivotal building block in articulating sense of scale within a man-made landscape gardens. While ancient hedges have been growing for hundreds of years, with today's pot or field-grown large specimens, we often create full hedging structures instantly. Solid hedges form a natural backdrop for softer elements, while their varied textures add contrast to diverse foliage. Yet, for many of us, hedging define unfussy structural planting designs by sustaining precious seclusion as reliable, green outdoor screens.

hedge partitions

The monumental scale of Hatfield House, in the Hertfordshire countryside, contains multitudes of centuries-old hedge designs – ranging from Holm oak, Lime and Yew trees to modern additions of Cotoneaster and Lonicera hedges. An aerial perspective of the 40-acre garden depicts a secluded matrix of discrete outdoor spaces within an expansive estate; crafted, layered and maintained amid a highly structural landscape framework, lovingly preserved by Lady Salisbury. Contrastingly, Tom Stuart-Smith's Whitehall garden in Norfolk, East Anglia, portrays contemporary hedge partitions, delineated further alongside Corten steel screens within a seaside setting.

6 enclosure

In this Primrose Hill patio garden, where we created a new back garden and roof terrace, the frontage is refined by a Lavender hedge and Bay topiary which demarcate various level changes. A taller Holly hedge was planted to deter passers-by from sitting on the front wall, while Lavenders add safety, scent and colour along a glass skylight. Countless residential spaces are defined, separated and embellished with hedging designs, and even in city centres, where large-scale civic spaces are invariably open, local parks are demarcated by textured green architectures and the winter structure of deciduous species.

verdant network

Suburban gardens, greens, commons and playing fields all form compartments within a verdant network of hedges, where there isn't a more solid, oxygen producing safety barrier to outline our land. This gridded living system often thrives in the micro scale of a small town garden or roof terrace, when navigation through a space is organised around lines of hedging. Low and wide, or tall and narrow, a hedge defines space within a space and a paramount sense of enclosure.

7 sculptural

The wave-shaped Yew hedge in this city rooftop mimics the outline of a Piers Gough designed apartment building, enveloped by pocket Box hedging and a circular water feature. In both Eastern and Western cultures, topiary, bonsai and hedging have evolved into highly skilled, enduring art forms. Yet, while the 300-year-old Yew hedge at Bathurst Estate in the Cotswolds stands 40‘ tall, most of us wouldn't favour a cherry picker when tending to our own humble hedging! Yew, Box and Japanese Holly present optimal evergreen selections from which to sculpt a long-lasting living piece of art. As horticultural views differ with each and every garden owner, and plants grow rather varyingly according to location, hedge designs define individual achievements.

8 horticulture

roof garden

The gamut of hedge designs which narrates this expansive Vauxhall rooftop garden integrates diverse outlines into uninterrupted London terrace panoramas. While our suburbs are marred by ghastly hedges such as Privet, Griselinia and Cherry Laurel, nurseries in the UK are introducing beautiful new varieties of hedging. The occasional bout of Box blight has led to an increase in Japanese Holly usage, and new exciting cultivars of Ilex crenata are raised across Europe, which we utilise as lasting alternatives in our garden design projects.

wildlife revival

Numerous Leylandii hedges capture public attention, affecting rights to light, where an innocent conifer hybrid has evolved into an unruly garden eyesore! Yet, a hedge design provides horticultural value in abundance, and while the Yew hedge at Bathurst Estate produces a tonne of clippings per pruning session, smaller hedges contribute considerably to green recycling too. The resurgence of cultivating hedges in diverse forms certainly signals a return to native species conservation within a wildlife revival.

roof garden minimalist box hedge style
shaped yew hedge architect roof terrace project
contemporary evergreen grass hedge bespoke troughs

9 monoculture

rooftop landscape

In this Clerkenwell rooftop terrace, evergreen Japanese sedges define minimalist linearity and lead the viewer towards St Paul's Cathedral, while invigorating a treeless urban streetscape. Even a traditionalist embraces a touch of minimalism when planting a single species in precise alignment. Specifying this plant entails thorough thought, as suitable conditions will cater for this one-of-a-kind selection and its numerous clones. In a modern garden setting, the paring down of hedge design elements conveys peacefulness and optimises upkeep.

10 maintenance

Depending on scale, hedge maintenance is straightforward, entailing one or two pruning sessions per year. Then again, the 40‘ Yew hedge at Bathurst Estate requires two men, two days and a cherry picker to reshape – producing a tonne of clippings! Trimming techniques vary according to hedge species, and adequate training enables proficiency in distinguishing evergreen and deciduous genera requirements. Tall, wide, and woody hedges, as well as mature topiary, involve a lot more effort and experience, when upkeep certainly increases. Yet, the finale of a hedge's haircut is a rewarding one, whether for the specimen, its owner or a mere spectator enjoying expert virtuosity!

large country garden modern hedge design
modern roof terrace evergreen hedging for wind
contemporary grasses hedge rooftop garden planter

– coda –

A Reshaped Perception

To successfully combine hedging and topiary in a modern garden design is to update classic landscape rudiments with restraint and imagination. While Buxus spheres remain one of the most popular garden topiaries, original clipped hedge structures and distinct, sustainable hedgerow methodologies are continually explored in diverse, contemporary landscapes universally. Every now and again, fresh design ideas emerge, and redefine our very perception of the blueprints which constitute an inspiring, definitive hedge design.