In my experience the best time to plant hedges and shrubs is between now and Christmas – the soil is still warm and inviting for the plants and frankly it’s more bearable for me too. Then I can pat myself on the back and stay warm and cosy indoors should January and February prove to be unpleasantly cold. If you are thinking about a new hedge why not try using Mixed Natives – the kind of thing you’d associate with a country hedgerow? I’m a big fan because they’re tough, cheap and really great for biodiversity while supporting birds and insects too. And they’re much more interesting too! You get spring blossom, fruits, different shapes and textures, autumn colours and the comings and goings of insects and small birds.
They are available as packs, in different sizes from the cheapest whips to large pot grown specimens – smaller is better if you have the time – and you should plant a staggered double row. So what makes up a native hedge? In the country a quick rule of thumb for dating a hedgerow is to count the number of species in a 100 yard stretch and multiply by 100 years. If you find 5 main trees and shrubs then the hedgerow is probably around 500 years old.
This is far from fool proof but it just makes the point that native hedges can be made up of a just 2 or 3 species or a much more complex mix. Most growers seem to plump for 5/6 in their mixed packs with hawthorn or blackthorn accounting for 50%. Nurseries also offer variants on this theme such as Glebe Nursery’s Fruit and Nut Hedge or Thornless Native Hedge Mix – or with more evergreen holly and yew included for increased privacy. With such a wide choice and so many delights on offer why should we not invite these country cousins into our city homes?