Interesting to note what an effect the changing seasons are having on the short section of hedge I put in this spring. Over the summer, the blackthorn, hawthorn and guelder rose plants have come on very nicely, and many of the rugosa roses and dog roses flowered during July and August. There are now a few fat hips swinging like ripe crab apples in the breeze, and the general impression is one of encouraging natural prosperity. I could only afford to put in two hundred yards of hedge during 2013, but having saved up over the past few months, I hope to do much more next year.
I am particularly interested in the grass margin between the hedge plants and the fence, where a surprising array of plant species has appeared. There are remnant borage and phacelia plants from last year’s bee and butterfly mix, as well as naturally regenerating clovers and a patch of oxeye daisies. These are the margins that are so important for grey partridges, and they will come into their own over the next few years as the hedge plants come up and the enclosures become corridors across the farm. Already, I have seen a huge range of finches in the strip, as well as everything from redpolls and linnets to twites taking from the spent thistleheads and dock stems. The expense and sweat involved in stock-proofing this small strip has already repaid itself many times over in its first year, and I’m looking forward to visits from redwings and fieldfares when the hawthorns mature and the berries begin. And that’s before I begin to get excited about the prospect of feeding black grouse.
As an aside, I was very surprised to find that a fistful of sunflower seeds which was mixed in with the turnip crop has actually shown fruit in the form of two dozen fantastic flowers. It is getting a little too late in the year for the insects to make full use of these dish-sized blooms, but it certainly does look odd to see them bobbing around cheerfully against a backdrop of rushes, heather and bracken.