Hedges are quite possibly one of the most important elements in all our gardens and even the greater landscape around us. They are just more that something to be trimmed and forgotten about in most gardens. Who has not sought out the shelter of a hedge in a rain shower or picked berries from natures larder or admired sharply clipped wall like hedges. Here is how I see them through my eyes.
H is for Habitat. Hedges provide a wonderful home to so many birds, mammals and insects. This can often be the only refuge for many of these animals in an increasingly sterile urban and rural landscape. With only 11% of the country covered in forestry the hedgerows are an important corridor for animals and birds to live in and feed on. In the greater landscape they help link up separate habitat locations for animals. In urban areas all the little bits added together provide create larger habitats for these animals. By allowing you hedges become a little wider and taller where possible and even allowing the understory planting become established we have a wonderful resource on our hands and an important tool in preserving biodiversity.
H is also for Hide. By this of course I mean using a hedge to hide some feature or view. Possibly one thing we have all tried to do in our lives with different levels of success. With a little more thought these type hedges can be features in their own right and not just green blocks. Maybe cut in different shape or planted in a different pattern.
E is for Edible. Who has not rummaged amongst the thorns for a blackberry.
This is what we all think about firstly but it need not be the only time of the year we go searching for food. In larger native hedges you can have nuts and berries and other fruits from crab apples to rose hips. There will also be mushrooms, foliage and roots at different times of the year. This might not be as obvious but if we do not look after all our hedge, we have no chance of this. Too many of our older native hedges are cut too hard and damaged and new hedges are never allowed to develop to fruiting size...when did you last pick a hazel nut from the hedge? Even in a small garden you can have a mixed fruiting hedge instead of a single species dull green hedge. All currants make a good low hedge and mix in some autumn raspberries, hazel and maybe rosa rugosa for scented flowers and hips. What you don't eat the birds in particular will thank you.
D is for Division. From big to small every garden or field can benefit from being divided.
In a garden setting every garden is always better if there is different areas. Sometimes its for privacy, sometimes its for function and others its by design. In all cases hedges make up an important element in this. By dividing a garden up you make it feel more user friendly. It makes large spaces more scale able to human proportions and it helps create different zones. The hedge in this instance does not necessarily have to hide areas, it could be as simple as a low box hedge framing a border.
In the Irish landscape hedges were used to divide up lands. They were used for stock control and demarcation of land boundaries primarily. Also as essential access to wood as a raw material for so may uses. This provided us with a tapestry of hedges crossing the country. From strips of ancient woodland in medieval times to more laid out hedges from the 17th and 18th centuries. These were marked in early maps and have lead to many place names etc. From looking at these maps alone in the past 100 years there has been massive change and in the last 30 huge amounts of these have disappeared and those that remain are not all in good condition. In our push for progress bigger fields and machinery have lead to this mainly but for what gain. Our countryside is becoming barren and these hedges that act as nature corridors have broken the link in many food chains and habitats.
Even on a farming level it is proving to be a problem. Land is prone to flooding, fields have no shelter for cattle and growth is slower at the cooler times of the year. Our agricultural model is broken and yet we persist. We cannot support our own population with a range of foods and unless we all want to live on beef and dairy we will import a huge amount of the rest. What has this to do with hedges...well we removed them to make these mono pastures so we can export up to 90% of the dairy and beef we mainly produce. If you decided in the morning to change track and start growing some different crops and food it would struggle in these barren fields. No shelter, no pollinators, no micro flora and fauna that support other plants. Its time to start dividing up the counrtyside again and hedges are the way to go.
(Bit political this last paragraph but once I started to think about this its very frustrating and this has happened in my lifetime. Something has to change and in this global economy in which we operate it makes more sense to me to look after our needs first. If the economy changes we will be replaced by next in line....Beef crisis anyone!!!)
G is for Green. Might seem obvious but think of a beautiful border sitting in the garden. The plants look so much better when there is something behind them providing a backdrop. Its also useful way of adding texture like a sharply clipped green vertical hedge vs a lawn.
E is also for Employment. This is a personal one as hedges are an important part of my seasonal work. Trimming and planting are mainstays of my winter work. How much more employment could we have if we planted more hedges and managed the ones we have correctly..not just with chainsaws and tractors.
