Accessible hillside woodland garden
The clients wanted to transform the 2 acre site on a fairly steep hillside into a wildlife forest garden. Clearance of Bramble and Bracken had already started, I sketched up the paths and possible tree locations in the garden in situ, using cotton twine and green bamboo from the clients’ existing garden.
I then called in Matt Broome from bike track and footpath specialists West Wales Trials. He used a mini-digger to bench cut the footpaths.
Matt and Marley were attuned to what was needed, and the freshly landscaped paths and steps have withstood a very wet winter. The aftermath of the bench cutting was very dramatic, as the topsoil was distributed over the existing ground cover. However, the spring growth will soon grow this layer of soil.
The plants are a range of natives—Dogwood, Privet and Alder Buckthorn for hedging, Silver Birch as the main stand of trees—and edible/medicinal ornamentals, including English Walnut, Aronia ‘Nero’, Apple Serviceberry, Scarlet Hawthorn and Witchhazel. The existing trees include Hazel, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Beech and Horse Chestnut.
My motto is to use native plants where possible, so that there’s a bulk of foodstuff for invertebrates. This is why native hedging is so useful. On the bottom I used Bloodtwig Dogwood, host to at least 10 species, and providing flowers and berries for wildlife as well.
What is also important, particularly on a sloping site exposed to prevailing winds, is create temporary windbreaks for the newly planted tres. I use dead hedges a great deal, as they protect the young plants in the early stages, plus they are great habitat, and also a place for all your brash.
I use a spiral of chicken wire held in place with bamboo as a guard against rabbits. They expand with the tree, they’re re-usable and they don’t leave fragments of plastic in the soil.
For longevity, and also to cut down on plastic pollution, I used spiral aluminium metal embossed plant labels. I bought a Dymo Rhino labeller specifically for the job but you can also use a manual alphabet punch set and old drink cans to the same end.