Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Self-Care Week, Garden Feng Shui & Superstar Sea Buckthorn

This week is self-care week, which I bet most people need every week, especially with the harsh weather now making the early morning commute that less desirable. However it is not all doom and gloom, this time of year is one of the busiest and best times for events, socialising and enjoying all the festivities. So naturally we are all going to start feeling a bit tired and worn out. General advice like taking a long bath, finding yourself a quiet space to sit with your thoughts for an hour are drilled into us and we find ourselves spending money on a super fruity, vitamin packed smoothie that promises to make you feel like a spring chicken again, only to disappoint. You don’t need to go to such extreme lengths and effort to have a bit of ‘me’ time to get yourself feeling like you again.

 

If one of your main hobbies is gardening or just horticulture in general, then there are so many ways you can combine this with your health. For general well-being, try introducing some plants into your home, some of them have qualities that most people don’t know about. For example, Aloe Vera is great for air purification, the plant continuously releases oxygen through the night so it’s a good one to keep in the bedroom as it keeps the air very clean. Usually we read not to keep plants in the bedroom due to release of CO2. Another champion and one that might surprise you to have in your home is, English Ivy. Although more commonly used to climb up the sides of our homes, English Ivy (Hedera Hibernica) is a great air purifier, The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that English Ivy can remove up to 78% of airborne mould in just 12 hours, taken from metro.co.uk. Most commonly know for its calming effect is the Lavender plant, used widely in lotions, candles and room sprays. Lavender is a market favourite for helping people who struggle with sleeping issues. Other air purifying plants include the Spider Plant, Peace Lily and Lady Palm. To view more plants that have health benefits, visit here.

If you are thinking about doing some re-development in your gardens, keep in mind what you can interpret in your designs that can turn your gardens into a ‘peace garden’. Adding a water feature, no matter the size, can be really beneficial in achieving a bit of zen and it will make your gardens a place you can sit and relax to the sound of trickling water.

Now I think it would be a bit rude of us to not mention the incredibly talented Sea Buckthorn hedge. This is a very interesting plant, the berries are edible and nutritious (15 times more vitamin C than an orange according to Wikipedia) but bitter and oily, the oils are used in cosmetic production. In China it is used a great deal as a herbal medicine for coughs, digestion, blood circulation and pain. There is also talk of cancer fighting properties found in Sea Buckthorn. Although it’s not well known, it has a lot of uses, Sea Buckthorn berries have long been used in India for their many health benefits and are most commonly used in herbal teas. A powerful antioxidant, Sea Buckthorn is known as nature’s most balanced fruit. Bursting with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals such as, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, K, P and Omeaga 3, 6, 7 and 9. Studies have shown that Sea Buckthorn can help with cardiovascular, memory, growth, anti-inflammatory, and skin health.

 

It is very prickly and is great as a vandal proof barrier hedge – the thorns are hidden amongst the berries so it could take an intruder by surprise. The leaves are an attractive grey colour, which is a common colour for coastal plants. The berries are bright orange and there are loads of them – it makes a spectacular display in Winter and the berries are often retained throughout winter. It is resistant to salt spray so that explains it’s name but actually as long as it is grown in full sun it will grow in any soil other than heavy wet soils. It is used to stabilise river banks and on steep slopes, it’s good as a windbreak and its roots fix nitrogen in the soil so it’s of great use in poor soil areas.


What a champion of a hedging plant! Hedges Direct hope you all have a fun and enjoyable weekend, even if it consists of a TV box set marathon, put your feet up, you deserve it!

 

Greening Grey Britain

Since Easter this year, the RHS have been campaigning to Green Greying Britain and recently, more and more people are joining the crusade to transform our front gardens into sustainable spaces instead of just plain old paving. With over a third of London’s gardens now being completely paved over and many other parts of the country losing their green spaces to concrete, it’s more important than ever to do your bit to get Britain green again.

Earlier in the year, Sean Murray, winner of the Great Chelsea Garden Challenge, had the chance to showcase his idea for a sustainable garden at Chelsea and more recently, Simon Fagg, revealed his Spiralling into Control show garden at RHS Tatton Park. Both garden designers managed to incorporate the objectives of the Greening Grey Britain campaign to create gardens that were both sustainable and functional, without forfeiting aesthetics.

Spiralling into Control show garden

Why Greening Grey Britain is important

Often people forget the part that their own garden plays in the larger environment and so don’t consider the damage that paving over their space can cause. Gardens host a huge range of benefits for the environment, local wildlife and our physical and mental well-being, and as our climate continues to change, we need to do everything we can to protect Britain against the negative impacts of losing our green spaces, particularly in urban areas.

