Archive for the ‘Hedges Wildlife’ Category

Plant For A Spring Spectacle

As we turn our backs on winter it’s time to focus on spring and if like me, you’re eager to see new leaf growth, flowers and fruits, Hedges Direct have a great selection of plants with spring interest to satisfy our impatience.

For those wanting features as soon as possible, species such as Blackthorn, Flowering Currant and Forsythia boast beautiful flowers early in the season, so early that new leaves haven’t started to appear yet! Gorse also produce early spring flowers, but being evergreen, its buttery yellow flowers stand out next to the spiky green leaves that remain year round.

The UK didn’t have a white Christmas but you can bring this stunning colour to your garden in spring as Dog Wood, Hawthorn, Pyracantha, Viburnum lantana, June Berry and Wild Cherry, all produce white flowers in different shapes and sizes.

Alternatively, brightly coloured flowers appear on Hypericum, Berberis, Purple Leaf Sand Cherry, Weigela and Potentilla. To get the most of your flowering plants, there are some great tips on pruning spring flowering shrubs in this short video from Gardener’s World Magazine.

You can also access fantastic spring colour with the long awaited new growth of Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’, which offers beautiful displays of red glossy leaves.

Christen the season with catkins! These long, hanging fruits dangle from the branches of Alder, Hazel, Hornbeam and Willow, attracting a range of British birds and other wildlife to your garden.

The species mentioned above are just a handful of spring spectacles. We’ve included a list of our entire collection of plants that offer fantastic interest in spring below:

 

Love Your Wild Garden 2015

If you caught last night’s special episode of ITV’s Love Your Garden, aptly named Love Your Wild Garden, you will have seen Alan and the team visit Keech Hospice in Luton to create a stunning wildlife garden for the patients to enjoy.

With a 500m plot to transform, Alan and the team certainly had a challenge on their hands, but not one to shy away from hard work, Alan immersed himself in everything wildlife friendly, including a huge pond and insect hotels, to create a garden alive with the sound of buzzing bees and twittering birds.

Using a variety of bee friendly plants from our sister company, Bee Friendly Garden plants, Alan created huge circular gabions that would be a thriving hub of insect activity for both the adults and the children at the hospice to enjoy.

Bee friendly garden plantsBee friendly garden plants on LYG

Alan then used our instant mixed native hedging to create a boundary along the garden to give shelter from the wind. Instant hedging is a great way to achieve an established hedge unit without waiting for the plants to mature and native hedging is home to a huge variety of Britain’s wildlife species, providing both shelter and food year round.

instant mixed native hedginginstant hedging on ove your garden

Many people believe that a wildlife friendly garden has to be filled with brambles, weeds and nettles, however Alan proves that a garden bursting with colour, fragrance and ornamental value is just as attractive to wildlife as it is to us.

The Love Your Garden team designed this garden with nature in mind and managed to create an outdoor space for the patients of Keech Hospice to enjoy, finding tranquillity as they immerse themselves in the presence of nature.

If you’re thinking of undertaking your own garden makeover, enter our #‎HDGetTheLook competition for the chance to win vouchers to help you on your way.

Watch the full wildlife special and catch up on any other episodes from this series of Love Your Garden that you may have missed on ITV player.

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.

Sea Buckthorn – Nature’s Most Balanced Fruit

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.

Now, Sea Buckthorn is making its way in to some of the most adventurous chef’s kitchens and becoming a very popular alternative in household recipes.

Use Sea Buckthorn berries instead of more traditional fruits in your favourite recipes.

Use Sea Buckthorn berries instead of more traditional fruits in your favourite recipes.

With a sweet, sharp flavour, Sea buckthorn berries add a fresh twist to many recipes and also make a refreshing health juice drink. Studies have shown that Sea Buckthorn can help with cardiovascular, memory, growth, anti-inflammatory, and skin health. Sea Buckthorn berries are popularly used in Denmark, especially in homemade pies and jams; a great alternative to more traditional berries.

Sea Buckthorn Health Juice Drink

Sea Buckthorn Health Juice Drink

As its name suggests, Sea Buckthorn thrives along the coast. The berries are ripe in autumn and can be picked to use at home. If you’re planting your own Sea Buckthorn shrub or hedge, they make a fantastic windbreak and are just as suited to inland positions as they are coastal sites. Hippophae Rhamnoides has unusual silvery, grey foliage that contrasts wonderfully with the brightly coloured berries.

When planting a Sea Buckthorn Hedge, remember the following:

  • Plant in a sunny position for optimum berry production
  • Avoid dry soils
  • Ideal for problem soils; Sea Buckthorn has nitrogen fixing properties that will improve the quality of soil

Sea Buckthorn is also a key ingredient in our Mixed Coastal Hedging Packs – perfect for achieving a wildlife friendly hedge with year round interest.

 

Sea Buckthorn Hedging

Sea Buckthorn Hedging

 

Native and Non-Native Hedging Species

The Westonbirt Arboretum newsletter came in the post this morning and it’s got an interesting article on the native tree trail.  Of Westonbirt’s 2500 tree varieties, only 30 to 40 are native – that is a species that crossed into the UK from Europe, when we were still connected, after the last ice age. Increasingly planning departments are specifying native planting for new developments and although we’re massive fans of native hedging, we wonder sometimes if all planners realise that so few species are native – and hardly any evergreen species.  The two evergreens that jump to mind as being native are Yew (Taxus baccata) and Holly (Ilex aquifolium) – both fantastic but both quite slow growing and as a result of that, both quite expensive.  It’s time planning departments or government loosened up the rules a bit to allow beautiful, wildlife friendly, evergreens that are not native – Escallonia, Berberis darwinii or Berberis stenophylla, Osmanthus (I have this in my own garden and it’s wonderful), Pyracantha, some Cotoneaster varieties, Olearia, and the deliciously scented Choisya – a lovely range of evergreen flowering (and some berrying) hedging plants, not one of them native.

