Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna (and the very similar Midland hawthorn Crataegus laevigata). This species should form the backbone of your hedge. Smothered in blossom in May (another colloquial name for it) and berries in the autumn that last well into the winter. It’s grown from seed so has a delightful variation in leaf shape, berry colour and growth form so your hedge will never be a boring monoculture.
Blackthorn Prunus spinosa. Personally I would be very circumspect about including this in a garden hedge. Yes it has pretty flowers very early in the year and then produces sloe berries, but it’s thorns are really wicked and it has a strong tendency to sucker. Best enjoyed out in the proper countryside in my book.
Guelder rose, Viburnum opulus. A really gorgeous shrub with large maple like leaves that has lovely flowers in spring and very pretty, juicy red berries in autumn against stunning leaf colour. The berries are quickly gone but it’s well worth a place in a supporting role in your hedge.
Dogwood, Cornus sanguinea. The native unadulterated dogwood has sultry dark purple stems with the leaves turning the same colour in autumn. It produces small black berries, but not in huge numbers. There is no need to coppice or pollard it as you would the decorative garden cultivars, it can be left alone to gently fill a space.
Spindle, Euonymus europeaus. A delightful shrub for a native hedge, flowers in spring followed by psychedelic pink and orange berries well into the autumn.
Hazel, Corylus avellana. A little bit tricky to manage in a hedge as it generally needs coppicing to the ground every seven years, but it can be included and just trimmed back to keep it bounds when necessary and the hazelnuts are a welcome addition to the autumn larder.
Willow, Salix spp. You could include some pussy willow (Salix caprea) in the mix but make sure it’s a male form if you want the prettier white fluffy catkins. The crack willow Salix fragilis is too fast growing and dominant for inclusion. Personally I think some of the forms of white willow (Salix alba) such as Yelverton or Britzensis look great in a hedge if they are regularly pollarded to show off their gorgeous coloured young stems, but I have read that they are not considered truly native.
Field maple, Acer campestre. Really wanting to be a tree rather than a hedgerow shrub you’ll have to keep on top of the growth rate of the field maple if you include it in your mix. But the pretty leaf shape and buttery yellow autumn colour are hard to resist. Not so overtly wildlife friendly as other species the field maple still does some of the behind the scenes work by providing food for caterpillars and other insects through its leaves and small mammals are partial to the seeds contained in its winged fruit.
Wild privet, Ligustrum vulgare. This wasn’t a available as a whip when we planted our hedge but I wish that we had been able to include it. Semi- evergreen with small white flowers in spring and black berries in autumn, the leaves of the privet plant are the food plant of many important moths, including the impressive privet hawk moth.
Dog rose, Rosa canina. Definitely try to include one or two dog roses. Such pretty flowers on long arching branches and then the splendid urn shaped hips well into winter. They are naturally scramblers so can get a bit bare at the legs so I would be flanking them either side with a hawthorn who will obligingly send out some low side branches to cover its modesty.
Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum. I still haven’t come across a garden honeysuckle that is as pretty or as sweetly scented as our native one. It may be worth waiting a year or two for the other hedging plants to get established before introducing the honeysuckle so that it has something to scramble up.
Crab apple, Malus sylvestris. It helps to have one or two taller trees in the hedge line for birds to use as a lookout or a song perch. A crab apple is the traditional tree for this purpose and it’s blossom and windfall fruit fit nicely into the theme and purpose of your hedge. A rowan or, if you had room, an oak would also both fill this role. Other large trees such as ash (for obvious reasons) beech (little wildlife value) or alder (too big) would not be such good choices.
NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.