|By: Rhonda Fleming Hayes - About Rhonda
Hundreds of thousands of miles of hedgerow line the country roads of England. Walking along just a few of those miles counts among the greatest pleasures I had while living there.
Often with my children in tow, I would prowl the woven thickets for blackberries and wildflowers. Hedgehog sightings and birdsong were just a bonus. All the while shielding my little ones from the whizzing cars, sheep lorries and clopping horses that made up the traffic in our village.
Ecosystem is such a scientific word for such a teeming tapestry of life. Indeed these living fences are vital wildlife corridors supporting a boundless diversity of flora and fauna.
Why not an American version of the hedgerow? A wildlife hedge can be simply a border of wildlife-attracting shrubs within a manicured yard. On a larger or more rural property a more variety-dense hedge could rival the British version for wildlife value.
Start with berry-producing woody shrubs like chokeberry, fragrant sumac, winter honeysuckle, dogwood or purple leaf sandcherry. Varying ripeness times stretches the food supply. Add evergreens; arborvitae, junipers and hollies all provide nesting and hiding places, as well as shelter from the weather.
Wildlife experts suggest a layered approach to creating a serious habitat planting. Imitate nature with a canopy, understory, shrubs and vines. Existing trees and shrubs could be incorporated into the hedge.
Canopy trees such as bur oak, hazelnut, or hickory could be underplanted with smaller, more shade tolerant trees like paw paw, red mulberry, plum or serviceberry. Shrubs then fill in sunnier spots. If you’re feeling generous blueberries or blackberries could provide a tasty addition. Weave wild grapes or trumpet vine through all this. It could be further enhanced by grasses and wildflowers along the edges.
Whether you start with just one shrub like viburnum “Cardinal Candy” (the name says it all) or create an entire habitat, the wildlife will come.
Besides the permanent residents that are drawn to your plantings, migrating species will appreciate your efforts. Migrating birds and insects depend heavily upon such food sources as they make their arduous seasonal treks. It’s a sure thing your “bed and breakfast” will get a 4-star rating!