Love Your Garden Hedges

If you tuned into ITV on Tuesday night you will have noticed the Love Your Garden team planting our beautiful Laurel Hedging. There are so many fantastic benefits of hedging that make it a much more viable option to fencing:

Hedges Vs. Fences

  • Hedges are a lot more cost effective than bulk buying fences
  • They require minimal maintenance and may never need replacing
  • Dense hedges create a windbreak for the rest of the garden
  • Hedging can reduce noise and absorb pollution in urban areas
  • They offer privacy whilst also attracting wildlife

As Love Your Garden were working to a deadline, they opted for ‘instant’ hedging. However, it is far more cost-effective to plant younger, smaller hedging plants and care for them whilst they grow. Our Laurel Hedging starts from £1.71, and as you can see from Love Your Garden, they grow up to create a lush, dense hedge.

Love Your Garden - Finished Result

Love Your Garden – Finished Result

Laurel Hedging boasts many benefits. As a fast growing, evergreen hedging plant, it is particularly hardy and will flourish in pretty much all sites, including dry soils or shaded areas. It is fairly low maintenance and only needs pruning once a year in Spring or Summer. It can be pruned into a formal hedge, or kept slightly bushy for a more natural look.

When planting any hedging, we agree with Alan that it is very important to plant properly. We recommend Root Grow, which enables plants to extract nutrients and absorb moisture more efficiently.

Laurel Hedging makes a great privacy screen

Laurel Hedging makes a great privacy screen

If you’re interested in Hedging but looking for a different aesthetic, Alan also recommended Pyracantha Hedging Plants. They are an ideal intruder deterrent due to their spiny foliage, and there are three different varieties to choose from which produce, red, orange or yellow berries.

Alan and the team had a huge garden to work with on Tuesday’s show but these looks can still be achieved in smaller spaces. A great way to create a feature filled look in a smaller garden is to utilise your vertical space. Tall, narrow trees are an interesting way to frame the view of any garden. Alan used a beautiful combination of pink and white Crab Apple trees which offer year round interest from their flowers, fruit and autumn colour. Our sister site Ornamental Trees has a wide range of beautiful trees to choose from.

We hope you’re all enjoying the Love Your Garden series as much as we are! Just remember, there are Hedging options available to suit all budgets and gardens.

Don’t forget you will receive 10% off with the Discount Code ALAN until Friday!

Hawthorn – millions of miles of it

Undoubtedly the plant that makes up the most miles of hedging in the UK is Hawthorn or in Latin, Crataegus monogyna.  It’s the farmers’ friend being completely safe for animals to chew on – not that they tend to because it’s very thorny. Hawthorn hedging plants are native to the UK and do well in all soils and almost all conditions other than waterlogged soil – obviously in some areas there are plants that are better suited – near the coast for example, we’d generally recommend Blackthorn instead, or in wetter soils, Alder or Willow make good native hedge alternatives.

As well as separating  farm fields, Hawthorn is popular in an urban setting too.  It brings a great deal of wildlife into the garden providing wonderful creamy white flowers in May (hence it’s alternative name of May Blossom), big fat juicy haws drip off the tree in autumn (the hedging you’ll see from the car window on motorway journeys that look so heavy with red berries that the whole tree takes on a red tinge) and the prickly, woody stems provide a sanctuary for small creatures.

Berry survey by the British Trust for Ornithology

I thought blog readers might be interested in the Berry Survey by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Gardeners are asked to record which garden berries and fruits are being eaten by wild birds.   The survey lasts until the end of March 2013 and it “seeks to establish berry availability, which birds are feeding on what berries, and how quickly berries are removed from plants”.

I know from the view outside my kitchen window that the blackbirds love the berries on my Silver Holly (Ilex aquifolium Argentea Marginata) – I can see the branches twitching up and down as the birds jump along them towards the outside edges where the berries are most plentiful.   Pigeons love them too but their weight is too great for most of the branches but it doesn’t stop them trying –it’s quite comical at times when they can see bunches of berries but can’t get to them – there’s usually a great deal of flapping which can’t be easy when a bird is in the middle of the Holly tree!

I’ve also got a great love for Pyracantha, here’s the orange berried variety which is being trained to cover all the stonework around my kitchen window (can you see the lovely Field Maple trees across the road reflected in the window – gorgeous buttery yellow colour at this time of year).    The berries on Pyracantha seem to mature later than the Silver Holly so often it is still covered in berries at Christmas.

We also have red berried Pyracantha.  We bought tall red Pyracantha for friends as their wedding present because their anniversary is in late December and hopefully it will always be looking really good at that time of year.

And then there’s the less used but wonderful yellow berried Pyracantha – we don’t sell anything like as much of this as we do the red and orange but I don’t really know why – it’s very bright which is what you want in winter.

Anyway, back to the berry survey – here’s the link to take part http://www.bto.org/news-events/news/get-ready-garden-berry

Thank you to those who decide to participate in this survey – it will provide important information which will help wildlife conscious gardeners in the future.

The website also has a useful list of garden plants which produce berries which you can access here.

June