Are you thinking of planting a native hedge? It might end up being one of the most beneficial parts of your garden, providing year-round beauty and boosting biodiversity.
Reasons to Plant a Native Hedge
Year-round beauty, structure, and interest in your garden – A hedge looks stunning whatever the season, from the structural beauty of bare winter twigs and clouds of blossom in Spring, to lush foliage in summer and gold and jewel tones in autumn.
Privacy and natural screening – Native hedge plants provide cheap and easy screening. If you want privacy all year round, plant evergreens like box or yew. Some deciduous species like beech and hornbeam retain their leaves well into the autumn.
Increase security – A traditional mixed hedge is excellent for security. They’ve kept livestock out for centuries, and discourage people too. Hawthorn and blackthorn are fast-growing and make impenetrable barriers, and holly provides a spiky, evergreen option.
Great for wildlife – During the 20th Century, an estimated half of all hedgerows were lost from the countryside, yet hedgerows offer a lifeline for wildlife. Bats use them for navigation and they provide food, shelter and nesting places for birds, mammals and invertebrates. A hedge of mixed native species is especially valuable.
Climate change – Hedgerows capture and store carbon dioxide, locking it away for the lifetime of the hedge (which can be decades).
Reduce pollution – Hedgerows purify the air around you, producing oxygen and helping capture harmful particulates. This is especially important in urban areas, where levels of atmospheric pollutants are higher.
Useful for foraging – If you love cooking, a native hedgerow can provide all sorts of exciting foraged ingredients. Use the fruits to make sloe gin, or hedgerow jams, jellies and preserves.
Tips for Growing a Native Hedge
- Plant a deciduous hedge in mid-autumn to late winter.
- Plant an evergreen hedge in autumn.
- Delay planting if the ground is frozen or waterlogged.
- Avoid planting under existing trees – shade and lack of water will restrict growth.
- Space your plants 30cm apart. For a thicker hedge, zigzag in a double row 40cm apart.
- Weed around your new hedge. You can suppress weeds with mulch.
- Water after the initial planting. The hedge shouldn’t require much watering after this unless there is a particularly long dry spell – if you do, saturate the ground to ensure water soaks deep into the soil.
- Trimming is essential for long-term hedgerow maintenance. The newly planted hedge will need an initial trim within the first couple of years to encourage dense bushy growth.
The Best Native Hedge Plants for your Garden
- Beech (Fagus Sylvatica): Beech is a deciduous plant that is a haven for wildlife, supporting 100 different insects. It’s fast growing, so perfect for creating privacy, and its leaves stay on well into the depths of winter.
- Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa): Blackthorn is great for hedging, and is spiky, dense and impenetrable. Its white blossom flowers early in the year, providing nectar for pollinators and food for over 100 insect species.
3. Box (Buxus Sempervirens): Use box to create low-level hedges or borders. It’s slow growing with dense, evergreen foliage, and produces yellow flowers in April and May which offer a food source for bees.
4. Dogwood (Cornus Sanguinea): Dogwood’s twigs turn red in winter and produce creamy white flowers in spring. Around 65 species of insect feed on it, and its berries are favoured by starlings, thrushes, and robins.
5. Hawthorn (Cratagus Monogyna): Hawthorn is a prolific producer of flowers and berries, and its dense, thorny growth makes it a great choice if you’re looking for security. Its pink blossom and bright red berries support hundreds of wildlife species.
6. Holly (Ilex Aquifolium): Holly flowers appear in clusters between April and May, providing a nectar source. Its berries are eaten by thrushes, woodpigeons and finches, and its deep lead litter is used by hibernating hedgehogs and other mammals. Its evergreen leaves deter unwanted visitors and provide mid-winter cheer.
7. Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus): Hornbeam hedges form a dense barrier and are easy to maintain. They produce catkins in spring and winged fruits known as samaras in late summer. They support over 170 species of insects, and provide shelter, roosting and foraging options for birds.
8. Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum Lantana): The wayfaring tree was often planted along waysides and paths, and is fast-growing. Its pretty white flower clusters develop into groups of bright berries that start off red and later turn black, and its foliage transforms into a stunning red in autumn.
9. Yew (Taxus baccata): Yew is an evergreen with needle-like leaves and seeds that are enclosed in a red, fleshy berry-like structure. It’s very easy to trim and maintain, and works well for clipped hedges and shaping into topiary.