Plant a Hedge

We have been inspired by The St Albans Museum’s amazing Remarkable World of Trees Exhibition to launch an exciting brand new project. The exhibition runs from September 17th – January 23rd 2022, so its timing couldn’t be more perfect for planting trees and hedges. We are shamelessly taking advantage of this to encourage as many streets as possible to create a corridor of native hedges either between or at the bottom of their gardens this Winter. On November 4th at St Peter’s Church in St Albans on November 4th, Chris Pudsey gave advice on slow gardening, with an emphasis on how to grow and maintain hedges. Kate Bretherton supplied hedge cuttings which we were able to take away with us to start growing our own hedges.

Our Plant a Hedge project launch at the St Albans Museum +Gallery on October 16th 2021, was a great success. Kate Bretherton, author of the book The Remarkable Trees of St Albans, took Wilderhood Watch members on a tour of her wonderful new exhibition, and inspired us all to start planting hedges in our gardens. We also had a very productive question and answer session with Kate and Amanda Yorwerth from St Albans Friends of the Earth, discussing the many practical aspects of hedge laying. A huge thank you to everyone who attended, the museum for kindly letting us use their learning room, and most of all to Kate and Amanda for coming along and sharing their expertise.

Here’s Kate giving us a tour of her exhibition, along with a detailed explanation of some of the more hedge-related displays.

Fences create barriers to wildlife which desperately needs access to gardens for food, water and habitat. Although this problem can be rectified by creating holes at the bottom of fences, this still doesn’t address the valuable energy a small mammal wastes finding the nearest exit or entrance. Fences also of course could never compete with trees and hedges in terms of habitat and food for birds, mammals and insects. And that’s without considering their ability to block out noise and pollution, sequester carbon and lift anyone’s spirits with their unsurpassable beauty.

Pictured here are two examples of lovely hedges growing on a St Albans street. On the left is a mixed hedge, comprising of mainly holly and hazel. The holly will remain green throughout the winter and provide berries for hungry birds, while the hazel will display some beautiful Autumn colours before losing its leaves. The photo on the right shows an evergreen hedge of yew, which will provide habitat for wildlife right through the cold winter months.

If you have the space and would prefer a wilder look, you can manage your mixed native hedge to grow taller and wider, creating a wonderful source of food and habitat for wildlife.

To join in, here are a few pointers:

  • Consider children and pets. Hedges by their nature are porous, especially when newly planted. If this could be an issue for you, try investing in some wire fencing while your hedge is growing. And remember to leave some 13cm x 13cm gaps for wildlife!
  • Chat to your neighbours. Would they be happy to work with you to replace a few fence panels with some hedge plants? Or maybe your street would rise to the challenge of creating a long green corridor of hedge along the bottom of your gardens?
  • Consider your front garden as well as the back. Front gardens are visible from the road, and ideas can be catching!
  • Decide what you’d like to plant. Native trees such as hazel, dog rose, guelder rose, crab apple, spindle, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, rowan and goat willow combined all make great hedging plants. If you’d like your hedge to be evergreen, choose holly, juniper, common ivy or yew. Privet, when left to flower, is also a big favourite for bees.
  • Please avoid planting non-natives, especially cherry laurel. This is a non-native import which is poisonous to our native insects. It is highly invasive and cuts out light from the forest floor, meaning native undergrowth is unable to survive.
  • Think carefully about where to source your trees. Locally grown saplings are best, but the Woodland Trust or Tree Council is also an excellent option.
  • If you have gaps in an existing hedge, consider planting wildflowers such as primroses and foxgloves, as well as climbers such as honeysuckle and ivy.

Make a trip to the St Albans museum to see the Remarkable World of Trees exhibition, and become inspired to join in with our Plant a Hedge project. If your street would like to join in, please contact nadia@wilderhoodwatch.org so that you can be added to our website.