Planting a Hedgerow

Autumn is a great time of year to be thinking about planting a hedge. The new plants (preferably bare rooted and locally sourced) will be dormant in the next few weeks and should bed in well.

Planting a hedgerow is a real investment into the future, as it develops it will provide food and shelter for insects, birds and mammals. It can also provide protection against unwanted visitors if you plant hollies, blackthorn (though beware of blackthorn suckers springing up where you don't want them) and hawthorn.

hawthorn berries by L Maiden

Hawthorn Berries by L Maiden

Hedgerows also provide protection to your garden from harsh weather, creating a microclimate where you can really enjoy the garden regardless of the gales.

Hedges can also provide a fantastic corridor along which species such as dormice can travel, the associated plants such as honeysuckle are essential to these beautiful mammals.

Many of the trees in a hedgerow can also make good specimen trees in the garden itself. Often the trees in a hedgerow are quite small and even shrublike, making them a well behaved candidate for the smaller garden.

Blackthorn Blossom by L Maiden

Blackthorn Blossom by L Maiden

Trees/shrubs such as rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), wayfairing trees (Viburnum lantana), whitebeam (Sorbus aria), dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea) or guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) are all fairly well behaved for a smaller garden. All of them provide flowers and fruit meaning that those invertebrates and the birds that visit your garden will be most grateful.

Blackthorn is a wonderful plant in a wild hedgerow but is probably not suitable for a small garden as they produce suckers which can invade. If you are prepared to manage them however they can be mown down and prevented from spreading.

Hedgerow Trees/Specimens for a Welsh Garden:

  • Rowan - a small tree with a flat white multi flower, bright red berries and vivid yellow and red leaves in autumn (it can grow to 20m)
  • Whitebeam - with silvery undersides to its leaves, plus its flowers, fruit and white bark it is a lovely tree for a garden (it can grow to 15m)
  • The field maple is the only British maple and whilst it is not as colourful as the Japanese maples the leaves produce a sap which hairstreak butterflies feed on (it can grow to 15m though occasionally it can go to 25m)
  • The guelder rose is a lovely shrub which produces flowers, berries and vivid coloured leaves in autumn (it can grow to 4m)
  • Alder grow well in wet conditions, a simple tree it nonetheless can be useful in a damp corner (it can grow to 15m)
  • Crab apples produce beautiful pink/white flowers and fruit which birds love, it is an attractive small tree (it can grow to 8m)
  • Dogwoods are a fantastic shrub for the garden, the red stems in winter sunlight bring some cheer back into the garden, also the creamy flowers and black fruits are wonderful for wildlife (it can grow to 5m)
  • Elder make an attractive addition to the hedgerow or as a specimen, their white flowers and black fruit are a great bonus for wildlife and you if you are into making elderflower champagne or cordial! (it can grow to be 10m)
  • The haws on a hawthorn provide essential food for birds in winter, they are also a cheerful sight against a cold blue winter sky, flowering in May they are also a welcome sight in spring (it can grow to 10m)
  •  Hazels provide great food for our small mammals and are useful in a hedgerow, the vivid red styles of the female flower can often be overlooked (it can grow to 6m)
  • Holly trees are one of our few evergreens and make a fantastic barrier to keep out unwanted guests in the garden, the shiny leaves and bright red berries can cheer you on the dullest of winter days (it can grow to 10m though if properly cultivated it can go 20m)
  • Wild plum flowers can be many colours, deep purple through to yellow, these attractive small trees can occasionally be found in hedgerows still (it can grow to 8m)

These are just some ideas of trees to plant in a hedgerow but don't forget that other plants do well in their shelter such as honeysuckles, dogroses, primroses, snowdrops and foxgloves.