THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Hedge laying is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time, a type of pruning that can bring huge benefits to wildlife as well as looking amazing.
So last year I went down to Dorset/the edge of Devon, to spend a day learning to lay a hedge.
Hedge laying is a way of building a stock proof fence. It does take time, and some practical and physical skill, but once you get the hang of it I would think developing your instinct about what to prune and where to lay the branches is where the true proficiency arises…
That will come with experience of course (and is similar to any pruning and topiary – developing your eye for the shapes you wish to make needs you to give it a go!) but I recommend booking yourself on a course, spending the day outside, working with plants, to get yourself into the swing of things – it is pretty easy to socially distance and the only real danger is cutting off a thumb (if you are an idiot with an axe).
Plus, wherever you are in the country, you get a different style of hedge laying. This is because of plant material being different, as well as need – a bigger, stronger laid hedge would be needed in areas of the country that kept cattle, for example, while the style I learnt had two ‘combs’ with an earth bank on the inside.
Looking at the old laid hedges as we drove around and seeing the earth bank filled with an array of flowers and plants, that loved the dry slope it grew on, was a real treat – tiny eco-systems that bring forth these wonderful tapestries of plants that can cope with conditions, almost like a banked meadow – the last time I saw something like this was the wide variety of flowers growing on the old limestone graves in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. These unusual circumstances, man-made, create perfect conditions for a wider group of plants.
What is hedge laying for? Stock control and cerating boundaries
The best plants to use? Blackthorn… and holly.
Preparation for hedge laying? Billhook, axe, saw.
Anything else important to know? Prune when plants are dormant (October to March?)Always lay uphill. Lay towards the sun, where possible.
How do you do it? Remove unwanted material first (like brambles). Trim growth back to the hedgeline (from the facade of the hedge.) Choose the strongest, youngest material as this is most suitable for laying.
Then what do I do with the stem I am going to lay? Cut low down, near the ground, about 3/4 of the way through the limb at a 45 degree angle. Lay it as flat as possible. Trim the heel. Weave the next one in.
Now, that may all sound like gobbledegook to you, but it will make sense if you work a day with someone who knows what they are doing. I really enjoyed it and will be going again, perhaps to learn a new style.
I hope you will think about the laying of hedges – or even the planting of hedges, if you don’t have any! They are wonderful for wildlife, providing cover, habitat and food. And you can always grow a tree out of them too, to make them even better carbon stores!
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
I am an experienced teacher of topiary and pruning, running workshops in the topiary garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent, as well as for The English Gardening School and The European Boxwood And Topiary Society. So if you are a keen gardener, a garden club, a group of friends who want to know more or even an absolute beginner who has been bitten by the gardening bug, then do contact me about what you might like to learn. What a laugh we are having in this workshop session I ran for a group of friends in Essex… Many people employ …