How to select and grow a native British hedge

Guide to selection and growing a traditional hedge

 What is a traditional hedgerow ?

Natural  hedgerows are a long lasting, wildlife friendly and sustainable alternative to garden fencing. Hedges also offer better Security than most fencing. Try climbing over or through Blackthorn, thieves won't. Native hedges are green, Eco friendly and a sustainable way of marking your garden and property boundary and makes an excellent habitat for butterflies and moths.

The bulkier and denser a hedge becomes, the more secure it becomes. In addition providing cover and food for nesting birds and if you let them flower and bear fruit, hedges also provide a valuable source of food and shelter for other wildlife. 

Traditional hedgerows contain several different species like Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Dog rose and are back in fashion as secure and attractive alternatives to panel fencing around our garden.

Selecting native British Hedging. When buying the hedging plants, try to get as close to the Native British hedgerow mix as possible to get colour, berries and security. The old farmers hedges you see dividing fields and roadside, traditionally included a mix of Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Crab apple, Guelder rose, Dog rose, Wild privet, Honey suckle, Hazel, Field maple and Holly making a secure and attractive hedge.

The % hedgerow mix. Blackthorn/Hawthorn 50% -Hazel/Field maple/Holly 35% -Crab apple/Guilder rose/Dog rose/wild Privet/Honey suckle 15%. In a large garden Trees could include Ash, English oak and Sessile oak. AVOID ELDER


Hedging plants you can include in your hedge.

Crab apple. Crab-apple is a small, deciduous tree with thorns and pink buds and blossom in March, takes about 5 years  to  flower and fruit. Grows to about 10 ft over 10 years. likes sheltered well drained sites 

Try making Crab apple Jelly  from the fruit. Crab Apple can help skin to heal.  The rotting fruit attracts the Red Admiral.

Blackthorn is a very thorny tree,with lots of white flowers in spring turning into dark blue berries in August. It grows to about 10 feet in 10 years. 

A tonic helping bowel problems can be made from the flowers and fruit and sloe syrup helps rheumatism,the berries are used to make Sloe gin. Walking sticks are still crafted from the wood. 

Blackthorn will grow in shady,open and wet conditions and provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies and many other wildlife.

Helps make a boundary hedge secure and impenetrable.Try climbing through Blackthorn, the neighbourhood nasties wont !! 

Hawthorn.  Hawthorn is very similar to blackthorn with scented white flowers in spring, followed by red berries it grows a bit faster to about 10 feet in 8 years. Some trees have lived to 400 years old Hawthorn can help circulation and heart problems. and like Blackthorn will grow in shady,open and wet conditions and provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies and many other wildlife. 

Hazel is an attractive tree, producing hazelnuts in Autumn and again grows about a foot a year so works well in a traditional hedgerow and adds to the attraction with its catkins. Walking sticks, shepherd crooks and baskets are still made from Hazel. Its important to the dormouse and other wildlife and the nuts make a nice treat at Christmas.

Field maple 
produces yellow-green flowers in Spring followed by "helicopter" seeds and makes a interesting and attractive addition to the hedgerow growing at about the same rate as Hawthorn. Ok in exposed, windy but well drained sites. It is good for wildlife, including the moths.

Buying Native Hedging. The mixture of Native hedging plants I have suggested can be purchased cheaply as bare root  or larger pot grown hedging plants., from late autumn to early spring.

For instant hedging pot grown hedging plants are available and can be planted at almost anytime throughout the year.

Planting Native Hedging plants. Preparing the ground by removing weeds and large stones, there is no need to remove small stones as these help drainage. Dig the area over and at the same time dig in some organic matter from your compost heap.


Planting guide for a new hedge

To form a quick growing hedge plant in a staggered double row about 18" apart, planting to close will slow down the rate of growth, you can always fill in any gaps once the hedge starts to establish. Water well in and give your new hedge a thick mulch to reduce the need for weeding whilst the plants are setting root .

Purchasing a mix of hedging plants to grow your own Hedge

  Native wildlife hedge - horse friendly

  • 60% hawthorn, 10% of Hornbeam, Hazel, Dog rose and Wild Cherry
  • Plant 5 to a metre in a W shape to form a thick hedge
  • Includes rabbit guards and canes to protect whilst young

  Grow your own hedge! The Wildlife Mixed Hedge is an old fashioned classic hedge and creates a natural wildlife habitat. 


Click the AMAZON picture for this and other hedging offers.

Short bit about the history of the British hedgerow

Few things have helped create the look of the English countryside more than the hedgerows you can see from your car window whilst driving on the motorway.

Hedges have been used as field boundaries in Britain since the times of the Romans. The Anglo-Saxons also used hedgerows extensively, and many that were used as great estate boundaries still exist. Mainly hedges were used as field enclosures or to mark the boundaries of people's property, as they are today.

The farm field hedges you can see from your car window were a reaction to pressures of population expansion leading to a widespread clearing of land for agriculture, and the new fields needed to be marked clearly. 

Not much has changed in some ways the difference being these days the rush to supply cheap food to feed the continuing population explosion means less hedges and bigger open fields.


Why is our Traditional native hedgerow in danger of disappearing

Landowners and factory farmers are the main culprits, pulling up and destroying the hedgerows that divided our British countryside into the attractive patchwork of greens, browns and gold, creating instead, the massive fields with swathes of yellow Rape seed, the stuff we see growing wild along the motorway verges. 

lucrative E.U. subsidies are not paid to grow traditional British hedgerows, but very lucrative E.U subsidies are paid to landowners and factory farmers who rip up our traditional hedges and grow Rape seed. 

To get the absolute maximum crop followed by the euro in the bank, the factory farmer ploughs right up to the base of the hedgerow to create maximum growing area and uses herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers on the fields of Rape seed, causes damage to the remaining hedges. The hedge dies of or becomes to weak to act as a boundary and is then replaced with wooden or wire fences.