Planting a hedge in your garden can have many benefits; shrubs and hedges can add privacy, security, visual interest and protection from the wind. Box has been a traditional choice to define formal garden areas. However, with the recent increase in box blight and imported pests, many gardeners are looking for other options. In this blog, our friends at the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust share their ideas on wildlife-friendly alternatives to box hedging.

Box plants are evergreen, slow-growing and can be clipped into neat shapes, such as balls, pyramids and spirals. This makes them a firm favourite in modern gardens where space is at a premium. However, blight and box tree caterpillars are proving an increasing problem. Box blight is a rapidly spreading disease that causes bare patches to leaves and stems.


Box tree caterpillars have only recently come to the UK and can completely strip a plant of leaves


The humble privet is a great option instead of Box because its young growth provides valuable food for brilliant green privet moth caterpillars. These transform into one of Britain’s largest moths. If you hold back on cutting, you will be rewarded with small panicles of creamy white flowers which bees love. Later, birds will be attracted to the dark berries and they will also enjoy the cover of its twiggy growth. Even a neatly sheared privet hedge is loved by sparrows in suburban gardens.

Privet caterpillars turn into one of our largest moths


Lonicera nitida

Lonicera nitida offers similar advantages to garden wildlife. Known as ‘Poor Man’s Box’, its small evergreen leaves mean it can easily be shaped into neat edging or grown into eye-catching topiary shapes. Clipping will expose the tiny scented honeysuckle flowers and purplish/black berries as a food source.

‘Poor Man’s Box’ is a great alternative to box and can be clipped for a formal look


If you are looking to define path edges, lavender will offer a softer profile and has the added advantage of attracting bees throughout the summer months. There is an ever increasing range of lavender species available. So decide on how wide your borders can spread and choose accordingly. Lavandula Munstead is a reliable variety if you want a compact border. Use the RHS Plantfinder to find the height, spread and hardiness of available plants.


If you want to go for something completely different, try Teucrium x lucidrys. It creates the same softer edging effect, but the evergreen leaves are dark rather than silvery. And in June, the rose pink flowerheads are buzzing with pollinators.

These are just a few ideas which might suit a modern garden, but whatever you choose, make sure it’s a winner for native wildlife.

If you are planting hedges, don’t forget you’ll need plenty of good compost and mulch to get them established and give the best nutrients.

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