I often share views through the gap in the hedge. It’s a window on the changing seasons. Today, I thought you might like to see what’s growing in the hedgerow around my ‘window.”
Hawthorn. Crataegus monogyna. Berries are ripening fast. It seems too soon. It feels as if it’s only a short while since snowy white May blossom heralded the end of winter. And here we are, it’s harvest time. It’s a good year for berries. A larder for the wildlife. Hawthorn supports more than 300 species of insect. Flowers are eaten by dormice, and berries called ‘haws’ are rich in antioxidants and eaten by migrating birds such as redwings.
Hazel. Corylus avellana. Again, I feel it’s only a while since I posted photos of ‘lambs tail’ catkins. It’s a good year for nuts. Our garden is ‘raining’ hazel nuts. Even the squirrels can’t keep up with the crop, which is really saying something as their appetites are legendary. I’m often gathering them as fast as I can, while five or six brazen squirrels, adults and this year’s babies, bound across the top of the hedgerow. Multiple holes in the lawn show evidence of where they have ‘hidden’ their harvest. I hope they remember where they’ve left them. Hazel leaves are good for the caterpillars of many moths including the large emerald, small white, barred, umber and nut tree tussock.
The dormouse eats hazel nuts to fatten up for hibernation, and also eats caterpillars in the spring. Nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, and jays. We’ve had an adult and baby green woodpecker in our garden all summer. It’s been fascinating watching the adult showing the baby where all the best spots are for food- the rotten wood pile, orchard and patch of grass where chafer grubs thrive.
Field Maple. Acer campestre. Winged seeds are turning red. They will soon be dispersed by the wind. And it can get very windy up here on the ridgeway. I really should have consulted an ordnance survey map before moving here. Gardening is a challenge in gale force winds. Next time, I’d like a nice secluded walled garden, please. Everyone reading this, knows there will not be a next time. I love this wild and peaceful place. I will never move from here.
The Woodland Trust tells me that maple leaves are eaten by several moths, the sycamore moth, small yellow wave, mocha, and the maple prominent, among others. Moths are on the decline so it is a good plant to have in any garden or hedgerow. We have some grown as trees, as well as mixed in the hedge.
Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and birds, and small mammals eat the fruit.
This hedgerow is full of dogwood. Cornus sanguinea. Stems and leaves turns a rich burgundy in winter. A wonderful sight on a cold day. Leaves are already starting to take on polished and burnished tints. Green berries will soon turn black.
Leaves are eaten by moths, including the case-bearer moth. Flowers are valuable for insects, and berries are eaten by birds and small mammals. We enjoy standing and watching bats flitting over the hedgerows at night- catching the moths and flying insects. They seem to follow a repeated circuit, a figure of eight, over our heads. You can almost anticipate where they will be seen next. A joyful way to spend a few minutes, or longer if time allows. Owls fly in across the fields to take the small mammals- mice, rats and field voles. We have little owls, tawny and barn owls here. It can be quite noisy some nights, when they call out across deserted fields. The sound carries. We stand quietly and listen.
Crab Apple. Malus sylvestris. Abundant this year. Leaves are valuable for the eyed hawk moth, green pug, Chinese character and pale tussock. Wonderful names that conjure up all kinds of pictures in my mind. I decide to learn more about moths.
Fruit is eaten by blackbirds, thrushes and crows, and also mice and voles. Foxes and badgers forage in ditches for them. When fruit ripens and falls it seems to ‘cook’ gently in the heat. It’s a fabulous scent and always reminds me of apple pie and crumbles.
I read somewhere that you can measure the age of a hedge by the number of different plants growing in it. Apparently, it’s approximately 100 years for each variety. Looking around, I know that farming has been here since medieval times. There are ridge and furrow fields across from our garden and also half way to the village. They are particularly noticeable when fields flood. Furrows pool with water, while the ridges stay high and dry. You can just wonder and imagine how they grew their crops using hand tools, without the aid of machines.
Speaking of machines, the sound right now is combine harvesters north and south. To the west and east, there’s the monotonous chug, chug, chug of bailing machine. Soon there will be ploughing, and the growing season starts all over again.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my view through the gap. I didn’t make the gap, nature did. But I look through it each day to spy the changes, and sometimes there’s hares, pheasants, fox cubs, all unaware that I’m watching.
Links : New hedging plants for my garden come from Hopes Grove Nursery, a family business in Tenterden. They supply ‘hedge-in-a-box collections for wildlife, cutflowers, gin making. Their latest collection is a horse-friendly range, suitable for field boundaries.
Woodland Trust: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/
Barn Owl Trust https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-nestbox/owl-boxes-for-trees/