How to create a wild hedge
A natural hedge not only serves as a habitat for birds, small mammals, insects and beetles, but also provides us with fruit rich in vitamins. Such hedges also contain traditional medicinal plants. For this reason alone, it would be a shame if you destroy the potential that your garden offers with monotonous cherry laurel.
A mini reservation
A natural hedge provides nesting sites for numerous bird species - from warblers to wren, from robins to flycatchers, song thrushes to fitisen. Hedgehogs and mice feel at home on the bottom of the hedge, as do mountain and pond newts, common toads and slow worms. Wild bees find food on the flowers, as do wild bumblebees, beetles and spiders.
The leaves can rot directly under the hedge, ensuring that newts and mice find shelter in winter. The species that roam in a natural hedge include shrews, dormice, dormouse and dwarf mice, mouse weasels, bats, red-backed shrike, golden bunting, greenfinches, greenfinches, hedge brownella and many others.
Can natural hedges be cut?
A prejudice against natural hedges, in contrast to conifers, cherry laurel or rhododendrons, is that they cannot be cut. The opposite is the case. Hedges with native plants easily tolerate an annual pruning, which can even be radical. They can be cut just as precisely as conifer hedges.
Building a natural hedge
You should not just plant a natural hedge, but lay out the individual plants as a serpentine line and also increase the spatial effect by planting in three levels: the lowest plants are in the front, the medium-sized ones in the middle and the tallest ones in the back.
The ratio of tall to low-growing plants should be 1 to 2, the ratio of lovers of light to shade should be 1 to 1. On the ground they plant ground cover and / or mulch with bark mulch, leaves and compost.
Make sure to use almost exclusively native trees. Almost means: You can also use certain neophytes that feed animals, but only these. For example, there is nothing against integrating a number of sunflowers.
Pay attention to the soil conditions: For moist soils, for example, alder or sapwood, sea buckthorn or rock pear like it dry.
Prefer flowering shrubs that produce fruit. These include rock pear, cornelian cherry or barberry, blackberry, raspberry, apple or currant. The flowers provide food for insects, the fruits feed birds, small mammals and ourselves.
Make sure that the flowering periods are spread over the year. In this way, you firstly ensure a continuous bee pasture and secondly enjoy the blossoms throughout.
Plan for fast-growing deciduous trees at medium height. They ensure that the hedge becomes stable and give it a scaffold with strong trunks. In addition, robust nesting opportunities also develop here for larger birds.
Plant shrubs that grow similarly quickly.
You should rejuvenate a natural hedge from the fourth year. To do this, cut out old shoots without injuring young shoots. So the young shoots can develop. Make sure that there are no holes in the hedge, it looks ugly and the hedge grows irregularly.
Did you plant in several rows? Then cut the front strip in one year, the back strip in the next year, and start over in the third year.
This is about children and pets, less about wildlife. If your children snack on the fruit, you should either keep plants that are toxic to humans out of the hedge or educate the children early.
In the case of a natural hedge, for example, this applies to the Pfaffenhütchen. For birds it is a valuable food, for humans the berries are poisonous. Other bird nutrient plants also contain poisonous leaves, flowers, bark, seeds or roots, for example boxwood and yew.
Nutritional and medicinal plants
However, some hedge plants are not only edible, but even suitable as medicinal plants: goat willow contains the basic substance of aspirin, elderberry, sea buckthorn and hawthorn are home remedies for fever, infections, gastrointestinal problems and pain.
Teas can be prepared from the leaves, flowers or fruits.
The planting ditch
Are you going to put the hedge back on? Then first dig a trench. This should be twice as wide and deep as the root balls of the plants. You can mix the soil with compost.
Now distribute the trees in the ditch, fill in the soil and tread it well. Plant at the same height as in the nursery and cover the soil around the roots with bark mulch so that it does not dry out.
Distances between plants
The following applies to the distances: At a height of up to 40 cm, 4 to 5 plants per meter, up to 60 cm 3 to 4 plants, up to 100 cm 2 to 3. From 100 to 200 cm, 1 to 2 plants should be planted per meter.
When to cut?
It is best to cut leaf hedges in autumn and winter, never between the end of April and mid-June, because then the birds are in the breeding season and in the worst case, they destroy the nests and drive off the adult birds.
It is better to cut trapezoidal with a deviation of about 20 cm than straight candles - this way more light comes into the hedge.
Ideal hedge plants
For a natural hedge, you can first take a hike in the vicinity of the future planting and get an overview of which trees grow naturally here. The emphasis is on natural: it's not about the neighbor's thuja hedge.
Pay attention to the cardinal points, light and shadow. Does hawthorn grow north near their shrubs? Then it will probably also thrive in its hedge on the north side.
