Most hedge plants bought in the UK each year are bare-rooted. These have many advantages over those grown in pots, but all their size, strength and low cost cannot overcome two huge shortcomings.
Not all hedging stock can be successfully planted when bare-rooted, irrespective of the time of year. Secondly, if you want to plant in the summer months (April - September) you have no choice but to use container grown hedges.
So, if the planners are on your back in May, if a car mows down your treasured yew hedge while on its way to (or more likely from) Glastonbury in June or if you suddenly fall out with a neighbour in July and want to blot them out, you turn to potted hedge plants. They cost more, but they fill a gap in more ways than one.
You should be able to find most of the likely suspects in containers from a specialist supplier. Garden centres have many uses (I am going to spend several hundred pounds in one tomorrow) but selling relatively large numbers of the same plant is not one of them. You do not need variety (which is what a good garden centre should provide), instead you need consistent size and quality and you want to buy plants or container grown hedges that have been grown specifically to develop into bushy hedges.
The list of plants you may want to consider would include - in alphabetical order - beech, box, escallonia, griselinia, holly, hornbeam, laurel, photinia, privet, viburnum and yew. All of these are either evergreen or hold their leaves through the winter. All grow extremely well in containers, unlike many of the more normal bare-root subjects which hate having their roots constrained. All enjoy being planted in the relatively warm soils of June - September and they all establish well from potted hedging.
Ground preparation wants to be pretty good - no plant likes to be stuffed into a small hole without food and water. Work in a trench about 40 cms wide and 30 cms deep. Dig it over thoroughly to ensure competing weed and tree roots are removed, hard clods are broken up and larger stones are removed. Remove the soil, fork over the bottom of the trench to help with drainage and then return the topsoil together with plenty of well-rotted compost to improve its water retention qualities.
The key to successful summer planting lies in good preparation. The roots of container grown hedges need to be encouraged to grow out from the rich compost in the pot into the surrounding soil. Nothing does this better than ensuring it is moist but well drained.
Remember - if the ground is not ready when your plants arrive, there is no hurry - containerised stock is perfectly happy to sit and wait for a couple of weeks while the weather gets better and you finish preparing their trench. One of the joys of container planting is that you can choose to do it when the weather suits!
There is really not much else to do. Summer planting tends to mean that rabbits stay away and there are loads of birds around to keep insect pests at bay. Weeds need to be kept under control, it is true, but if you have grass to cut just tip the clippings along the base of your hedge. They will smother smaller weeds and rot down quite quickly to improve the soil.
They also help make sure the ground stays damp. If it dries out, leaky hose is very water efficient, but if you have a hosepipe ban, then use soap rather than detergent in your bath, run the bath outlet into a barrel outside the house and water your hedge from that. Use some on the roses as well, greenfly hate the soap.
Anna Stenning is an expert on container grown hedges, having spent some time in the summer growing her own hedging.