This past week I wrote a post for Storey Publishing, the publisher of my books, about planting a wildlife-friendly hedgerow in or near your garden landscape. Above is a picture of the hedgerow I planted some years ago that runs along the north side of our home and very near my primary food garden. Since this picture was taken, I’ve expanded the hedgerow, so now it is about 100 feet long, and of course, many of the plants that were part of the original planting have gotten quite a lot larger than they are in this photo.
Before the hedgerow was planted I grew a 100 foot long row of sunflowers, all different varieties, as my “wall of sunflowers”. It was planted especially as a living source of wild bird food for all different types of birds from gold finches, to red wing black birds to blue jays. The sunflowers were really cheerful and fun, but they had to be planted each year, so the hedgerow is a perennial planting and provides many different types of food sources not just for the wild birds, but also for pollinators (both native and domestic honeybees), beneficial insects, squirrels, raccoons. etc.
Last summer I expanded the last little distance of the hedgerow up to the road. The chicken-wire cages are protecting some young red currant bushes from browsing deer until they get old enough and established enough to hold their own. That will be in about three years time. There is also a climbing rose bush planted in this section, and at the very top there is a Tiny Trumpets Honeysuckle bush, which is a favorite of mine, very fragrant in spring when if blooms, and the little birds love to hide in it. Until the bushes get big enough to really form the hedgerow, I’ve planted all manner of long lived perennials, including blue sage, iris, chocolate flower, Echinacea, etc. These will attract pollinators and beneficial insects into our garden landscape, and those insects and hummingbirds are so welcome here on the farm!!
This is a red leaf Rose, although this picture is taken in the winter months, you can see that it has incredible rose hips. They provide a food source for the birds, the foxes, the deer, and other wildlife. During the growing season the bush has purple red foliage and pink flowers in spring. It is one of the toughest roses I know of and very drought tolerant. All types of roses, especially shrub and climbing varieties, are perfect additions to a wildlife hedgerow. Besides providing food for wildlife, they also provide places for homes and shelter protection.
This is a traditional Hops vine, and you can see the hops flowers (called strobiles) in this photo. Hops are a vine and they are quite sturdy, so if you plant them in your hedgerow you will need to provide a strong fence or trellis or structure of some sort for them to climb on. I like hops because they are a wonderful medicinal herb, and they can be used in brewing beer too, however there are many specialty varieties of hops that are probably more often grown for beer brewing than this common kind of hops.
Other great plants that are wonderful to include in your hedgerow might be fruit and nut trees of all types, bushy kinds of fruits like raspberries or gooseberries. Lilacs are fantastic in hedgerows and offer fragrant beautiful blooms in early spring. There is a maple tree in my hedgerow, along with a New Zealand apple tree, and a Manchruian Apricot tree. I think wild plums and choke cherry bushes are really good too and I have them planted in a different hedgerow here on our farm.
I like to include hollyhocks, which add color all summer with height to the shrubs and trees growing there. The hollyhocks are great for attracting beneficial insects and the pollinating insects love them too! Plus they are an old-fashioned flower which I dearly love!
Really, the kinds of plants you could include in your wildlife hedgerow design is pretty endless. If the plants can provide food, shelter, protection, or a place to raise young for wildlife, then they will be great plants to include. Making choices so that you have blooming going on throughout the growing season will not only support beneficial insects and pollinators, it will add beauty to your garden landscape. If you live in an arid climate like we do, it is really useful to put drip irrigation or soaker hoses in your hedgerow so that you can keep it watered in a water-wise fashion. Once your hedgerow has gotten established it will not need to be watered as often as say perennial or annual flower beds or food gardens do. My hedgerows get watered every 3-4 weeks in a good water year and in a drought year I stretch them to every 6 weeks or so.
If you would like to read my post on the Storey Publishing website about hedgerows to get a few more ideas, here is the link.
You can also read more about this in my new book The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener.
The main thing to remember whenever you are planning and planting something in your garden landscape, is to have fun doing it!
All for now.