Gardening at the edge

When making the garden the first job was to plant hedges. The site was just a portion of a field and a simple wire and post fence marked the boundary. It was part of the ‘rules’ that I planted a native hedge, though last year the farmer planted around the site with hawthorn too, though I didn’t get a grant to plant mine. On one side I chose field maple, in one corner I planted sea buckthorn and down another I planted a mix of rose, amelanchier (not native) and hornbeam. And on the road side remained the native hedge apart from a large bank where the builders had filled in after making a gap for access during construction, before my time. That gap I have planted with rugosa roses so it is lower to allow views across the hills. The rest of this hedge is tall; a mix of ash, hawthorn, blackthorn and others.

I was walking the cat the other day when a neighbour, walking past, stopped for a chat and asked me if I was going to cut it lower. I said that it was not my intention because it is a good barrier against winds from the south and I liked the shade it provided. I was worried that she (being a farmer) had a problem with the height of the hedge, but she thought it was good being tall because it provided privacy. As such it has questionable efficiency since the gate allows views of almost the whole garden. But I also added that I liked the hedge because it supported wild roses and honeysuckle.

Gardening is about control. In some areas of the garden my grip is tight. There are rules and they cannot be broken. Weeds are not allowed, plants must be divided, pruned and disbudded. But there are other places where a more relaxed approach is appropriate. Never think that a wild garden means no work. Plant associations are dynamic and always need some sort of control or your wildflowers will probably be just docks and brambles after five years, depending on your soil.

Anyway. One of the joys of the hedge is Rosa arvensis, the field rose.

This is less well known than the pink dog rose and has pure white flowers and arching stems flushed with purple. The flowers are lightly fragrant and perfect little blooms with golden centres. The bees like them too and it buzzes with activity. This rose is supposed to top out at 2m but here, and all along the lane, it hoists itself into the trees and cascades in a flurry of blossom. It is ironic that I have planted a couple of climbers to go up the hedge but, being on the north side, they have struggled. And I wonder why I am bothering when nature has provided the perfect answer.

And between and among the roses is wild honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum). Everyone loves honeysuckle and I am no exception. The plants twine up the shrubs in the shade and flower profusely, and fragrantly, in the open air. This is a lesson for all those who plant honeysuckles on a small bit of trellis on a baking hot wall – they love shade. Unlike those poor captive plants in burning sun, these wildlings never have mildew and the flower buds are not covered in sap-sucking aphids. One thing I do need to watch are the brambles in the hedge. Apart from being too boisterous the birds will drop the seeds everywhere and I really dislike brambles in borders.

My rose hedge, mixed with other shrubs, is Rosa rubiginosa (R. eglanteria). This is native to Europe, including Britain but I am not sure if it is native to Ireland. It is like the dog rose but smaller and prefers alkaline soil. However, it is perfectly happy here. The joy of the plant is that the leaves are fragrant, smelling of apples, especially in damp weather. I can prune this in various ways. I could cut it all back hard to promote foliage but I will lose flowers. instead I will remove some old stems after flowering – they tend to die anyway – and allow newer stems to take their place. I will not trim with hedge trimmers because this leads to a central build up of dead, unproductive growth. Some long stems will be shortened, just to keep the shape and prevent mowing turning into a blood bath!

When in bloom it is pretty too and has hips which the birds should devour but do not seem very interested in.

I am pleased to say that I have finally cut all the grass that is planted with daffodils in spring. It all looks a bit unsightly at the moment but it will soon recover when we get some rain.

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3 Comments on “Gardening at the edge”

  1. meriel murdock
    July 5, 2021 at 12:21 pm #

    I’m loving your eglantine rose hedge. Yes I think it’s a native here. There used to be one in the hedge nearby but unfortunately the farmer tore it out. My neighbours planted a native hedge of Sycamore, Birch, wild Cherry and Goat Willow! When I realised they weren’t going to top it I asked them to – quite unsuccessfully! It has now completely obliterated my lovely view of the Little Sugarloaf even though they are about 20′ lower! The planners should stipulate what they mean by a hedge! I have a very vigorous self seeded rambler (not from here) with sprays of small double white flowers – at the moment. Any ideas?

    X Meriel

    >

    • thebikinggardener
      July 5, 2021 at 12:28 pm #

      If it is self-seeded your rambler will be unique! You can call it what you like. I understand the hedge issue – that must be so annoying about blocking the view. I put the sea buckthorn around my ‘blue’ shed in case the neighbours (who are a distance away and have a huge metal barn) disliked the colour – the silvery foliage should soften it. I am even worried about planting purple trees in the landscape in case they look too artificial. And yes, I am pleased with the rose hedge – this morning it smelled lovely after the rain. Good to know it is native. Thank you.

  2. tonytomeo
    July 8, 2021 at 1:35 am #

    These hedges are interesting because they are such a mix, and include species that would otherwise be trees. No one does copiccing here. It is vilified! So is pollarding. I do both in my own garden, and catch a lot of flack from my colleagues. However, if I write about why we do not use such techniques, I catch a lot of flack from those in other regions. In our landscapes, we have both uniform hedges (comprises of evenly spaced shrubs of a single species) as well as vegetation that essentially gets coppiced. Of course, we do not refer to it as copiccing. We just cut it down and let it grow back for a while.

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