Evergreen hedging review – how to evaluate plants on sale

by Jane on July 26, 2017

How do you tell whether the plants you see on sale are any good?

I have just been sent a generous sample box of evergreen hedging for review from Hopes Grove Nurseries. Looking on their website, they say they are the largest specialist hedging grower in the UK, only selling direct to the end user. I thought readers might like to know how to evaluate plants in a nursery, so here is my review.

Hopes Grove sent me a photo of their sample:

Hedge sample in nursery

And this is what I got:

Hedge sample I received

Which is pretty like the promise! In the box, I got two samples each of regular box (buxus sempervirens), dwarf box (buxus sempervirens ‘Fruticosa’), euonymus ‘Emerald n’Gold’, yew (taxus baccata) and Golden Japanese Holly (ilex crenata ‘Golden Gem’).

Looking at the RHS book on hedges, its advice on examining plants before buying is to examine roots and top growth.  One examines the roots by taking the plant out of its pot; it should have a well-developed root ball, but not be pot-bound.  There is a fine line sometimes between these two, and a few of the pots overstepped it a little with roots tightly packed in the pots, but the plants all had well-developed roots.  The top growth should be ‘robust, closely-branched and healthy’ with ‘no sign of pests or disease’.  All the samples fulfilled this except one pot of the Golden Japanese Holly which I thought was slightly sparse on top, but still mostly healthy  Here are some of the samples:


Above is the dwarf box (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ which is good for edging when you want a low, formal hedge.  A healthy plant, just slightly pot-bound.

Above is Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald n’Gold’ – as you can see, a healthy, well-formed plant.

Lastly, this is the Golden Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Golden Gem’.  It seems to have a more branching habit than box, but it can be clipped in the same way and is a useful substitute as it does not get box blight.  The species plant Ilex crenata is green; this one has gold leaves though the sample did have green leaves underneath.  I would cut this back a bit on planting so it grows more densely from the bottom, thus making a better hedge.

The box and yew were both healthy and well-branched.

All of these are good plants for an all-green evergreen hedge, and Hopes Grove should be happy with their plants.

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