Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Our Country Hedge

As part of our site development we wanted to plant 'country hedge' along the new fence we put up to divide our field from the one next door.  A country hedge is a mix of indigenous species usually based on hawthorn and blackthorn to make it spikey and inpenetrable (natural barbed wire) with other things mixed in like dog rose, cornus and maple. I managed to find some very good value plants at Ashridge Nursery  and ordered 300 bare root plants. I place the order back in October and the delivery arrived, on time, in the first week in December.  When it tunred up I regretted my earlier zeal as, with everything else going, we didnt really have time for this amount of planting.  But once they had arrived we knew we had no choice.

It took my husband and I about 10 man-hours to get it planted.  It didnt look very exicting but we have high hopes for the future.

Just one problem - I forgot to order the tree guards and although i did order them soon after planting we have already lost some to the rabbits.  I urge anyone else planting hedge to avoid making the same mistake.

Hedges; bee heaven in Springtime

A traditional English 'country hedge' is made up of mainly hawthorn or blackthorn but also with a selection of elder, dog-rose, maple and hazel. This mix has been forming our hedgerows for centuries and is still the hedging that Natural England recommends as part of their stewardship schemes today. Not only does this country hedge form a tough, spiky barrier which keeps animals in and trespassers out, but it is easy to maintain with an annual trim. In addition, for those of us who want to support bees, it provides a great source of flower from the end of March through to May.

The blackthorn flowers first (pictured), flowed by the hawthorn and then any of the other elements mainly come along in May. In our area, (South Oxfordshire) some of the hedges have such a high proportion of blackthorn that sections of them turn a surprising white for a time as the flowers come before the leaves.

Our bees have easy access to a lot of hedging as it lines all the lanes near their field. Right now they are coming back loaded up with the dark rusty red pollen from the blackthorn.

But these hedging shrubs should not be considered only suitable for leafy roadsides out in 'the sticks'; they can be used anywhere that a hedge or flowering shrub would normally be considered, providing flower when not much else does.