There are over 300,000 km of hedgerows in Ireland. Many need help and proper maintenance. They will always need this so it could become a profession again and with modern tools and resources much more could be done. Wood for fuel at a basic level and also more value added ways like art works and raw materials for skilled turners and woodworkers.
S is so many things...Shelter, Shade, Structure, Silhouette and Scent.
Shelter is something both you and your garden needs. How many times do I meet new clients in their new house in the middle of an agricultural field and the first thing they say to me is its very windy. Usually the nearest hedge is 100m plus away. Try starting a garden in those conditions. Hedges are great for providing shelter from the winds and than shade from the strong summer suns. So many different species and way of planting can be done that makes hedges such an interesting design tool.
All our lives benefit from structure and our gardens are no different. Hedges can line a path or border edge to draw the eye. They can provide the layout in which other elements fit into like a clipped hedge around your veg garden. They provide the vertical and horizontal lines within a design, helping to bring the eye from tall trees to short grass.
The silhouette of a hedge can tell so many different things. From a bushy old whitethorn hedge on the crest of a hill casting long black shadows to a crisp uniform box hedge gleaming in the setting sun. These spades evoke the feeling of that landscape by just their outline.
Scent is natures reward for getting out and about. Think of all the possibilities in a flowering hedge, there is too many to mention. But the scent from the the hedges reminds me of the season, from the May apple blossoms, to the summer roses, buddleia and more and the heavy musky autumn ivy today. Also have you ever clipped a lavender hedge or dare to dream a bay hedge in mid summer....
If you have read this far then thank you. As you can see there is a lot to such a simple feature within our gardens. If you would like some help with yours then give us a call.
Trees have long been fascinating to me. From the early days of climbing and swinging out of them to today where someone pays me to do this!!! What is not to love,from big to small, strong and tough to delicate and gentle an everything in between. They shape our gardens, wider landscape and life. We all remember some time we sheltered from a shower under their tangled arms, when we admired that single mature oak in a beautiful field or that windswept hawthorn at a crossroads or just a simple walk in a woodland.
What has prompted me to thing more that normal about this recently is seeing how some trees are been treated. Too often the first thing that is done is cut down that tree its blocking light to the garden, 'top' those trees, how dare they grow that tall. Remove those street trees they have too many leaves and are moving this nice concrete I placed around their roots.Embrace the shade and work with the garden that has been created, shade gardens are some of the most beautiful gardens you can create, manage trees correctly if at all. Where I am sitting now is less than 10m from a large ash which I coppiced over ten years ago. Plant the right tree in the right place to the best of your ability and it will never let you down. (This includes street trees or close to a house in private terms)
What I mean by all of that is too often we rush in to make a decision about something that could be there longer than us and may out live us just because....Sometimes people cannot give even that good a reason.
The same is true when it comes to planting new trees. Clients often ask that the tree be no more than 10ft tall and wont have a lot of leaves and the petals of their flowers are messy once they fall. The first thing that worries them are the negatives. Thing of the positives, that beautiful specimen growing to its potential, the summer shade of the leaves and the beautiful spring scent and colour of their flowers.
With a little time and care the right tree can be found for every space and this is what takes the skill in spending the time getting this right. From an avenue to an orchard and single specimens to a grove, a little care goes a long way. It may often take 10-20 years before I will be proven right about some of my planting choices. This is the price I am willing to pay. I look forward to the day when people admire these trees and wonder about the people that planted them as I do today...(and sometimes not always in a good way!!)
I have planted my first tree with my daughter this week and was great to do so. The questions and excitement, its something we all should have. I hope she plants many more. I also hope you plant more trees and look after those already around you. Enjoy them, we will miss them when they are gone.
The joys of working outdoor in Ireland is something I always find myself more often than not loving and enjoying. Maybe it is in the Winter when this becomes most apparent. The cold of the frost, the damp air on those misty days, those beautiful fresh nearly warm days and the different degrees of rain. The colours in nature and the wonderful evening light when the sun shows up. It is all important to me at least and makes me look forward to most of it. Id be lying if the endless heavy rain is enjoyable but this does allow me some time to write a blog or post new Instagram stuff!! (Check us out, coming along nicely!!!)
