A fast-growing, medium-sized native tree found all over Britain, especially in wet places. Very hardy and coping with a wide range of soil types, Alder is particularly useful for preventing soil erosion, and for establishing plantings in waterlogged areas. Young plants are seldom attacked by rabbits or stock, so makes a good choice where this could be a problem.
Perhaps the most beautiful of our large native trees, with elegant spreading branches and leaves which turn rich copper in autumn. The soaring pale grey trunk, reminiscent of the columns of an ancient cathedral, and the delicate tracery of branches make this a tree which looks handsome throughout the year. Beech makes one of the best garden hedges, fast-growing, but needing only one cut a year. Although deciduous, beech hedges retain their brown leaves through the winter before they are pushed off by the new leaves in spring.
A handsome, large deciduous tree, with elegant spreading branches and dark purple leaves which turn copper in autumn and are a shimmering bronze in spring. It is widely planted in large parks and gardens, and often planted as an ornamental hedge. As a hedge, it retains its leaves over winter. With its smooth grey bark and delicate tracery of branches, it is attractive all year round.
Dense colorful fast growing evergreen hedge with bright, shiny, very prickly holly-like, dark green leaves. New foliage tinged red turning green with age. Clothed in masses of rich orange flowers May to June, followed by edible blue barberries which are excellent in jams and preserves. Occasional flowers in autumn in mild weather. Shade tolerant.
A dense deciduous, very spiny shrub with dark reddish purple leaves, which turn a rich red in autumn. The pale yellow flowers, suffused with red are followed by red berries in autumn, so this attractive shrub has a lot to offer. Berberis makes an excellent impenetrable hedge, which can either be kept tightly clipped as a formal hedge, or allowed to branch more freely, in which case flowering and fruiting will be better.
Bird Cherry is an attractive flowering tree with almond scented flowers in May which are held on long slender racemes. These turn into small black bitter fruits. Good orange yellow leaf colour in autumn. Bird Cherry is an extremely tough tree which will grow in the harshest environments. Unlike most of the flowering cherries it will cope with wet ground well and tolerates exposure and winds, it is found growing almost up to the Arctic Circle. However it will grow best in moist loamy fertile soils.
More familiar to many as the Sloe, from its large fruits ripening in late autumn, Blackthorn is an important native deciduous shrub often seen growing wild in the countryside. A densely spiny suckering shrub, it makes one of the best stock-proof hedges and forms an essential part of wildlife hedges. Its snowy white blossom appears in very early spring before the leaves and is followed in late autumn by the purplish-black fruits.
Common Box is a handsome native evergreen with a dense habit and small dark green oval leaves. It is most often seen as a closely clipped hedge, or trimmed into topiary shapes, but in woodlands, where it is allowed to grow freely, it makes a good small tree. It is valuable as one of the few native broad-leaved evergreens found in Britain.
Also known as Cherry Laurel, this is a very fast-growing evergreen shrub with large handsome leaves. It’s often planted as a hedge, because its fast growth quickly gives a dense screen to ensure year-round privacy. It has spikes of very sweet smelling flowers in spring, and berries in autumn, which are relished by a range of birds. Planted as a shrub, it tends to layer itself to make a large plant. It can also be trained as a small tree.
With an elegant arching habit, and soft, grey-green leaves Cotoneaster franchetii is an attractive shrub. Semi-evergreen and with orange-red berries in autumn, it is attractive throughout the year. It’s fast-growing and able to grow well in the most unpromising of sites, making it a valuable plant for both the gardener and the landscaper.
A pretty, rounded tree, attractive both in blossom and in fruit. A British native, it is one of the ancestors of all our cultivated apples and is often seen in hedgerows. It makes a pretty specimen tree for the garden and is a good pollinator for other apples. It is a useful addition to woodlands, where it will support a range of insects and birds.
The Dog Rose used to be a familiar sight in country hedgerows, but is now much less common with the destruction of so much farmland hedging. Its pretty pink and white flowers on arching branches and oval scarlet hips have great charm and it has good wildlife value. Fast growing, it is perhaps best used in mixed wildlife hedging and on woodland margins to add colour in summer and autumn.
