Trees, shrubs and hedges in natural gardens

Useful shrubs are particularly beautiful in spring, as this sour cherry blossom in the farmer’s garden proves. (Source L. Domdey)

When the snow has melted and the ground has thawed, it is the right time to plant woody plants. Planting trees, shrubs and whole hedges is an important way to make the garden attractive for many animal and plant species.

Of course, it is not only important to plant something so that it is green and blooms. Those who place ecological demands on their garden consciously choose the species of woody plants and do without exotic conifers. The ideal from the garden catalogue – a green lawn with easy-care conifers – is not only boring and sterile, but also ecologically almost worthless. Unfortunately, many gardens in new development areas are still laid out in this way. Those who have retained their sensitivity for nature, on the other hand, plant fruit trees, native deciduous trees and hedges.

Hedges have long been one of the typical landscape elements of the Baar. Due to intensive agriculture, some hedges, which originally grew on reading stone bars on property borders, had to give way to machines. This is why they have become endangered habitats. Hedge areas, such as those still found in the direction of Bräunlingen, require special protection and conservation.

It is not only in the open countryside that the hedge provides the ecological balance. Predatory insects such as ichneumon wasps or ground beetles that are present in the hedge also keep harmful insects at bay in their own gardens.

Hedge roses need a lot of space to unfold fully. (Source: Gerhard Bronner)

So how about a diverse hedge instead of a fence at the edge of the garden? It is not only beautiful to look at but also shelters hundreds of animal and plant species. The inhabitants are insects, birds and amphibians. Special hedge lovers are, among others, grey and gold bunting and earth toad.

A prerequisite for a great variety of species is the planting of shrub species that are native to the Baar. These include red and black hedge cherries, dogwoods, buckthorns, hawthorns, priest’s hats, woolly snowballs, dog and blue-green roses. With sloes and hedge roses, however, you must be prepared to keep them permanently at bay with the hedge trimmer.

On the other hand, you should keep your fingers off conifers, especially exotic species such as blue fir, tree of life and ornamental pines. Such conifers look sterile and boring all year round. In spring the leaves sprout, blackthorn, hawthorn and elderflower blossom one after the other, and in autumn brightly coloured berries attract birds.

Who knows that our native English oak is the breeding and feeding ground for 200 species of insects and 28 species of birds, while the North American plane tree is home to a maximum of 4 species of insects and 2 species of birds?
Planting in a suitable location has another advantage: the plants are more resistant to diseases and do not need to be fertilized.


A hut in the garden hides behind trees and bushes, which offer nesting places to many small birds. (Source: K.H. Nübel)

What else should I bear in mind when planting a hedge? It is best to plant outside the growing season, but the soil should not be frozen. Spring and autumn are therefore the best seasons.

It is advisable to buy the planting material in a nursery specialising in local trees and shrubs. All too often the ordered dog rose turns out to be a foreign potato rose, or instead of the woolly snowball a type of snowball is delivered which is at home in China. Which species are suitable in the garden can be found in the new nature garden brochure of the Environmental Agency (, which will soon be available in printed form.
Lists of suitable tree, shrub and fruit species can be found here.

A free-growing hedge requires more space than a cut hedge. A width of 5 m would be ideal, but also on 3 m one can already do some things. One should procure oneself in any case different wood species.

On level ground or on a slope, planting holes are dug at a distance of 60 – 100 cm. When introducing the plants it is recommended to place 3 – 5 trees of the same variety next to each other. This prevents slow growing plants from being suppressed.

If you have enough space, you can also place the hedge in two rows (distance 0.5 m – 1.5 m) or even three rows, with a row of trees in the middle. So that the young plants can grow undisturbed, they are surrounded by a mulch layer of foliage or lawn cuttings. Over time, early flowering plants such as primroses or wood anemones will settle in such a natural hedge.

As a replacement for the garden fence, some will prefer to use a cut hedge. Although it requires less space, it is not as versatile from an ecological point of view. To ensure that it can be cut evenly, such a hedge usually consists of only one plant variety. Red beech, hornbeam, hawthorn, privet or field maple are suitable. Due to the frequent cutting, however, the plants usually do not bloom.

What can be done if there is no more space in the garden for a fruit tree or another deciduous tree? Here’s a tip: The next Christmas is sure to come. Who gets his blue fir as Christmas tree in the living room, gains in the garden place for an apple tree.

Gerhard Bronner


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