Scotland Yards

HOW HEDGES BECAME THE UNOFFICIAL EMBLEM OF GREAT BRITAIN

Left, a ladder stands against the wall of a private community park beside the Water of Leith near Stockbridge, Edinburgh. During the Midland Revolt of 1607, thousands of people pulled down hedges and fences to protest the enclosure of previously public land. Upper right, a gate within an overgrown border in Ravelston, Edinburgh. More than 30 different styles of hedgelaying evolved in Britain. Lower right, a dramatic boundary hedge in Blackhall, Edinburgh. (Kieran Dodds)

This article is particularly interesting and timely as February’s Growing Gardeners – Level Up Series topic is ‘Multifunctional Hedgerows’ with Pami Monnett. Participants will learn how to ‘design and utilize these multi-functional plantings in order to achieve your land management goals.’ The webinars will be broadcast via Zoom, the second Tuesday of the month, at 3pm, January through November, 2021. Although registration for this class is closed, recordings of the webinars and a listing for the entire series will be posted on the OSU Extension Master Gardener website. This series is open to the public, and OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers receive continuing education credit. You can take one, or take all. Cost is free. Enjoy!


A shear celebration of the ubiquitous boxy bushes that have defined the British landscape since the Bronze Age

Welcome to Hedgeland. The streets of suburban Britain are edged with merry green. Boxy bushes of privet, beech, holly, yew and other plant species act as boundaries around gardens, demarcating property lines and separating our domestic and public lives. Town planners call them “woody linear features,” but they are so much more than that. They are a charmed circle drawn around family and self. What the white picket fence is to America, the hedge is to Britain, a cozy symbol of conservatism. The distinctive sound of a British summer, apart from the melancholy hiss of rain, is the insistent growl of the motorized hedge trimmer, the staccato rasp of hand shears. Hearken to those blades; every snip is a snipe: “Mine. Not yours. Keep out.”

On a recent morning, I took a walk through the northern suburbs of Edinburgh. The ancient castle and bristling swoosh of a skyline that make Scotland’s capital so romantic could not be seen from here, for I had entered the realm of the hedge. They are so mundane, hedges, as to be almost invisible. Yet allow eyes and mind to refocus, and banality yields to fascination. One begins to suspect that hedges are psychological portraits of those who live behind them. A hedge left wild and overgrown suggests a certain lassitude, especially when growing right next to one pruned with geometric rectitude.

Outside the home of J.K. Rowling, a towering barrier of leylandii screens the 17th-century manor house from the road; More……


PHOTOGRAPHS BY KIERAN DODDS; TEXT BY PETER ROS

From Smithsonian Magazine – November 2020

Copyright 2021 Smithsonian Institution. Reprinted with permission from Smithsonian Enterprises. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any medium is strictly prohibited without permission from Smithsonian magazine.

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