A month in the life of a Hedge!


Bramble Drop-scones 225 g flour, ½tsp salt, 1tsp baking powder, 25 g castor sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tbs golden syrup 225 ml milk, 175 g blackberries, 225 ml milk.Mix all dry ingredients and then add the sugar. Add the beaten eggs and milk and warmed syrup. Make a well in the flour and pour in berries. Mix to a batter. Put a tablespoon of it on a hot, well-greased frying pan and cook until golden on both sides. Serve hot with butter.


Brambles ( Rubus fruticosus sens) have many variations in the seeds. The word ’sens’ means ‘in the wide sense’ because of their many forms. Each variation is like a microspecies, adapted to special conditions and cloning itself. Viney says there are at least 70 sorts of blackberry. Here in Fingal there is one with big fat globes but few of them, which is ripe in early September. A later one has many tiny globes, which are sourer.

Fuchsia The word means Fox, the name of the 16th century German herbalist who named it. The original stock from which Irish fuchsia hedges came was planted in Kerry in the 19th century, according to Michael Viney. It was a new cultivar coming from Riccarton in Scotland in 1830. It grows very well from a slip.

Gorse is in bloom. This plant was first used by the Normans as hedging in the 12th century. There is also a gorse uniquely Irish, found originally near Strangford Lough at Mount Stewart, the demesne of the Marquis of Londonderry. It had soft spines, very good for animal fodder. It was christened Ulex downiensis. However today we know it is only a cultivar of the common furze, but you can see descendants of the original at the Botanic Gardens Dublin.

Crab-apple (Malus sylvestris) This tree is often found in old hedges. It consists of two sub-species; the true crab apple has hairless or nearly hairless leaves and the fruit is small and very sour. The other sub-species, that is, the cultivated apple and its wild relatives, came from southeast Europe and southwest Asia and has leaves which are downy underneath and hairy stalks and twigs.

Hazel has its nuts in clusters of one to four. The grey squirrels may eat them before you get to them. It is seen as a symbol of happy marriage because the nuts are united in pairs. In Fingal there are very few of them north of Swords now but old people remember picking nuts from a few isolated ones.


The Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant) can be found in many ditches in the shade of the hedge. Ferns are a non-flowering plant. They exist first as a gametophyte and survive in moist soil. Then it becomes a fern or sporophyte which can cope with a dry period. They reproduce not by seeds but by spores on the underside of the leaf. The spores can only disperse if the leaves are vertical. The leaves need to catch the light and be horizontal. The fern compromise with two leaf types and positions, the horizontal leaves have no spores and catch light and there are other narrower vertical leaves for the spores.

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