Not only does paving take away all the ornamental value of your front garden but it can contribute to increased temperatures and the risk of flooding. The rise in urban temperatures is triggered by hard surfaces, such as paving and concrete, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night, resulting in ‘the heat island effect’ which not only makes it difficult to sleep but also results in poorer air quality – gardens are able to regulate temperatures much more easily. And, whilst turf, soil and plants can all absorb rainwater, paving does not and can cause up to a 50% run off increase into street drains, which often cannot handle this volume of water, resulting in floods.

How you can help in Greening Grey Britain

Many people pave over their gardens simply for practical reasons without realising that there are plenty of options that allow a parking space as well as room for plants, shrubs and turf. Here’s a few simple things you can do to join the campaign to get Britain’s green spaces back:

– Choose space saving plants

Climbers and wall shrubs are the perfect solution to add some greenery to small spaces, and Ivy screens and Pleached trees can provide both ornamental and environmental value, when the need to create a parking space may mean compromising your garden.

– Garden for wildlife

In short, the more plants you have, the more value your garden will hold for wildlife. However, it’s understandable that often space is limited in front gardens, which is why planting a hedge is a great way to encourage wildlife without taking up too much room. Wildlife friendly hedges can provide food and shelter for a variety of different species, including birds, insects and hedgehogs.

– Choose permeable paving

This type of paving, as seen in the Spiralling into Control show garden, reduces the risk of flooding as the permeable materials absorb rainfall, reducing the impact of run off.

By making these small changes to your front garden and incorporating the objectives of the Greening Grey Britain campaign into any plans you have to alter your front garden, we can work together to make sure we don’t lose the green Britain we all love.

Hedgerows, Birds and Trimming Responsibly

The bird breeding season is usually between March – August, however birds can occasionally breed outside of this time-frame due to a number of environmental factors, including;

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Geography – this has an impact on breeding, as birds with a breeding range far up north have a longer distance to travel, migrating to find their ideal breeding location.

Food – this is another key factor that affects breeding, as birds are more likely to breed when there is an abundance of food available to feed their young. When food is sparse, birds may migrate to an area where it is easier to find, which delays breeding.

Nesting – Breeding times can also be impacted by the building of the nesting site. Species that re-use old nests can breed straight away, early in the season; whereas, birds that build a new nest every year can only mate later in the season when the nest is finished.

 

 

 

Nests are often found in hedges, as these diverse plants provide birds with shelter and warmth in the winter; an assortment of food and nutrients year round and a safe environment in which to breed and provide for their young.

Hedges consist of a simple lifecycle; insects feed on the flora and then birds feed on these insects. This creates a thriving biodiversity – one of the many reasons that British hedgerows are so important to our society; without them, British wildlife would struggle, particularly birds.

 

 

The most common hedgerow birds are:

Blackbirdthese native birds are often found nesting within the hedge and adore the seasonal fruit produced by hedgerows. An omnivorous species, blackbirds also enjoy foraging for insects and worms in the growth surrounding the lower part of the hedge. It is the female blackbird that builds the nest, using grass, dry leaves and mud to create a domed, firm structure to protect the young.

Chaffinchthis is the most common hedgerow bird in Britain. Both male and female chaffinches are responsible for building the nest; working together to combine moss, feathers, wool and sometimes even spider webs to create a secure place for the eggs. Chaffinches eat from the hedgerow floor, feeding their young caterpillars, earwigs and spiders.

Greenfinchthis variety of bird is attracted to the quiet, bushy security of hedges, and feasts on any available hips and haws. In the past, greenfinches suffered a decline in numbers, as a destruction of hedgerows meant they had to adapt their diet and habitat to suit the garden environment.

Wren known as Britain’s most common breeding bird, the male wren chooses a hedge and then builds several different nests, hidden in the low part of the hedge, before inviting a female to choose her favourite. When plenty of food is available, male wrens may have a few different families at the same time; however, if food is sparse, he focuses on one nest.

 

 

There are several other species of bird that choose to nest and feed in hedges, such as linnets, thrushes, and yellow hammer birds. On the other hand, nightingales and blue tits, although sometimes found nesting within hedges, prefer a woodland environment as this is where the majority of their diet comes from.

The form of a hedge influences the variety of birds found within it, with most birds preferring an overgrown and unkempt hedge; whereas, sparrows, robins and wrens favour hedges that are thicker at the bottom, as this protects the ground from frost, making it easier for them to forage in winter.

The best shape to encourage birds to nest in your hedge is a trapezium shape; this is keeping the base wider than the peak, providing cover for safe foraging. To encourage sparrows in particular, the best hedging variety to plant is honeysuckle or hawthorn.

