A Beech Hedge reaches maturity in 150 – 200 years and there is no more spectacular revelation of why it’s worth the wait than the Dark Hedges in County Antrim.
The Beech Hedge and The Stuarts
Of course, this remarkable avenue is not actually a hedge but its impact demonstrates what hedging plants can become. This magnificent example was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century. The intention was simple – to impress their guests as they approached Gracehill House, their new Georgian mansion. The house itself is now a golf club but, thankfully, the avenue remains. The house itself is pleasant enough, but the avenue that once led to it, is unique.
As well as being one of the most visited sites in Northern Ireland this Beech Hedge has two further claims to fame. First, it was used as a location in Game of Thrones. Second, it is reputedly haunted by a Grey Lady who glides along the road only to fade away when she reaches the last Beech.
The Beech Hedge in Time
The Beech Hedge the Stuarts had planted would have been a fraction of the size it is today. Certainly, they would not have formed an enclosed archway. And that raises an interesting point about landscape gardening…time. Despite the ability of garden designers to create fully-formed show gardens at RHS Chelsea and elsewhere, real gardens take time to mature. A traditional garden hedge may only need a few years to establish, but major plantings, like this Beech Hedge, take generations. We should therefore be thankful for the visionaries willing to shape the landscape knowing in would be a century or more before their labours could be fully appreciated. Who knows, in a century’s time, maybe people will be visiting the Beech Hedge you’ve just planted?