Farm hedges are the backbone of the British countryside. Classic farm hedging is built up from a relatively wide mix of small native trees (or large shrubs) such as blackthorn, dogwood, field maple, guelder rose, hawthorn, hazel, wayfaring tree and wild rose.
Farm hedges are multipurpose tools - boundary markers, stock proof barriers, decorative features and windbreaks. Over the centuries a basic mix has evolved which works almost anywhere. Roughly half hawthorn with the rest split evenly between about 5 other hedging varieties.
Use one of our suggested farm hedging mixes which consist of plants chosen to grow well and look good together, or be adventurous and make up your own mix. If you don't need a farm hedge in your work, why not jazz it up a bit by including some soft fruit. Raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and currants all do well in a hedgerow and even if you do not see much fruit yourself, you will bring in wildlife from miles around.
Farm hedges look at their best when cut back every other year as this gives them a chance to flower and fruit. They therefore tend to make larger, shaggier hedges, but ones that teem with life.
It is a short hop (jump?) from hedging used exclusively to divide fields to hedging which does that and also provides thrills and spills for those who ride to hounds. Foxhunting is of course illegal, but thousands "hunt" by following a scent trail. Where horses and hedges come together we would advise steering clear of blackthorn which is unpleasantly thorny and whose spines are more likely to cause infected punctures than hawthorn.
Hedges that are there to be jumped should always be planted in a double row at five plants per metre. A single row may develop gaps and the odd "Giles" cartoon pony that prefers to keep all four feet on the ground will head unerringly for these. Our stock-friendly hedge mix is a perfect off the peg solution if jumping - whether behind foxhounds or not - is on the agenda.
Mixed hedging is not essential however - single species hedges also work very well. Hawthorn is the king of these and is probably planted as much as all other single species hedging put together. In the west country, on Devon Banks, the preferred hedge is beech - it prefers the drier ground on top of a bank and carries its leaves through the winter so providing a better windbreak than hawthorn. Some prefer Blackthorn - unquestionably the best hedge to contain those cunning escape artists that ignorant city folk refer to as sheep.
And so it goes on - the truth is that any woody plant that clips well, that grows in a wide variety of positions and soils and that is relatively cheap (given the large number of plants needed) is a suitable candidate for a farm hedge.