Choosing the great barrier leaf
With Diarmuid Gavin All you need to know about creating the best boundaries to add interest and practicality I
was recently asked for some advice on planting a hedge in a countryside plot. The owner needed a boundary hedge to separate his new garden from a field beyond. He wanted something fast and cheap, and was planning to purchase bare- root stock for planting this month.
His initial idea was for a laurel hedge. This is a vigorous evergreen with large glossy leaves and is excellent as a screening hedge.
However, given the rural setting, it struck me as an opportunity to plant a native hedgerow. This will provide much more ornamental interest throughout the year with the varied foliage, berries and flowers from the different species. In addition, a native hedgerow supports a wide range of wildlife, from bees, butterflies and birds to badgers and bats.
The flowers provide pollen, the branches offer nesting opportunities and the berries are a supply of valuable winter food.
Bats even use these hedges as a kind of satellite navigation system to guide them on their flight paths.
As these hedgerows criss- cross Britain through farms and gardens, they form wildlife corridors which are essential for a healthy ecology. For the gardener, they are reliable performers in tricky conditions. As natives, they have adapted to our climate and soil so that even when the earth is poor or damp, or when the climate gets extreme, they’re not going to faint and wilt.
So if you are thinking about adding a hedge to your garden, here’s my top choice of native hedgerow species.
It is dense, thorny and fast- growing, making it ideal as a barrier for livestock.
It supports hundreds of insects, and its flowers, berries and foliage create an interesting tapestry.