We recommend that any heavy clipping of hedges and trees is avoided between March and August as this is the main breeding season for nesting birds. It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to kill, injure or take any wild bird; take, damage or destroy the nest of a wild bird and take or destroy the egg of a wild bird. Therefore, it is an offence to cut a hedge, knowing there is a nest present. Always check your hedges thoroughly before trimming.

The benefits of Hedgerows

Hedgerows and hedges are an important feature in the British landscape and have been around for centuries, planted to divide the land into different fields and pens; marking the boundaries of farms and parishes and controlling livestock. Nowadays, hedges offer food and shelter for wildlife, provide historical and cultural links to the past and still act as boundaries and screens. However, recently they have become under threat from removal and poor management.

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Hedging plants are important for both humans and wildlife. In terms of humans, hedgerows support the healthy functioning of the ecosystems around us by regulating things such as air quality, water purification and pollination. Hedgerows, like all plants and trees, help to manage air quality through the production of oxygen and removal of harmful gases. This is especially important in urban areas where more pollutant gases are released into the atmosphere. Hedges that act as a barrier between farms and fields, not only help to control livestock, but can reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilisers and eroded soils from the fields reaching water streams. When planted densely, hedgerows can also lessen the impacts of flooding by increasing infiltration rates and slowing water flows.

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British w4439196300_83c7e616e7_zildlife benefits hugely from hedgerows, and with an estimated 73 million hedges and park trees across our landscape, it’s no surprise that they are the most widespread semi-natural habitat in the UK, providing food and shelter for a large variety of different invertebrates, birds and mammals. The loss of hedgerow trees, and lack of future management and replacement, may lead to a decline in certain wildlife if they cannot find flowers, berries and nuts to feed on or habitats to live in. As well as shelter and food, hedges also provide corridors for certain wildlife, su12672946815_b7df8b8cd2_zch as hedgehogs and mice, to safely move through landscapes from one habitat to another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Woodland Trust is currently working to implement schemes and solutions to stop the decline in hedgerows and manage future growth more sustainably. Without this, there is the possibility of Britain losing a large part of its history and culture, and a huge number of wildlife losing both their homes and food supply.

Wind-Damaged Fencing

This weekend (15/16 February 2014) we’ve been inundated with people considering replacing wind-damaged fencing with new hedging – wondering if they’d be making the right decision.

When you pay for permanent fencing you expect it to last 10 years or perhaps more but our next door neighbour has hazel hurdle fencing, put up 3 years ago (it might even be just 2 years ago – I can’t quite remember) and quite a lot of it ended up in our garden after the storms last week.  That’s a very short lifespan for quite an expensive fence.  I would think that quite a lot of the fencing that’s blown down or badly damaged in the tremendous storms were less than 10 years old.

Aside from the “instant” benefit of fencing, I think there’s a rather impressive list of benefits that hedging has over fencing beginning with

  • Hedging acts as a windbreak in that it filters the wind coming at it which protects whatever is on the other side in the lee of the wind.  Of course farmers have planted hedging for centuries for this very reason.  Apparently the lee (filtered wind area) is about 10m for every 1m height of hedging or indeed trees, reducing in protection the further away from the hedge.  On farms, this gives an area where livestock can shelter – in your garden, it gives a sheltered area where plants are protected from the fiercest winds.  On nurseries all across the land, owners use “windbreak netting” which is tall, immediate, effective but waver thin to replace hedging without creating any shade (which would reduce the usable area of some nursery beds) and without taking up 1m of space as a hedge would (which would reduce production on a nursery) – here’s a photograph of ours.
  • I’d say that the next most important reason for planting a hedge would be attractiveness.  Of course there are some attractive fences (I’m sure there must be and I don’t want to get in trouble with fence manufacturers!) but I for one would rather look at a hedge which changes colour through the seasons, has flowers or berries or both, or stays the exact shade of green I’ve selected as the background to a colourful border
  • Hedging is flexible – I can have it whatever height I want, make it higher in some areas than others, change the height in years to come if that suits me better
  • It ought to last for a very long time.  Some Yew hedging will be a hundred years old (Jenn could you use a photo of the curvy fluid looking Yew hedge I took a couple of months ago), and a great deal of the Privet that’s used for front garden hedging all across Britain was planted in the post war building boom
  • The prickly species can be great to deter intruders but they have other uses to.  We have supplied a university with thousands of metres of Pyracantha which they planted to keep the students on the paths.  Climb through a pyracantha hedge (or any of the other prickly species like Hawthorn, Blackthorn, or half a dozen Berberis varieties) at your peril!
  •  Conifer hedging is a great noise buffer – it won’t eliminate road noise but a good dense tall Leylandii, Western Red Cedar or Yew hedge will definitely make it less noticeable
  • All plants absorb pollution (turning carbon dioxide into oxygen).  There’s quite a bit of emerging evidence that the planting of trees in streets, contributes to  a much healthier environment and although you may not be able to lobby your Council to make yours a leafy street, you can certainly have a front hedge (go for a species like Privet which is really pollution tolerant)
  • We mustn’t forget our wildlife friends – from bees, moths, butterflies, other beneficial insects, to hedgehogs (of course!), and other little creatures – hedging particularly in urban areas acts as a wildlife corridor enabling wildlife to move about in relative safety
  • It’s cheap!  The cheapest way to plant a hedge is to use 40/60cm Hawthorn bare root plants which are 59p each plus vat.  For a 10m run, you’d need a min of 5 per metre, so that would be 50 plants (70 would be better but 5 pm is ok and I’m doing this example to show how cheap it is).  That’s £54 including vat and for orders over £40 it’s free delivery so this example qualifies.  Or you could sign up for our newsletters and we sometimes have 10% discount offers!   Although it’ll take time to grow, in just a few years, it’ll be over 6ft, thick, impenetrable, and beautiful! 10 metres (that’s quite a long hedge) of 6ft tall (or taller) beautiful hedging for £54 and a bit of effort – why would anyone on a budget use fencing?
  • And finally, it’s easy to do.  If you’ve never planted a hedge before, perhaps the thought makes you a bit nervous.  But honestly it’s as easy as planting bedding plants in your flowering border

