Wondering if Laurel hedging can be used in southern Ontario (Whitby).
If not what are some good alternatives other than cedars and boxwoods. Just find them a bit boring. Also needs to grow to a height of 6-8 feet.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.
Laurel is a quick-growing broadleaf evergreen but unfortunately it is not hardy in our climate. The plant hardiness zone for Laurel is 8. Our Gardening Guide Evergreens Suitable for Hedging lists a number of hardy evergreens.
If you are willing to plant a deciduous hedge, Beech or Hornbeam make excellent choices. Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is one of the most popular plants for hedging due to its beautiful leaves and their ability to hang onto the leaves right through winter. This tree tolerates a wide range of soil conditions and prefers to be positioned in full sun or partial shade. Beech trees usually put on two flushes of growth per year; the first flush in the spring and a second smaller flush in late summer. Ideally, the hedge should be cut back after each flush. Pruning your hedge in early June once the first flush of leaves has expanded will keep your hedge healthy and will allow lateral buds to grow out causing your hedge to fill in and become bushy. After the leaves turn brown in autumn, they will hang onto the branches right through the winter.
Similar to beech Hornbeams ( Carpinus betulus) also have serrated leaves and the leaves will also hang on the branches for most of the winter, but not as long as the beech. If the site you are considering has some shade, with damp clay soil and poor drainage then Hornbeam is the best choice.
Or, you could opt for a deciduous hedge using such ornamental shrubs as barberry (Berberis thunbergii), burning bush (Euonymus alatus), lilac (Syringa) or Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’), bridal wreath spirea (Spiraea vanhouttei), red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), or Weigela. Some of these shrubs might not be suitable for your location. Without knowing your soil conditions or light level- full sun, part shade, total shade it is difficult to give specific suggestions.
Toronto Master Gardeners has a Gardening Guide: Ornamental Shrubs for Various Light Conditions which list the growing requirements of many of these shrubs.
Hedges for Canadian Gardens is an excellent article by Agriculture Canada which lists both deciduous and evergreen hedges suitable for our climate.