The forest garden is now an established part of the Tayport Community Garden and it’s continually evolving. Many of you will have noticed on your walk past the garden, next to the wooden fence, a new planting of – ah, well, at this stage – nothing more than twig-like growths? Well, watch this space, for over the next few months and years, a transformation will take place. A luscious edible hedge, beautifully colour coded and carefully thought out will appear before our eyes. The list of hedge plants includes: hawthorn; dog rose; crab apple; elder; hazel; plum and cherry. I can’t wait!
Hedges are one of the most valuable, all-round wealth resources in our natural landscape. Yet they are often an overlooked feature and in our rush to plant trees to offset carbon, let’s not forget the immense contribution a hedge makes to local wildlife. And, whether it’s an evergreen hedge which gives all year shelter and protection or a deciduous one which might give flowers for pollinators and berries, haws and nuts in the autumn, all types are beneficial.
The abundance of wildlife that a hedge supports is amazing. Let’s start with a range of birds you are likely to find making their homes in the dense thicket: blackbirds, wrens, robins, sparrows and if you use the Coffin Walk in Tayport you will, no doubt, notice many other species. And that’s to say nothing of the numerous invertebrates you’re likely to find: spiders, caterpillars, ladybirds; butterflies and moths. These hedges are vital corridors and highways for all sorts of creatures who need to move safely from one area to the next: mice, voles or the aptly named hedgehog who might roam between 1 – 2 km nightly, in search of food. The hedgehog is currently classified as vulnerable in Scotland and is on the ‘red list’ for endangered species. And, as I write this, with another warning of an approaching storm, I like to think, the ivy and holly hedge nearby, will provide shelter for all sorts of creatures in its snug branches and in the protective blanket of ground underneath.
As if I haven’t sung the praises of a hedgerow enough there is, of course, the argument that a hedge is much cheaper than putting up a wooden fence; it is easy to plant and maintain – and doesn’t need painting annually! They filter noise and an interesting video from the RHS shows how much pollution is absorbed by hedge leaves, something, I confess I hadn’t ever considered. I love, too, how generous hedges are as a support for other climbing plants like honeysuckle and jasmine: hedges really are the most valuable of garden plants.
There have been hedges around since before Roman times and during the 18th Century there was, apparently, a spurt in hedge planting following the Enclosures Act. Sadly, during and after the Second World War there was wholesale removal of hedges in an attempt to be self-sufficient in food. Today, sadly, farming practices are rarely hedge friendly because of such actions as indiscriminate trimming and spray drift. This makes the planning of hedges, like the one at the forest garden, vitally important and, as now is a good time to plant hedges, I am going to have a look round my own garden to see where I can put, at least, a couple of hedge plants as a mini version of the forest garden edible hedge. Wealth comes in all shapes and sizes, but increasingly, I think, the story is changing, and so might what a hedge fund looks like, for ourselves and our planet.
I will leave you with the lovely sound of a very busy hedge near my house.
As always, if you want any advise on planting or maintaining hedges or indeed anything to do with your garden, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with PLANT.