If any customers would like to add their own reasons to this list, please email us (marketing@hedgesdirect.co.uk) or if anyone has any good photographs of broken fencing (before) and beautiful hedging (after) I’ll add them to this blog.

Lawn Turf – Standing up to the Storm

Have you ever considered how well your turf stands up to the worst of the winter weather?  Given the extreme wet conditions we are seeing across the UK, we thought it was important to highlight the benefits of lawn turf and how it is supporting us in our fight against the floods.

Lawn turf has 3 main strengths when it comes to extreme wet weather:

1. Nature’s own sponge  – Turf has sponge-like attributes as it allows rain water to seep in through the air gaps in the soil, reducing the impact of flooding and decreasing fast water flowing over the ground.  If you think about it, these issues are particularly present in urban areas where lawn turf is not present

2. Water Quality – Turf protects our water quality by filtering it through the tufts of grass, allowing cleaner water to run off the land, in to our streams and drainages systems

3. Erosion Prevention – Turf acts like a barrier between rainwater and the soil.  It stops the impact of the rain hammering down on the soil, which causes it to break off from the ground and mix with the water that then runs off in to our streams and rivers

What Should I Do When Laying Turf Rolls in wet weather?

Rolls of turf can still be laid in wet weather; it just takes a little more care and attention. If the weather is particularly wet or the ground is soaked then it’s better to wait if possible until things dry out but if you are on a deadline then with care and attention you can still go ahead and lay our high quality lawn turf or carry out repairs .The key things to remember are:

  1. Prepare the soil correctly  – When preparing to roll out your lawn turf make sure the soil is raked through to a fine consistency.  Raking means you can level out the surface of the soil and it helps create lots of pockets of air between the soil particles so that the grass can grow.  In wet weather raking is sometimes less effective as the rain water hitting the ground may compact it again, but it is still necessary – it may just take a bit more physical effort in the heavy, wet soil!
  2. Do not walk on the soil –It is important not to press down on the soil when rolling out the turf so use wooden planks to walk on, which will spread your weight over a larger area.  It is not easy to resolve any issues with compacted soil after the roll on turf has been laid.

Once laid, the main thing is to keep off your garden lawn as much as possible during very wet and frosty weather as it can damage the grass leaves and cause ‘muddy’ patches where the grass has been trodden.

If it helps then talk to us about your needs and we can reserve your turf  in the field for you, until the weather conditions improve.

 

Should I be mowing my lawn in such wet weather?

Mowing should not really be necessary at this time of year but if the weather warms up, or you notice that your grass is growing more quickly than expected, then a mow may be necessary. Always wait for the grass to dry out before beginning to mow and do so with the blades set high. The main issue when mowing in wet weather isn’t usually damaging the quality of your turf lawn,  it is more to do with clogging your mower up – especially if using a cylinder mower!

Above all in wet weather, try and keep your newly rolled out lawn turf free of fallen leaves and debris.  A light rake will help with this and will also lightly expose the surface of your turf to the air, letting it breathe, which will help reduce the risk of disease developing.