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Hedges and shrubs

Hedges and shrubberies can be brilliant for wildlife, and can provide much of the food, shelter and nesting sites for much of your garden wildlife.

A hedge takes some degree of care and maintainance – often these days a fence is the easiest option to segregate your garden from that of others. But hedges should be considered not only because they are good for wildlife – they are also better at absorbing the wind rather than just deflecting it.

If you have the opportunity to plant a hedge, one with mixed species is generally better for wildife. Once again native species are likely to give you the best wildlife results.

The following are recommended species (those followed by (N) are native to the UK):

  • Hawthorn (N);
  • Blackthorn (N);
  • Field Maple (N);
  • Holly (N);
  • Wayfaring Tree (N);
  • Buckthorn (N);
  • Alder Buckthorn (N);
  • Privet (N);
  • Field Rose and Dog Rose (N);
  • Guelder Rose (N);
  • Spindle (N);
  • Dogwood (N);
  • Yew (N)

Non-native species useful for hedging include Escallonia in coastal districts, but its wildlife value is little more than shelter and nesting sites. Some Pyracanthus species form a good low hedge and some varieties have good crops of berries. Leylandii cypress is of course regularly grown - it has the benefit of being very fast-growing, and does provide good nesting opportunities for birds such as greenfinches and blackbirds, plus starlings and other birds often roost in them. However, they are hungry for moisture and nutrients, cast deep shade, and certainly are far poorer overall for wildlife than the native shrubs above.

In addition, the following species are not ideally suited for use in a hedge but can provide wildlife interest in a shrubbery:

  • Buddleia - probably the best plant for attracting nectaring butterflies in late summer
  • Pyracantha – choose varieties that have a good crop of berries
  • Berberis – agin, some varieties are great for berries

Climbers and Scramblers

Climbing plants often provide many of the benefits of trees but have the space-saving benefit of being able to be grown up fences and walls. Climber provide sheltering sites for insects and spiders, nesting and roosting sites for birds, and often great flowers too.

Top of the list for wildlife include: (N = native)

  • Honeysuckle (N);
  • Ivy (N);
  • Bramble (N);
  • Wild clematis (Old man’s beard) (N);
  • Wisteria;
  • Virginia creeper

Plants such as pyracantha can also be trained up a wall


'Information supplied by RSPB, August 2002'



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