The Environmental Benefits of Planting a Hedge

Haws - Hawthorn Berries

The Royal Horticulutral Society (RHS) are strongly encouraging gardeners and homeowners to swap their fences for hedges, as they begin their study into which species are best for tackling the climate crisis and pollution. There are various environmental benefits of planting a hedge, as oppose to fences or walls. These benefits include, but are not limited to filtering air pollution, providing homes and food for wildlife and controlling rainwater.

Poor air quality can have a significant negative impact on respiratory and cardiovascular human health causing asthma and other breathing difficulties – the last thing that you want to worry about while relaxing in your garden is the quality of the air you’re breathing in. The capacity of plants, especially Leylandii and Thuja (Western Red Cedar) to remove air pollution is well documented. Hedges, as barriers between sources of pollution like traffic and urban residents, are significantly effective, at least in improving air quality in the local area around the plants. Note, especially if you’re living in a busy area, like a main road, hedges are the best way of filtering out air pollution and have been shown to be better than urban trees on their own.

Planting a hedge provides incredibly varied habitats for wildlife, offering food, shelter, protection from predators, and safe travel corridors for hedgehogs and other small mammals as well as innumerable birds and insects. Birds eat the berries and nest in the branches, bees yield nectar and pollen from the flowers, and butterflies drink nectar from the flowers. Laurel and Portugal Laurel hedges produce fragrant white flowers in spring and early summer followed by berries which are a good source of food to birds. Hawthorn produces rose-like flowers in spring, followed by Haws (hawthorn berries); Hazel produces catkins followed by hazelnuts and Field Maple produces seeds in autumn. Leylandii & Western Red Cedar (Thuja) provide dense nesting sites.

Hedges are especially essential for bees and other pollinating insects as they not only have flowers for them to pollinate but also provide shelter and security for bees at the edges of open fields and gardens. Here, where bees have a lot of plants and flowers to pollinate, they require shelter and protection from predators and a hedge provides that for them acting as a home to run back to if birds and other predators approach.

Rain is the UK’s main personality trait, but managing rainfall remains an increasing issue for towns and cities due to the continuing reduction in the area of permeable surfaces against the large quantity of rain we get. As a result of climate change, experts predict that more heavy rainfall events will continue to happen. A 2016 survey by the RHS suggested one in four UK front gardens are paved over and nearly one in three front gardens have no plants! Through carefully planting, however, gardens can offer more protection against flooding in the UK, as hedges soak up rainfall – think of it a bit like a modern-day moat!

The RHS will study how different species provide their benefits, by looking at factors including leaf shape, texture and branch structure, which are all make them more adept at various roles. The two-year project/trial will research the best combinations of hedges for year-round benefits to urban areas. They will study plants in a laboratory setting but also in a real-life application, and will be trialling six combinations of mixed hedging, using four plants: privet, western red cedar (Thuja), hawthorn and elaeagnus.

We’d love to be able to discuss and give you more information on the most environmentally friendly hedge for your garden – we have a variety of immensely effective hedges! Please get in touch with us.

Posted Under: Hedging Blogs