We drove down to Cornwall on the Bank Holiday weekend… I really enjoy this drive as its mostly off the motorway and across country… and, as I am not driving, I get to look and take in the scenery.
I took some photos of the hedgerow on our lane as we left. The end of May is the ultimate time for hedgerows, especially in Cow Parsley covered Somerset. Cow Parsley seems to have come back into vogue, maybe it’s the native wild plants being used alongside other perennials in a naturalistic style by Chelsea designers. (This year Cleve West’s garden and Catherine MacDonald’s garden were almost evocations of hedgerows). Or, maybe it’s just a zeitgeist thing?…Or maybe we all want to put the ‘wild’ back into our gardens?
I love Cow Parsley, I love the froth and the dancing filigree nature and as soon as I see it I feel a primal joy about the coming of summer. It is instantly recognisable.
I have sown it in my mini meadow outside the potting shed and in the woodland by the house. If it gets too vigorous I pull it out, if it’s in the wrong place I don’t let it seed, it’s a bit like managing chaos. My biggest problem is distinguishing it from the poisonous Hemlock (which is a problem weed – but still beautiful all the same).
During the drive the hedgerows change from a sea of Cow Parsley and Pink Campion backed by Hawthorn to oxeye daisies, foxgloves, ferns and sorrel, eventually turning into banks of Bluebell, Foxglove, Campion, Sorrel, Ferns, and Bracken. These banks are old stonewalls filled with rubble and the local acidic clay soil: the ultimate “living wall”.
The reason I love gardening is because it feels to me to be a direct contact with the natural world. In my garden I want to make plant communities that look and function sympathetically with how they co-evolved under our stewardship in nature. So that they don’t just look naturalistic, but, they are better adapted to their site, richly layered, and resilient.
On a patch of land by the house densely shaded by a laurel hedge, a conifer and deciduous trees, I have begun to plant out and seed what I hope will become a ‘hedgerow-like’ planting. On the steep bank that used to hold the canal steps I have sown and plug planted Foxgloves, Primroses, Snowdrops, and some Ferns – adding to the Harts tongue and Pulmonaria that were already there.
The rest of the planting is a mix of ferns, architectural foliage, ground cover, and dynamic frothy umbellifers. Hopefully, in a few years there will be no bare soil just a patch of ‘cultivated hedgerow’.