Native Irish Hedge

The Humble Irish Hedge: Rich with Rewards and how to integrate and successfully design with key native species within our green spaces.

Deeply rooted in our histories, culture and folklore, the humble hedge can be dated back to the Neolithic and Bronze ages. Viewed from above they fondly interweave and traverse the rich and varied landscapes demarcating and announcing where lands begin and end.

Childhood memories conjure up visions of the variety of textures, intertwining climbing branches adorned with tiny thorns that catch us occasionally as we pass by.  The green backdrop enhances the splashes of floral colour providing delicious inviting scents that linger long into the late summer evenings. The promise of delicious fruit and berries popped into our mouths there and then. Or patiently awaiting the tantalising taste of a baked crumble of a dark autumnal evening.

A vast network of complex intricacies within. A thriving myriad of organic life flourishing symbiotically. The mix of Native Irish species successfully supports and provides endless benefits to its immediate and wider community functioning from soil to sky; microorganisms and fungi, insects and smaller mammals, plants and humans alike.

Pollination, seed dispersal, the provision of food and shelter, and the regeneration of nutrients deep within the soil are protected. The wider variety of species, the greater the resilience from climate changes that we are experiencing more and more.

Native Irish Hedgerow
Native Irish Roses intertwined amongst the green

But how do we design with native species to achieve this? How can we successfully integrate key elements ensuring our green spaces remain functional and not become overgrown and unusable?

It is possible and easily achievable. Over the past few years there has been a significant shift and a strong positive response to the increased inclusion of hedgerows and native species within the design world. From projects on a larger commercial scale to smaller gardens, green spaces and ever more increasingly in the world of the show gardens.

Most recently in the realm of Show Gardens, Nora Tombor, a former Austen landscape architecture student intern, now fully realised, designed and built the beautiful ‘Rewild!’ garden at the Bloom Garden Design festival this summer. Successfully awarded a Silver Gilt in the Small Show Garden category, Nora’s Garden was elegant and demonstrated a soft naturalistic design that was rich with a predominantly Irish native planting palette. The garden celebrated and embraced pollinators and humans together, a welcoming haven from the pollinator friendly structures to the cosy swing. Her inclusion of species such as Crataegus monogyna as a hedging even within a smaller space was well noted, further proving we can incorporate them on any scale! Other native species included the delicate Achillea millefolium and Anthriscus sylvestris, native ferns, sweet woodruff and playful Briza media culminating in the result of a beautiful and tranquil sanctuary.

Wildlife garden
Nora Tombor’s Silver Gilt awarded show garden, an excellent example of the elegantly effortless inclusion of Irish native species celebrating pollinators and the symbiotic relationship between all who come to this delightful green space.

Using native species such as Crataegus monogyna, for example, is the most ubiquitous plant used in hedgerows. It is thorny, stockproof, weather resistant and produces attractive white flowers in May. Rosa canina, Rosa rubigosa, Prunus padus, Prunus spinosa and Ribes sanguineum are some further examples of the wide variety of fruiting shrubs and climbers to incorporate maximising biodiversity and proven to show climate resilience. Irish Nursery growers are beginning to focus their intentions on growing and ensuring there is a wider variety and supply of native Irish species outside of the popular demand for specimen perennials.

The noticeably positive effects and benefits are immediately evident on an environmental, community and personal level of well-being by all that interact with them, and we want more.

For many years, we have recommended native hedging and inclusion of native species within all our design projects where possible. Hedges at the perimeter are a starting point in this process, they are easy to plant, to source and maintain. The benefits are immediate and the rewards are ongoing.

In Tim’s own Renishaw garden, the insertion of a variety of species to form his native hedging frames and demarcates the perimeter effortlessly. The hedging continues to flourish and there is a high reward sensorially when wandering through the gardens, even if for only a few minutes.

Native Irish Hedgerow
Splashes of colour against a vibrant green backdrop rich with benefits encouraging pollinators and multiple habitats within your green space.

The insertion and incorporation within a design of key native species are simple and achievable on any scale or space available. Do keep this in mind when spending time in your green space as we progress into the Irish summer months, consider how you could incorporate, include or even substitute within your own.

The rich rewards reach far beyond the visual when successfully integrated. Feel your shoulders drop, your breathing becoming deeper and steadier as you take in the scents and the peaceful moment you have created and taken with intention. Arrive at a feeling of peace and a sense of well-being, maybe even lift, just a little, the corners of your mouth into a smile.

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