The Guelder Rose isn’t a rose at all, but a Viburnum. Also known as the Snowball Tree, it is one of our most attractive native shrubs with excellent wildlife and garden value. With showy leaves which develop good autumn colour, large heads of white flowers and huge bunches of glistening red berries, it has a very long season of interest.
This is the Common Hawthorn so familiar in the countryside all over Britain. Probably best known as a country hedge, it also makes an excellent small garden tree with good wildlife value. Another common name is Quickthorn because it quickly makes a very effective, dense and thorny stock-proof hedge, and has been grown for hundreds of years for this purpose.
Hazel is an attractive, fast-growing multi-stemmed shrub or small tree whose large yellow catkins in February give the first inkling that spring is on its way. With a good rounded shape, and handsome leaves with yellow autumn colour, it is a versatile plant which can be used in a variety of ways. It has excellent wildlife value, and is planted commercially for its nut harvest in autumn.
Holly is perhaps our most beautiful native broadleaved evergreen tree. A mature tree in woodland is a fine sight, particularly in winter, when its stately smooth grey trunk and gleaming leaves stand out well against the leafless branches of other trees. It is equally good as a garden ornamental or an evergreen hedge. It has good conservation value, and both the leaves and the scarlet berries are a potent symbol of Christmas.
Most often seen as a specimen shrub in gardens, the Boxleaf Honeysuckle makes an excellent fast-growing, dense hedge. It can be kept tightly clipped as either a very dwarf hedge (an effective alternative to Dwarf Box) or as a taller hedge at about 1.3 – 1.5m. The tiny oval evergreen leaves give the plant an attractive appearance throughout the year.
Often confused with beech at first sight, Hornbeam is a good substitute on wet or shady sites where Beech will not do well. It makes a medium-sized specimen tree on heavy clay soil in parklands and gardens where other trees will not thrive, and it is an excellent hedge, retaining its leaves over winter in the same way as Beech. It is also good for coppicing and pollarding, and along with Lime, it is most often used for making pleached hedges.
A picturesque and attractive medium-sized native tree. Field Maple is relatively quick growing and deciduous, losing leaves in the winter. Frequently used in rustic country hedges as a companion to Hawthorn and other hedgerow species. Can also be planted as an interesting specimen tree and commonly seen within native woodlands throughout the UK. This tree is good for coppicing and can be used for wood-turning and carving.
The Oval Leaved Privet makes what is probably the most commonly planted urban hedge. Fast-growing, with a very dense habit, it quickly makes an impenetrable screen which ensures complete privacy. Evergreen in all but the coldest winters, it does well on most soils and copes well with shady conditions. It provides good nesting sites and shelter for birds.
The Snowberry is a very hardy fast-growing suckering shrub with attractive snow-white berries, originating in North America. Although not a British native, it has good wildlife value, and is a good plant for poor soils and dense shade. Its suckering habit means that it quickly makes a dense thicket, so it is good for screening and can be trimmed as a low hedge.
The Spindleberry is a British native, often seen in hedgerows on chalky soil in the south of England. Fast growing, it is an attractive shrub in autumn when the leaves turn bright red and contrast with the strange pink 4-lobed fruits, which split partially open the reveal bright orange seeds. It is best grown in mixed wildlife hedges and on woodland margins, but is also a good garden shrub.
English Yew Hedge is the classic British conifer hedging plant, called the King of Hedges. Yew is a dense, dark evergreen with bright green spring growth and autumnal red fruits which are much sought after by birds but harmful to humans, pets and livestock. It is often thought to be very slow growing but actually normally grows by 30/40cm pa so not as slow as many people think – but once it reaches its desired height, its easy to maintain. Yew hedging needs plenty of water in the first couple of seasons but should not sit in waterlogged soil. If you are concerned that you have clay, wet soil, please improve the drainage when planting Yew. Apart from its requirement for water, its very easy to grow, shade tolerant, very hardy, and likes all soils particularly alkaline.