The gradual increase in temperature and light levels within woodlands in spring is the signal for many plants to burst into life. The very rapid growth of bluebell, wild daffodil, wild garlic and other geophytes is nature's way of ensuring that these woodland species have enough energy to quickly complete their lifecycles before the tree canopy closes and the understorey becomes too shady for most plants to grow.
The spectacular displays of bluebells in May are one of Britain's best known and loved natural features. There is a good chance that Britain possesses more than 25% of the European population, but the woodlands are frequently in poor condition owing to their fragmented nature, lack of appropriate management and introduction of alien invasive species such as the Spanish bluebell and Rhododendron ponticum.
Maintenance of young plantations needs to be carefully timed so that the fast-growing grasses and weeds don't outcompete and smother the saplings. Herbicide spraying is usually carried out in late spring, although mowing between the rows should wait until late summer, when ground-nesting birds such as the skylark and lapwing have raised their broods.
Hedgerows throughout much of lowland Britain have replaced the original native woodlands as the most extensive woody habitat and are very important to many types of wildlife in an often barren agricultural landscape. Unfortunately, thousands of miles of hedgerows were ripped out during the intensification of agriculture after the Second World War and are only now being replanted on a large scale. The regeneration of neglected hedgerows through the process of hedgelaying is also being encouraged through government grant funding. If you would like new hedgerows planted from the start of next winter, please contact us.
A newly planted hedgerow typically contains around 80% hawthorn and 20% of minor species such as blackthorn, hazel, field maple and dogwood. This mix of woody plants is more beneficial to wildlife and more closely resembles the character of ancient hedgerows, although much less species-rich. Ancient hedgerows are those in existence before the Enclosures Acts, which were first passed during the early 1600s. The number of ancient hedgerows varies from county to county, with Devon and Cornwall possessing a significant proportion of the total.