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.

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