Hedge Plants

These are descriptions of the plants species making up the new hedgerow. The information is taken from http://www.ashridgetrees.co.uk, the supplier of our setts.

Hawthorn (crataegus monogyna) as a hedge or tree, provides an excellent nesting site for small birds. Its leaves are quite small and glossy green, with three rough lobes. It is covered in small, single fragrant white flowers in spring and red, edible, quite tasteless fruit in autumn that are sweetened with sugar and other fruit in hedgerow jelly.

Brittany Blue Willow (salix purpurea) are also called Purple Osier. They are useful source of nectar and pollen for bees early in the year. Being a small, very vigorous willow, this is one of the favoured types for supplying withies – stems of various sizes for making wicker objects. All willows are excellent for bees, butterflies and moths

Common Osier Willow (salix viminalis) The Osier has been used widely for basket making from Europe to Asia. It is hard to tell where it originates from, because people were taking it with them as they moved around even before Roman times.

Oxford Violet Willow (salix daphnoides) is a European native, widely found in a belt between Greece and the Baltic Sea. It can’t really be said to have naturalised in Britain, as surveys rarely find it outside of gardens and managed woodland. Despite that, it is a perfect source of early spring nectar and pollen for bees and some of the moth caterpillars that feed on our native willows will be happy munching on Salix daphnoides as well.

Goat Willow (salix caprea) is a European native, naturalised in Britain since Roman times. It is well known for being a favourite with many species of caterpillar. Its early flowering season is great news for bees. Salix caprea means Goat willow and this name probably comes from an illustration in a famous “herbal” (an old name for a book on plants) by Hieronymus Bock, published in 1546.  The picture showed a goat grazing on the tree and this book was still around when the tree came to be named with the modern system over 200 years later. It seems likely that this was the inspiration for the name, rather than the tree being popular with goats. The goat moth also lays its eggs around the trunk of this tree.

Crab Apple (malus sylvestris) is a small, deciduous, native tree that produces plentiful clusters of white-pink blossom. The crabapples themselves are yellow & green, small, hard, bitter, acidic fruit that can’t be eaten raw – most animals leave them alone – but are great for jams, jellies, apple sauces and cider making. Crab apple trees are the best orchard pollinators.

Common Dogwood (cornus sanguine) is a large deciduous shrub with red/green stems in spring, white flowers in summer and black fruit in September and October. The name Dogwood comes from the Saxon Dagwood or “skewer-wood”. The stems of Common Dogwood are very straight, can be sharpened easily and are ideal as skewers for your home made barbeques during those long hot English summers.

Red Twig Dogwood (cornus alba spaethii) We can try these ideas:

  • Cut back the dogwood every other year.
  • Cut back most, not all of the stems each year.

This will reduce the ornamental effect, but it will also increase the wildlife value of the bushes. Dogwood only flowers on wood that is a year old – the flowers aren’t very special to look at, but the bees will be happy. If you are planting dogwood as part of a mixed country hedge, then cut it back by about half right after planting along with all the other plants.

Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus) isn’t a rose at all, it is closely related to the elderflowers. The name probably comes from the Dutch region of Gelderland. Guelder Rose berries were one of the secondary food sources that our ancestors would have depended upon in hard times. We don’t recommend eating them, as even slightly unripe fruit will cause stomach upsets, but if civilisation happens to collapse and you find yourself living in the woods, you could feed yourself by boiling up them up into a soup. Until then, we recommend leaving the berries for the birds.

Dog Rose (rosa canina) carries clusters of single, scented pale pink flowers in summer and small red hips in autumn that attract birds.

Filbert Cobnut (corylus avellana maxima) are the true Kentish cobnuts, much bigger and richer than the wild hazelnut. Autumn brings a delicious harvest of nuts that are a staple food hedgehogs, dormice and woodmice, as well as humans! Hazel trees all produce catkins in February that are great for bees.

Hazel (corylus avellana) is famous for its edible nuts in autumn and beekeepers will value its bright yellow “lambstail” catkins in February, which are one the earliest sources of pollen each spring.

Cherry Plum/Myrobalan (prunus cerasifera) is one of the first woody plants to flower each spring, starting in February and usually continuing until April. It has a few thorns. Its small, red plums are edible, about an inch wide and are ripe in July. They are sweet and quite tasty, like a greengage with a less intense flavour. It makes an equally good hedge plant and screening tree. When it is grown as a tree, it develops a twiggy, wild looking canopy that is good for blocking sight and which tends to attract nesting birds.

Common European Ash (fraxinus excelsior) produces clusters of winged seeds that are a source of winter food for birds. The name Ash comes from the Old English word for spear: in ancient times, it would surely have been the best material for the job. The wood is also elastic enough to be suitable for building bows. These days, Ash wood is more likely to be used for guitars, baseball bats and cricket stumps. Despite its strength, it is a poor choice for building outdoor furniture as it rots easily in damp conditions. The ancient Norse believed in a supernatural tree called Yggdrasill, from which the god Odin hanged himself. Norse scholars today reckon that Yggdrasill was either an Ash or Yew tree.

Spindleberry (euonymus europaeus) The tiny flowers are green and insignificant, but they still attract bees and ripen over the summer into shiny, bright orange seeds that poke out of a punk pink casing. Please note that although the seeds are beautiful, they are poisonous to humans. They taste very bitter, so children will spit them out if they try one, but it is still important to educate them about poisonous plants. Spindle wood is hard and was often used for making tool handles, including textile spindles.

Field Maple (acer campestre) Small yellow flowers are produced in spring, followed by winged seeds. Field maple leaves in autumn are a clear, warm golden-yellow.