Observe which animals control which plants in the vicinity of their hedge. With the appropriate plants, you will also lure them into their bushes. In this way, a single juniper shrub can decide whether there are blood hemispheres in their garden.
Are you not a plant expert? Take an identification book with you when you explore the area or take photos of the plants. You can then show these to experts from NABU or discuss them on forums by natural gardeners.
Indigenous trees with different flowers
1) Common snowball
It is so named because its large white inflorescences are reminiscent of a snowball, blooms from May to June and decorates the garden with red fruits in autumn. It grows quickly, becomes 2 to 4 meters high and can be cut very well.
It should not be missing in any natural garden. The shrub grows up to four meters high and grows slowly. It provides us with fruit that can be processed into jam.
Flowers, bark and fruit reduce fever, inhibit inflammation, drive urine and have a laxative effect. They relieve bladder, kidney and stomach discomfort. Sloe juice accelerates recovery from infectious diseases.
The unripe fruit can be inserted, the ripe fruit can be used for fruit juices, fruit wines and liqueurs.
For animals, the sloe is one of the most important domestic crops. The larvae of several endangered butterflies rely on the leaves of the plant, and countless butterflies feed on the flowers, including the endangered sail butterfly.
The sloe flower pest
The rare beetle that seeks out the sloe includes the rare gold-shining rose beetle, and the sloe-flowering stalk even feeds exclusively on the plant. There are also around 20 wild bee species that consume the pollen and nectar. The fruits provide food for almost two dozen native bird species, including various titmice and warblers. Red-backed shrike and predatory shrike spear their prey on the long thorns.
Root creeper pioneer
Caution: sloe is a root creep pioneer. The roots expand widely and sprout shoots that are distributed throughout the garden and also displace less robust plants. So it is best to install a root barrier for the sloe, i.e. a film that keeps the growth of the roots at bay.
3. Black elderberry
The black elder is a must in the natural hedge. At least 40 bird species eat its berries, including rarities such as bluethroat, whinchat and thrush warbler, but also the typical garden birds such as chaffinch, great tit or robin. Jay loves the fruit as much as green woodpeckers, pigeons like grosbeak, silkworms like song thrushes, wren like forest warblers.
All these birds spread the elderberry seeds with their droppings, and if you want to see anything else growing in your garden than elderberry, you have to tear the sprouts out regularly.
Holler wine and flower syrup
The flowers produce elderflower syrup, which is diluted with water, offers first-class refreshment in summer, gives cocktails a kick and is ideal for ice cream and dessert sauces.
The fruits can only be enjoyed cooked for humans, they are suitable for jams, elderberry juice, elder wine (elder wine), elder liqueur, but also as an ingredient in deer, deer, wild boar and pheasant. Dried elderflower results in a tea that is very suitable to prevent colds.
Vitamins and minerals
Elderberry provides a high level of vitamins and minerals: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and C, as well as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sodium and iron, saponins and tannins.
Black elder proliferates. In a positive way, this means that after a few years you will have a thick hedge made of tough wood. The disadvantage: you have to cut elderberries more often than other plants.
4. Cornelian cherry
The cornelian cherry is the opposite of elderberry - at least in terms of growth. It grows slowly, but has reached heights of up to eight meters over the decades. The dogwood plant is an early bloomer: the bees are already supplied with nectar in March, and we humans enjoy it with an abundance of golden yellow flowers in the middle of the still largely bare garden.
Once planted, the plant is undemanding and second, it defies diseases, pests and heat. However, it loves warmth and chalky soils - in nature it is typical of the undergrowth of light forests, forest clearings and the edge of the forest. There she shares the habitat with goat willows, wild roses, ivy, honeysuckle, hornbeam and hazelnut, and these also provide ideal co-plants in a cornel hedge.
A bitter pleasure
Like elderberry and sloe, the cornelian cherry is an “all-rounder”: insects love the flowers, it supports the hedge, birds eat the fruits, and these are also tasty for people. Cornelian cherries have "gone out of style", but that does nothing to their taste. The fruits have a slightly sour taste, can be eaten raw, boiled as tea, used for jellies; they season wild sauces and desserts. The fruits are ripe in September.
The plant has a very hard wood, so there is no bite damage from deer or deer.
Barberry is particularly suitable for keeping human intruders (but also dogs etc.) away, for example under a window. The Sauerdorn, so a German name, has not only sour fruits, but also painful thorns.
The low to medium-high shrubs are a bird's paradise for both reasons: here, like in blackberry, sea buckthorn, hawthorn or sloe, birds like to raise their young because predators such as cats or martens injure their paws on the thorns.
The wood of the shrub is brittle and of a white-yellow-brown color, the small flowers shine money; in most forms of barberry, the leaves are green and turn yellow and red in autumn; some species have blood red leaves.
