Dead Hedge

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This is a dead hedge, an ironic name considering the habitat it provides for wildlife. Dead hedges are built from woody prunings, tree branches and foliage, creating shelter and food for insects, small animals and birds. They play an important role in habitat conservation and restoration. The material for a dead hedge is usually produced on site through forestry, pruning or clearing work, and the hedge will eventually compost down back to the earth. The ultimate in sustainability! I helped to build this one a few years ago during a stint as a conservation volunteer at Kew Gardens. First we hammered two rows of posts into the ground, angling in one direction. This made them less likely to bow out and fall under the stress of the ‘filling’  than if they were planted straight up. Next we began to weave the longer, springier prunings between the posts to make two parallel walls that were periodically packed with the ‘filling’ of remaining woody material. We kept building these walls and stuffing them until we were left with a lovely, thick hedge. I wasn’t intelligent enough to take a photograph, but fellow Londoners can see a nice example of deadhedgery (not a word, but seems appropriate!) in the nature reserve Leg O’ Mutton Pond, which lies between Hammersmith and Barnes on the south side of the Thames.

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Rosa rugosa Hedge

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I planted this hedge of Rosa rugosa back in November 2010This species rose is also known as the Hedgehog rose because of its prickly stems. The two-year old plants arrive bare-rooted, in an open plastic wrapping with rolls of wet newspaper in the bottom to keep the roots moist. They can be transported in this seemingly brutal way because they are dormant, and the important thing is to stop the roots from drying out. If they can’t be planted straight away they can be ‘heeled in’ (planted temporarily in a small trench) until the planting area and weather are ready. I put these in roughly 60cm apart. Earlier in the year I had prepared the ground for planting, clearing it of weeds and applying worm casts (from our wormery that is fed with kitchen waste). This rose forms a lovely hedge as it grows fast, has dense tough foliage, and has flowers and fruits that provide interest through the seasons. It produces pink, scented flowers through summer and autumn. These are followed by large hips resembling tomatoes.

English: I am the originator of this photo. I ...

English: I am the originator of this photo. I hold the copyright. I release it to the public domain. This photo depicts a Rosa rugosa hip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t pruned the hedge since I planted it, but now it has thickened up I will give it a light pruning after flowering, just reducing some of the side shoots that are becoming a little ungainly. Besides supporting nature, the greenery a good hedge provides seems to promote a soothing atmosphere I feel we could do with a bit more of in London. So this hedge of Rosa rugosa is my small contribution to that!

For The Love Of Ivy

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This particular tree has always caught my notice. It was obviously once host to some magnificent ivy that was killed by cutting a large chunk of its ‘trunk’ (it nearly is!) near the base. The fabulously snaking dead roots still cover the bark of the tree, and some fresh young ivy is now returning to follow the original path upwards. Trees and ivy are a combination that really seems to divide opinion.   Some people feel that the ivy destroys the host tree, smothering it and making it compete for light and nutrients. Others point out that a strong healthy tree should be able to cope with ivy climbing up it, that it forms a valuable shelter and food source for wildlife, and plays an important role in the development of woodland habitat. I think a good way of managing ivy is to allow it to grow up the tree trunk to a certain point, and prevent it from going into the branches. In a gardening situation, it of course depends on taste. If you have a tree with eg. distinctive bark acting as a focal point you may not want anything to detract from that. I myself have pruned ivy in the illustrated way when I was volunteering in a project to renovate some hazel coppice. The woodland under renovation had not been managed for some time, so the conservation group taking charge of the site wanted the freshly pruned hazel to get growing, and other plants, including the ivy, could come back in gradually.