Plant a hedge!
by Paula Doherty
Hedges act as highways, hunting grounds, and homes for wildlife. A green boundary in the form of a hedge is far better than a fence, but the choice of species is important. Don’t be tempted to plant laurel! If you do, it will be forever wanting to reach 10 metres high and yet will support virtually no wildlife. If you want an evergreen hedge, then try holly, yew or even cotoneaster. Even better, plant a mixed-species hedge to improve biodiversity.
Native shrubs like hawthorn, field maple, blackthorn, beech, hornbeam and holly make an ideal mixture of hedging plants. If you have space, you could even grow rambling plants like honeysuckle, bramble, ivy and wild rose. Unfortunately, whilst informality is ideal for the wildlife in hedges, it is not ideal for gardens! If you can’t allow your hedge to become too informal, at least resist the urge to spray the ‘weeds’ at the base; give those frogs, toads, newts, and even hedgehogs a chance and leave the long grass for them.
It’s often difficult to combine the needs of a garden with that of wildlife. We clip our hedges to keep them neat but in so doing we prevent the plants from flowering or producing berries. Did you know that privet has a strongly scented flower that is a magnet for bees and hoverflies? But privet is almost never allowed to flower. You can see privet in flower on Pond Lane at the moment, in fact you may hear it before you see it as it will be smothered in insects! Perhaps you could delay some hedge cutting to allow plants to flower or even set berries. Every little bit helps!