The flowers are an excellent insect pasture, and birds are crazy about the berries. Barberry looks and fits perfectly with firethorn, hawthorn and sloe.
The barberry berries can be dried and brewed as tea, go well with game, kouskous, rice and chicken, and the taste is complemented with almonds, nuts, sweet potatoes and dark chocolate.
They contain a lot of vitamin C, as well as malic and citric acid and potassium, clean the stomach, make you sweat and help against infections and toothache.
6. Witch Hazel
The witch hazel provides bloom in winter, because the wine-red flowers unfold in January and February. Witch hazel does not need a maintenance cut.
7. Ordinary rock pear
The common rock pear is the only one of its kind that originally comes from Europe. It is an important fodder plant for the caterpillars of the rare black weevil and the equally rare fruit grove flower stretcher. Under the butterflies themselves, the green headed butterfly feeds on the nectar.
The rock pear is ideal for a hedge, both ecologically and culinary and just as aesthetically. As the seasons change, it offers a white sea of star-shaped flowers in April / May, sweet fruits in June and colorful leaves in autumn. Tip: The white flowers and green leaves complement each other well with squill.
The height of 1 to 4 m with a very dense network of branches at the same time makes it an ideal hedge, even for front gardens. The leaves are green in summer, yellow to orange and red in autumn.
From food to jewelry
Today rock pears are used as ornamental trees, although they were previously only used as fruit carriers. The fruits are ripe in June, the color and taste are reminiscent of blueberries. The fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and tannic acid.
The wild rock pear grows in mountains and there on dry slopes, on semi-dry grass and sparse oak or pine forests, also on limestone and rock. The common rock pear has been a cultivated plant for 500 years. Its origin as a hard chunk on nutrient-poor soils has given it great resistance to classic garden pests.
Hawthorn occurs naturally in several species in Europe and prefers temperate climates. These are deciduous shrubs that branch densely and protect themselves with a variety of thorns.
The bark is greenish brown and flaky, the wood is heavy and hard. The leaves are bulky, the flowers white, sometimes pink. In autumn, the hawthorn bears red fruits, which can also be blue, black or yellow for some varieties. They are hardly suitable for direct consumption, mostly they are mealy.
The shrub loves the sun, but also grows in partial shade, in nature it forms the background of light forests and clearings, and is also a typical plant on the edge of the forest. The individual plants can reach an age of 500 years.
The caterpillars' daily bread
Hawthorn blooms in May and June. The fruits appear in August and remain until spring. They feed a variety of bird species, along with the mountain ash, the hawthorn is the most important bird nourishment in Germany. The caterpillars of 54 butterflies also eat the plants.
The fruits contain a lot of vitamins and can be processed into compote, jam, juice and syrup. The dried pulp produces a kind of "flour" that can be easily used in bread and gives it an unmistakable taste, which not everyone likes.
In medicine, hawthorn tea made from leaves, flowers and fruits is used as a remedy for cardiovascular disorders.
The plant looks beautiful, which is why it is often found in gardens and parks. For a natural hedge, please make sure that it is the native one- or two-pronged hawthorn and not a cultivated form with double flowers. They look nice, but are of no use to insects.
As a hedge plant, the shrub has almost only advantages. It can be cut excellently, grows quickly and does not mind radical cuts. As the basis of life for 150 insect and 30 songbird species, it is one of the most ecologically important plants in Germany.
More hedge plants
Other native plants that are well suited for natural hedges are Pfaffenhütchen (be careful with children, the fruits are poisonous to humans), the mountain ash known as rowan with healthy fruits, the bird and honeysuckle, the wild and dog rose and a number of berries: blackberry, raspberry, gooseberry, red and black currant.
The berries not only taste good, they are all first-class nectar and pollen donors - the endangered bees and bumble bees will thank you for growing them.
However, caution is advised: raspberries and blackberries are flat roots, which expand underground and sprout from the ground in various places. Overgrown gardens often consist largely of wild blackberries after a few years.
Thorny dominant animal paradise
The spines make the walk through the garden a pain test, and the dominance of blackberries rapidly reduces biodiversity. However, the berries are not an ecological poison, such as cherry laurel, but a land of plenty for birds, small mammals and insects: hedge brown noses, robins and wren nest in the protection of the thorns, butterflies, bees and bumblebees eat themselves from the flowers, dormouse and dormouse on the berries.
In order to keep the wild blackberries at bay, it is advisable to limit the roots. To do this, they put a tarpaulin about 2 mm thick about 60 cm deep into the earth and frame the plant.
Last but not least, no hedge should lack the hazelnut. The squirrels will thank them, as will the jays, and the rare dormouse even gets its name from the walnut. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)