1. What is a hedge?

It is a living fence, a row of trees constantly cut back which normally would be a row of big trees. A hedge is a woodland edge without a wood. When it is composed of native trees, it attracts native insects which in turn attract native birds. The hedge normally includes the bank (or headland) and ditch beside it.

2. I want to plant a native hedge – what kind of trees should I plant?

The blackthorn, hawthorn, sessile oak, mountain ash, goat willow and sally, alder, birch, elder, holly, wild cherry, Irish yew, Irish whitebeam (Sorbus hibernica), buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and hazel.

You will attract the following butterflies by planting the following types of hedge trees which act as food plants.

Silver-washed Fritillary - Any deciduous hedges, Bramble flowers
Brown Speckled Wood – Native hedges
White Brimstone - Buckthorn,
Green Hairstreak - Gorse (Ulex europaeus) , Broom (Cytisus scoparius)
Brown Hairstreak – Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Brown Gatekeeper – Native hedges
Brown Ringlet – Native hedges
Purple Hairstreak (rare) – Oak (Quercus) and Ash
Holly Blue – Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Ivy (Hedera helix)

3. I need a fast-growing hedge as a shelter belt but don’t want to plant Leylandii cypress as it creates too much shadow and gets too big.

You can plant 2 plants together, one fast-growing, the other slow-growing. When the slow one gets big, you can remove the fast one. For example plant alder or willow (likes damp) or whitethorn with an undercrop of holly. Holly will be the screen eventually. Alder has a long leaf bearing season, willow can be fun as you can weave it into a green fence. Willow is cheap, you take cuttings in November, one inch in diameter and 18 inches long. Stick 12 inches into the soil and remember to put it right way up.

Whitethorn is also fast but do cut it back to one third of its height after planting to stimulate growth. Remember to control weeds by covering earth with black plastic with plants peeping out.

4. Are hedges untidy?

If nature was as tidy as our sitting room, there would be no food available for birds and animals. Man and nature have to find a balance, we need each other to survive. Most of the untidiness at or around hedges can usually be put down to careless people!

5. Do we need hedges?

Hedges are potentially the most economic way of providing a boundary, and they look good too! Hedges provide a good natural environment for all types of birds and mammals by providing a natural food source. They add to our natural suuroundings and help maintain a good balance of wildlife

6. They were only planted in the 1700’s and 1800’s, beforehand there were big open fields of 20 acres so by removing them we’re going back to the way things were?

St. Stephens Green in Dublin was only planted in the 1800’s but none would dream of removing those trees. Because of intensive agriculture and development hedges can be the last refuge for wildlife as well providing watershed protection in times of flooding, aiding soil conservation and maintaining atmospheric quality. The disappearance of headlands (usually beside hedges) has led to extinction of the Corn Bunting.

7. Does the government support keeping hedges?

Yes - Hedges may not be cut from March 1st to August 31st .

8. Why were they planted originally? They were planted as stock-proof barriers during a period of agricultural improvements (the Enclosures) between 1750 and 1850. Landowners planted hedges on a voluntary basis, creating a paddock system on their land to separate animals for interbreeding and to enable grass to grow again in the just-grazed field (rotation 0)

9. Is it ever good to remove hedges?

Any removal of hedges is bad news for wildlife. If it must be done as a last resort, at least the outer hedge should be retained so that there will still be an intact wildlife corridor. Connectivity is all important, especially for bats who when seeking food at night will return to their nest if they come to a gap in the hedge.

10. Are there more important environmental issues than hedges?

Respect for the nature around you begins at home. Environmental degradation is happening everywhere, an area of rain-forest as big as Florida disappears each year, protecting your own native woodland is a first step in creating public awareness of such issues.

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