I live in Richmond Hill, and we have dug up the old hedges in our front yard.
We want to replace them with better ones. What types of hedges are best for the front yard? The last ones we had were sparse and had other trees and plants growing into them. We want them at most 4-5 ft tall.
We are also worried about the roots of hedges growing into our house wall because it is an old house. What suggestions do you have? Any advice will be appreciated.
The general rule of thumb for planting any shrub near the foundations of a house is from 3 to 5 feet away, depending on the mature size of the plant. This will avoid not only potential root damage, but will also accommodate the width of a fully grown shrub. In your case, whatever hedge planting you choose, you will need to prune regularly for shape and height, so access to both sides of the planting will also be necessary.
If you like the looks of a deciduous hedge, here is a suggestion from a previous Toronto Master Gardener post:
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.
This article provides a good pictorial description of the pruning process for these deciduous choices: https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-prune-beech-and-hornbeam-hedges/
If you prefer the appearance of an evergreen hedge, one option might be one of the varieties of Yew, Taxus spp., which are easy to grow and tolerant of pruning for height and shape. Another low-growing option is Boxwood. The Toronto Master Gardeners have a useful guide that describes these and others: https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/evergreens-suitable-for-hedging-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/