Now that the new stretch of hedge has been made stock-proof, it’s time to think about what I’m going to plant in there. I had always planned on a predominance of hawthorn and blackthorn with the odd rowan, but it’s just too good an opportunity to try out some new species. After all, this new hedge will be the first of many on the Chayne and it would be a shame to overlook something which really thrives up there just out of pure lack of imagination. This first stretch of hedge needs to be as thick as a brick wall, full of food bearing species and not so high as to encourage birds of prey. Given that it will be planted on what was until last week a fairly decent bit of arable field, there is room for a great deal more flexibility than if it were further up on the peaty hill, but the fact that there are still frosts until May on the Chayne may restrict me a little bit. Ideally, this will be a perfect hedge for partridges – providing good cover, a south facing aspect and an abundance of food. Any species that helps me achieve that goal is very welcome.
Having bought a sample batch of twenty dog roses from eBay, I planted them today as the forerunners of the future hedge. I am currently bidding on some holly plants, a bunch of cotoneasters, a dozen elders and a sample pack of dog woods. I’m also going to dig up some rosa rugosa (a fearsome and invasive rose species) and some feral gooseberries and raspberries from my parents’ garden this coming week to see how they will do. It was only on close inspection that I realised that much of the hedgerows around my parents’ farm are made up of gooseberry bushes, and there is no doubt some value to be had in them, even if the gooseberries themselves are tiny and eyewatering.
It had never occured to me that roses would be a good be for game cover, but if the flowers attract the insects and the thorns shelter the birds, I can’t see why I wouldn’t get stuck in. I’m not going to be fussing and primping them like a gardener; if they live then I will be pleased – if they don’t then there is no harm done. On close examination, I don’t think that there is a single bramble plant on the Chayne, so I will also dig up one or two and take them up. It seems madness to translocate bramble plants, but again, the value of the berries and the thorns can hardly be overestimated. If they are as vigorous on the Chayne as they are on the low ground, one or two plants should be enough to colonise the entire hedge, and the sheep will certainly stop them from spreading out into the fields.
Dealing in such small quantities of plants is quite simple online, and the species which do best will be rolled out elsewhere during the next few years of the project.