Interest in Native Hedging Plants continues to grow and grow. But what exactly do we mean by ‘native’ and just how important is it to our gardeners.
Native Hedging Plants – a definition
‘Native’ trees and shrubs – the starting point of any hedge – are: “…those species that have occurred naturally in the UK since the last Ice Age.”
More recent introductions now established in the wild are referred to as ‘naturalised’ or ‘archeophytes’.
Native Hedging Plants – the Garden Setting
While those officially looking after the countryside are often restricted to planting native species, gardeners have near unlimited choice – there are 19 invasive plant species banned from sale. In the wild there are some 1,402 non-native naturalised plants established of which 108 are deemed to be having a negative impact. In the garden though, the number runs into the thousands. Indeed, the two most English of flowering plants – the Rose (excepting the Dog Rose) and all species of Lavender – are both decidedly immigrants.
And this apparent contradiction lies at the heart of the debate. With the obvious exception of damaging, invasive imports, garden horticulture is global – and I don’t think gardeners would have it any other way..
Native Hedging Plants – the Choice
It is perhaps no coincidence, though, that true, native hedging species are among the most popular and include:
- Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
- Box (Buxus sempervirens)
- Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
- Purple Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’)
- Yew (Taxus baccata)
Other native trees and shrubs like the Oak (Quercus robur) or Common Aspen (Populus tremula) make excellent native hedging but aren’t (yet) as popular.
Are Native Hedging Plants always the Better Choice?
The simple answer is ‘no’. The following demonstrates why: The Leylandii is a natural hybrid (admittedly of two non-native species) that occurred in Leighton Hall, Powys and as a Welsh hedging plant is far more a native than the Western Red Cedar – the variety we now recommend people plant instead.
Equally, anyone with a ‘foreign’ hedge such as Griselinia Littoralis (Originally from New Zealand) or the Cherry Laurel (from lands bordering The Black Sea) will notice that our native wildlife still takes full advantage of the food and shelter they provide.
Native Hedging – the Benefits
The first thing to say is that any hedge is better, aesthetically and ecologically, than a fence. But one can argue that native hedging in a garden setting may offer a few marginal benefits over non-native species:
- They may look more at home in the landscape – but see ‘Rose’ and ‘Lavender” above
- Planted in their preferred location, they will always thrive
- Certain native wildlife species will have adapted (“the method an organism becomes better able to live in its habitat or habitats.”) to native hedging species.
But then again, to many native hedge-nesting birds like the Blackbird, a hedge is a hedge is a hedge,
NB: Our Native Farm Hedging
Our Farm or Rural hedging is, naturally, made up of entirely native species.
- Blackthorn (Prunus spinose)
- Dog Rose (Rosa canina)
- Field Maple (Acer campestre)
- Guilder Rose (Viburnum opulus)
- Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
- Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
- Hazel (Corylus avallana)