Heart of England Hedge Laying Group

Gap Filling (Bill Piper and Graham Teece)

In an ideal world the stems in a hedge to be laid would be evenly spaced and nice and straight. In practice we often find large gaps where plants have failed. We also create a type of gap when we reach a gatepost or some other obstacle. One purpose of laying the hedge is to create a stock-proof barrier so closing up gaps is imperative. A well-laid hedge will have laid stems that are all running parallel at the required angle to the ground and there are a couple of techniques which are useful to achieve this, while closing up the gaps. The first is using a back-laid pleacher.

Schematically, we start with this situation:

We are laying to the left, so work up to the gap:

We then cut the last stem as shown and drop it to the right but bend it back on itself so that the upper part of the stem sits parallel to the existing laid stems.

If possible, it is best to get the lower part of the stem to lie along the ground, or at least to come in contact with the ground. This acts as a support, enables the gap to be closed right down to the ground and also possibly encourages rooting at the point of contact, creating a new plant for the future. It may also be helpful to plant a whip or two into the gap. The bend required at the elbow is quite severe and extra care needs to be taken to stop this cracking.

Now continue laying from the other side of the gap

We will now look some pictures of a pleacher that has been back-laid in this way. Pictures from Graham Teece

This picture shows the gap that needed to be filled (the white arrows) between the stool in front of the stake and the stem to the right. A stem from the stool shown by the red arrow has been back-laid, ie laid in the opposite direction to the rest of the hedge, and then pleached back on itself at a point roughly in the middle of the gap, shown in the yellow ring.

Here we can see the detail of the stool: the stems arrowed in blue have been laid in the conventional way and the red arrow shows the base of the back-laid stem. In fact there are two back laid-stems shown by the red arrows.

This view looking down onto the stool shows the two separate stems that have been back-laid.

This is the detail of the elbows formed where the stems are folded back on themselves. The upper parts are now running roughly parallel to the other normal pleachers. This can be seen in the first picture, above.

© HOEHLG 2020