Hedgerow Jelly

A receipe borrowed from Ashridge Trees’ website 🙂

This an excellent recipe which can be adapted to accommodate almost any hedge (and its fruit).  Please remember to check that something is safe (if you are not sure) before cooking and eating it.

On average these will yield about 2kg of jelly
3lbs (1.4kg) crab apples, windfall apples or cooking apples
2lbs (900g) in total of blackberries, elderberries & sloes as available
2lbs (900g) in total of rowan berries, haws & rose hips as available
Juice of 1 lemon

Wash the apples, and if you are using cooking apples chop them roughly.
Wash and drain the blackberries, elderberries & sloes.
Wash and drain the rowan berries, haws & rose hips.
Put all the fruit except the rowan berry batch in a large, heavy- based pan with all bar a tablespoon of the lemon juice and add cold water to the level of the fruit.
In a separate pan put the rowan berry batch and the remaining lemon juice and cover with water.
Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until all the fruit is tender and well broken down – the rowan berry batch will take longer to soften.
Strain both panfuls through a scalded jelly bag for at least 4 hours. Do not squeeze the bag.
Measure the strained juice and weigh out 1lb (450g) sugar for each pint (575/600ml) of juice.
Pour the juice back into the pan and heat very gently. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
Bring to the boil and cook rapidly until setting point is reached.
Skim, pot and seal in the usual way.

Hedgerow Planting!

The last two weekends we’ve (the whole family) been planting new hedgerow on the East and South side of Acre Field, and plugging gaps in the North side. In fact, one of the gaps is behind the new solar panel array, but that’s for another post!

We’ve set two staggered rows of hedge setts in a manner suitable for a good thick hedge once laid. All species are native to the UK, and non-poisonous to animals. In each of the two rows, each sett is spaced 18″ from the next. The rows are 9″ apart. The outside row is all Hawthorn, as the hedgerows local to us are predominantly that, but the inside row that we’ll be able to pick from are all edible, both for us and/or for wildlife.

On the East side, the inside row is, from the North East corner to the middle of the East side, all Common Hazel. From there to the South East corner we planted 5 Brittany Blue Willow (salix purperea) spaced 9 feet apart, with 6 Cherry Plum/Myrobalan (prunus cerasifera) between each, then 5 Common Osier Willow (salix viminalis) with the same 6 Cherry Plums between each. The remainder of the row to the South East corner, around 6 plants, are Filbert Cobnut (corylus avellana maxima). The 10 Willow trees will be pollarded at 6′ high, and the Hazel and Cherry Plum’s will be laid in a traditional manner along with the outside row of Hawthorn. This way the Willows can be grown for their whips whilst the rest of the hedge will provide fruit and nuts.

On the South side, starting in the South East corner (now known as Cobnut Corner!) we have a few more Filbert Cobnuts. Heading West, we then have 5 Oxford Violet Willow (salix daphnoides) spaced 9 feet apart, with a row of 6 Crab Apple (malus sylvestris) between the first four (so 18 in total), and 6 Spindleberry (euonymus europaeus) between the last two. The Crab Apple are predominantly to help with pollinating the apple trees in the orchard quarter directly to the north of them. Continuing West we then have 5 Goat Willow (salix caprea), spaced 9 feet apart, with 6 Spindleberry between the first two, then 6 Field Maple (acer campestre) between each of the last 4 (so 18 in total). Following these are 10 Common European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior). Between the last Goat Willow and the first Common European Ash are 6 Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus), then between each of the first 5 Ash are 6 Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus) – so 30 Guelder Rose in total. Between each of the last Ash trees are 6 Dog Rose (rosa canina), and these run on until the remaining gap is filled, ending at the South West corner. The Oxford Violet Willow, Goat Willow and Ash will all be pollarded from 6′ high.

On the North side, behind the solar panels to the West, are an outside row of Hawthorn, and 10 Common Dogwood (cornus sanguine) on the inside row. Then, to the East of the old oak tree are an outside row of Hawthorn, to plug a gap in the existing hedge, and an inside row of 10 Red Twig Dogwood (cornus alba spaethii), then a few random setts left over from the rest of the perimiter plantings.

Longwinded I know, we’ll get around to a nice, easy-to-read, picture version one of these days. I don’t hold out much for the setts near the oak to survive – the ground was very dry, the oak seems to shelter the ground from the rain, and itself soaks up what does fall. I’ve heard Holly is a good gap filler that might survive this section, so if these fail we’ll try that as a backup option.

As far as the plants we’ve set go, clicking here will take you to a post giving a description of each and why they’ve been planted:

Brittany Blue Willow (salix purpurea)
Common Osier Willow (salix viminalis)
Oxford Violet Willow (salix daphnoides)
Goat Willow (salix caprea)
Crab Apple (malus sylvestris)
Common Dogwood (cornus sanguine)
Red Twig Dogwood (cornus alba spaethii)
Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus)
Dog Rose (rosa canina)
Filbert Cobnut (corylus avellana maxima)
Hazel (corylus avellana)
Cherry Plum/Myrobalan (prunus cerasifera)
Common European Ash (fraxinus excelsior)
Spindleberry (euonymus europaeus)
Field Maple (acer campestre)


Winter Onions & Garlic

A quickie to note that today Smiler and I planted winter onions sets – Electric (red) and Senshyu Yellow (yellow, suprisingly). We also planted Marco garlic, something I tend to forget to do at this time of year as sometimes I’ve had success with spring planting. After this year, when one variety decided to stay dormant all summer and I discovered the bulbs still alive this autumn, I’ve figured it’s best getting them in early. Whilst we should probably have had them in by now, it’s been so mild recently (16 Celsius today) that we seem to have a window to get some late sowing done. Here’s hoping the cold weather kicks in soon!