Six on Saturday | A Cornish Hedge

The typical Cornish hedge is a stone-faced earth hedgebank with bushes or trees growing along the top. It is called a “hedge”, never a “hedgerow” or “wall”.

As readers will know if they follow my posts, a Cornish hedge is never called a wall or a hedgerow, despite the fact that it is built from stone blocks and earth and often covered in native plants / grasses / brambles / nettles etc so that to the unwary it can look like a fairly soft hedgerow until you pull in too closely in your car to avoid oncoming traffic and realise that something very hard lurks underneath. Next time you are in Cornwall check out how many cars have scrapes along their sides or dented wing mirrors.

The Cornish hedge contributes to the distinctive field-pattern of the Cornish landscape, and form the county’s largest semi-natural wildlife habitat.

I have my own small Cornish hedge (about 7m) along one side of  what I have named ‘the wild garden‘ at the rear of my property. This is a large gravelled area for parking and where the septic tank and soakaway is located as well as the oil tank. Pretty much a utility area. When we moved in 4 years ago the hedge was covered in grass, nettles, creeping buttercups, herb robert, weeds and brambles and I ignored it until last year when I decided to pretty it up a bit. Weeds were removed as best as possible when behind the fence is a totally overgrown part of the farmyard and my son helped build up one end that had collapsed. Then I planted several cuttings from my garden and sprinkled a packet of wildflower seeds and left it to see what happened.

So what is growing in my hedge? (Slight liberties taken here, though this is by no means the entire list)

Among many plants are Erigeron karvinskianus and Erigeron glaucus which I am hoping will find their way into the cracks and crevices. Origanum and Golden Marjoram which the bees are loving at the moment as they are in flower. Several Osteospermums that I would like to cover more of the stone, but which have been hidden by the ox-eye daisies. I also bought a couple of low-growing varieties of Persicaria but only one appears to have thrived and is nicely making its way down the front of the hedge. It has just come into flower. Blue and white borage has grown from seed, but I will remove this from the top of the hedge as it has long tap roots and could damage the structure. I don’t mind it growing at the base. The Oxeye daisies, Wild Carrot and Musk Mallow have come from the wildflower mix (probably not the best assortment although the wild carrot will probably stay). The ox-eye daisies would look better at the base of the hedge where some borage and musk mallow have seeded themselves. It is too invasive for the top of the hedge.

Whilst writing this post I came across a very useful and interesting document which explains all about the planting in a Cornish Hedge and how to create one in your garden. Reading this I realise that some of my ad-hoc planting needs to be removed and more native flowers added so as not to damage the structure of the ‘hedge’. I am currently pondering whether to plant some shrub roses or Fuchsia magellanica along the top.

Oh and if you were wondering, this is what it looked like in May 2018 before any renovation took place.

As always, if you want a peek over other people’s garden walls then please pop over to our host, the lovely Jon, AKA ‘The Propagator’ where you find links to many more wonderful garden enthusiasts from all over the world.

See here for the participant’s guide.

Six on Saturday

54 Comments

  1. bushboy says:

    Excellent post Jude. You have given us some new ideas for the rock wall that needs a bit of a lift. The wall is mostly in shade so we will be looking for some natives that like shade. 😀

    1. Heyjude says:

      I have another project on the opposite side, but only a couple of layers of the stone. That’s in full sun so I’ll have the sun lovers there like sempervivums and stonecrop.

      1. bushboy says:

        It’s good to have a variety of places so you can have lots of variety

  2. margaret21 says:

    That’s lovely Jude, really pretty and natural looking. Those hedges are so very different from Yorkshire’s drystone walls, despite their presumably similar origins.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes. The Yorkshire ones remain as stone without all the embellishments. No earth.

  3. beetleypete says:

    The changes you have made are exceptional, Jude. As for those ‘walls/hedges’, my Hillman Hunter suffered a scuff near Bude in the 70s, after I moved over to let a caravan squeeze past without realising there were stones behind the weeds.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      Easily done Pete!

  4. Gosh, what an interesting post! Such an interesting history about the hedge. You have certainly done wonders with the revamp of the Cornish hedge, and I think it looks amazing!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank you! I will remove some of the plants and try to grow more native ones such as scabious and knapweed and red campion. There are some ferns and buttercups as well as a few navelwort which I am struggling to get established.

      1. A work in progress, and certainly well worth all your efforts!

  5. A fascinating read, what a change to the space. I’ve been trying to sestablish erigeron into gaps in paving and walls around my garden but it is stubbornly refusing too despite its reputation for seeding anywhere. I need to go look round the neighbourhood and see if I can claim some more seed.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I couldn’t even get it to grow from seed, had to resort to buying seedlings, but they all took and now it is self-seeding, but only where it wants to, despite my scattering seed in other cracks around the garden! I hope it likes the hedge!

  6. I was very fond of the Derbyshire stone walls when we lived there. I built my version around a small compost area and it served its purpose but would have offended any purist. Like the Yorkshire ones, no plant life should be part of it. Yours is lovely and amazing to compare the “before and after” versions

    1. Heyjude says:

      Indeed. The Cornish ones tend to be completely covered in plant life, though not necessarily what I am growing on mine! I do have some more ‘natural’ seed to scatter in September and I must go gather some red campion seed too.

  7. Susan K. Hagen says:

    Lovely ‘hedge’ and post. I appreciate the historical context—and I remember the noticing the deceptive softness of such hedges.

  8. Such a great transformation. I love the stones of your Cornish hedge and the plants obviously! The foliage of the Golden Marjoram is particularly striking.

    1. Heyjude says:

      The golden marjoram is a bit if a thug really. Grows everywhere! I cut it back to the ground in the herb bed (where it really belongs) and it is still rampant! Good for ground cover to stop weeds appearing though and of course you can use it in cooking and the bees love the flowers.

  9. fredgardener says:

    Very pretty flowered corner on this stone wall. I love everything in this”hedge”!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Fred. I hope to make it even better with some wildflower seeds which hopefully will establish in the crevices.

  10. Catherine says:

    I have serious Cornish hedge envy – that’s almost a work of art – I love it! That beats brick or render any day. I wonder if my husband would mind replacing our little wall in the back garden (I know that answer!).

    We call a wall like that a drystane dyke, but the thing that makes yours really stand out is the planting. Great renovation, Jude!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank you Catherine. Still need to make it more traditional, but I am aiming for a garden version rather than a field version, there are plenty of those around me with hawthorn and blackthorn and nettles! Next job is the opposite side where I only have a couple of stones height and in full sun.

      1. Catherine says:

        Good luck with the remainder of your plans. I’m sure you’ll show more photos as it progresses which will increase my Cornish hedge envy.

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