Tucked into a little valley on the Western edge of the New Forest our garden is sheltered from all but the East wind and that can be a plant killer. 20 years ago we planted a long row of mixed deciduous but early leafing trees to block the biting easterlies. Thanks to a surplus of hedging whips at work we also planted, a few years later a somewhat random hedge running East West to further protect an area of Spring meadow and Orchard beyond. Although slow to establish on our clay soil, once trees get settled in they grow more quickly than you expect, they have a habit of creeping up on you. Take a year off from the garden and the trees do not, they just carry on growing oblivious to your absence. Our main shelter belt has done well and performs exactly the task intended. The main species that thrives there is the Bird Cherry, ideal as it is densely twiggy so filters the wind nicely. It also lives up to it’s name and provides the birds, mostly Blackbirds with easy pickings of little cherries just when they might otherwise be occupied with soft fruit in the garden. The only down side are the richly purple bird poos but we can live with that.
The ‘Random hedge’ that we planted also thrived and combined with the main shelter belt turned our little Fritillary meadow into something of a secret garden, meadows should not be shady so something had to be done. With our first NGS openings looming we decided to get stuck in and remove the superfluous hedge. I call it a hedge, it had turned into a row of trees due to laxity on my part, it hadn’t been trimmed. My excuse being that a trimmed hedge around a meadow would look too formal. It was mostly Hornbeam and they were about 25 ft. tall with trunks at ground level about the girth of a garden gate post. The other incentive to get the job done was how well the Fritillaries are doing, increasing shade would not be good for them so with chainsaw and chipper the over ambitious hedge has been reduced to about two cubic metres of very useful wood-chip. The stumps will have to stay but I’ve cut them very close to soil level so that I can mow over them and keep the coppice sprouts from attempting to bring the hedge back.
It was sad to lose a batch of trees that had done so well at what they do best. Amongst the Hornbeam there was a solitary Mountain Ash and that has had a reprieve because we want a few isolated trees within the network of meadow plots so it wasn’t a total wipeout.