A landscape in your GardenAlison Marsden
My favourite local view looks out across a small river valley, framed by a Beech hedge shot through with Ivy and a tall Holly tree. It is a slice of the quintessential landscape of this corner of the Kent-East Sussex border. Fields for grazing are divided by hedges and clusters of Silver Birch, Hawthorn, Oak and more Holly. And equally I love knowing that this landscape supports a great diversity of native wildlife, from the myriad of ‘creepy crawlies’ up to deer, owls and buzzards.
So what does waxing lyrical about our local countryside and wildlife have to do with gardening? Well, there is a way that we can replicate the richness of the natural landscape in our gardens and that is by choosing a mixed native hedge along one boundary instead of a single evergreen such as Laurel or Cypress. ‘Mixing it up’ modelled on nature means that we can offer a range of habitats, shelter and food to insects, birds and small mammals whilst enjoying a hedge that changes with the seasons. Although not as solid in winter as a single evergreen hedge, including Holly and allowing a controlled amount of Ivy to climb through other plants provides winter cover. Beech or Copper Beech (on dry soil) and Hornbeam (in damp conditions) all retain their dried, brown leaves through winter when pruned into a hedge, screening the view at least partially. Add in Hawthorn for blossom and berries, Field Maple and the native Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) for autumn colour and the wild, Dog Rose for summer flowers followed by bright red rosehips. There are many other candidates too: Hazel, Privet – yes, that is a UK native, Yew for more evergreen cover. And welcome a few of the Blackberries that will appear courtesy of the birds.
What could be better, or easier to look after than a hedge of plants evolved to thrive in our climate and conditions? And the icing on the natural cake is that field grown native saplings are a whole lot cheaper to buy than traditional, larger specimens of evergreen hedging. Best planted in winter, you have plenty of time to make your choices. One great way to start is by taking a walk locally into woods or fields and spending a few moments to look carefully and identify the trees and shrubs that you pass. The move to a native mixed hedge is most definitely a win-win for you and for the wildlife that shares your garden.
Happy Gardening from Alison
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