Every since I took on my first plot, I’ve intended to use hedge around the border. Mindful of the fact that my previous plots haven’t been big enough to fulfil my long-term goals, I’ve always put off investing the time and money.
Now that I have (what I hope is) my ‘forever’ plot, hedging is definitely part of the plan. Initially, I’ll place a hedge around the perimeter of the plot, mindful of not using too much of the plot.
Reasons for adding hedging
Firstly, to act as a wind barrier. My first plot suffered terribly with wind at times – it wasn’t unknown for sheds to be blown across plots on that site, because the wind could be so strong. The current site suffers this far less, but even so it’s nice to cover off the possibility.
Secondly, to define the boundary. Either side of my plot has paths, one end backs onto another plot and the other end is terminated by a large pond. There are a number of plot owners with dogs (including myself), and with the best will in the world, if the dogs are off the lead, they will wonder. Earlier this year I lost a few plants after they were trodden by unleashed dogs. It’s not something that bothers me a great deal, mostly because I know it’s not intentional – but it’s something that hedging would have prevented.
Finally, to give some year-round interest. Come autumn, most plots tend to look quite bare until the following spring. A deciduous or evergreen hedge would, at the least, give some form or interest or structure to the plot.
Choosing the hedging
The eventual height of the hedging won’t be more than 1 metre. Any more and it would likely put too much of the plot in shade. Any less and the viable hedging types narrows. I’ve chosen to use Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), for a few reasons.
Hornbeam is ‘cheap’ hedging – by quite a margin. I’ll be buying bare root hedging, so it will take a few years to get established, but even so it can be found for less than 40p per plant. That compares with around £1.30 per plant for something like Box (Buxus sempervirens), one of the most common choices. You also need less of them to establish a hedge – as much as 45cm between plants, compared with a maximum of 38cm for Box.
I need 72 metres worth of hedging to surround my plot, which for a dense hedge (23cm apart) means 315 plants. Using Hornbeam, that will cost less than £120. The same hedge using Box would come in at £400. Box blight, which has swept through the country, is another reason I want to avoid it.
Hornbeam is also a good choice for various types of conditions. It’s happy in poorly drained soil, and can tolerate shade. It’s very similar to Beech (though unrelated), however Beech does not like waterlogged or heavy soil.
Other uses for Hornbeam
I’ve previously mentioned that my goal for this plot is for everything to be there not simply for it’s own sake. Everything should have a ‘use’. Beyond hedging (or Trees), other uses for Hornbeam don’t immediately spring to mind for most. However, dig deep enough (pardon the pun!) and Hornbeam does in fact have herbal uses;
Fatigue and tiredness can be tackled using Hornbeam Flower Essence.It’s also used to treat stress, anxiety and depression.
Hornbeam Leaves have haemostatic properties that make them ideal as a compress to stop bleeding. Infused in distilled water, they can also be used to treat eye problems such as conjunctivitis.
Stimulates hair growth, and can prevent hair loss. It’s often one of the ingredients in commercial hair loss products. Hornbeam tea can also help fight the common cold.
Hay Fever and other allergies are often treated using Hornbeam in traditional medicine.
There are, no doubt, countless other uses I’ve yet to uncover.