Why this matters so much to me is it makes my job interesting and seasonal. I prune alot of fruit trees and bushes, rake alot of leaves, spread lots of compost, plant hedges and trees and take stock of the past year and look forward to the new. Without this my job becomes disconnected from nature and how it has been done for generations.
What has brought this home to me is seeing other (mostly larger) landscapers doing the kind of work in December that should be done and May and visa versa. This is driven by deadlines and larger budgets sometimes. It is however not the most sustainable way of working and also more often than not leads to poor results. Planting big trees from all over Europe in the middle of summer, rolling out lawns on muddy soil in January and butchering plants when ever the chance arises. These will not be practices I will be following and in the strive for progress I will be going back to how things used to be done.
I want to enjoy the seasons and the work that goes with them and look forward to each as if it was a new day. Seasonality is the part of living, where we do, I most enjoy so why not try looking at the positives of what we can do and look forward to the next season and what that will bring.
WeT Day jobs
As a self employed landscaper you are always hoping to do two things.
One is to look after your own garden and those little half started projects. I once went 10 weeks in the middle of summer without cutting my own lawn!!! This is always hard as when the weather is good its hard to stay at home and finish that path or pruning. You will always worry about someones else project and things you could be doing.
The second of these is what I call 'wet day jobs'. These I'm sure apply to everyone but especially those of us who work outside. This summer and autumn has meant precious few of these days so the work has mounted up. So thanks to Storm Diana I got cracking on these jobs this week.
I started off in a blaze of glory and got the shed in order...kind of!!! Now that I could get back into the shed, the work bench was in use again and with this lots of small repairs to things. Two spades got new handles, lots of sharpening of hand tools and drops of oil and grease on this and that. By lunch time I was going well but needed a break.
In for lunch (not in the van for first time in months) and a spot of office work. This started off well with emails done and few calls made. Then I clicked on a link from a supplier. It was there Instagram account. No hard done, I didn't have an account so joined up. Still no harm done. I have never been one for tech or social media. (I got my first smart phone less than a year ago under protest...Love it now!!!) Once on here for a little while I saw some great ideas and products. I was hooked. Wet day jobs got abandoned. Damage done. Clicking on this and that. Down this worm hole and that. Eventually I said to myself, might as well put a profile pic or something up. That was easy, ok, maybe a few of my work bits. Then as I started playing around a bit and become more confident (you have to understand what a low base I am coming from...literally your commoner gardener!!!) I could see the value.
The long and the short of it is Michael Murphy Landscaping is now on Instagram!!!
I am really excited about it actually. I have loads of things I often would like to share that up to now proved difficult. From before and afters of projects, materials and suppliers, plants and ideas plus loads of different projects. I would really love you to have a look and follow my progress. Maybe some day your garden may be on here!!!!!
Autumn has arrived after our eternal summer and one of the joys of Autumn is fruit.
Every garden can have some and I always recommend growing something you cannot get in the shops easily.
In my own garden I grow eight different apple varieties. Everything from old Irish varieties like Irish Peech and Kerry Pippin to the good old reliable Bramble.
Two old French varieties of pear...got our first pear this year. My daughter said it 'tasted like perfume.' That was a good thing.
Three plum trees. One is really a damson we use for jam in particular and was planted mainly due to my wife's childhood memories picking these.
We also have a bumper crop of quince as well as your usual soft fruits.
That's grand for him on his 10 acre site and his professional skills I hear you say. Truth is we have a very small garden and just use the space to the max. Also the fruit trees in particular are easy and take no great care bar once a year pruning.
I also mix the fruit plants with hedges and borders and don't have them down the back under the hedge surrounding the compost area.
Just one of everything that was picked a few weeks ago in two minutes. Beats any supermarket. L to R; Bramble, Discovery, James Grieve, Katy, Kerry Pippin, Worcestershire Pearmin, Damson, Yellow Plum, Autumn Raspberry, Blackberry (free from hedge) and Blue Berry.
Custom made Play Area
I have just recently completed a custom built play area for some very luck kids!!!!
One of the advantages of making something custom made is you can decide exactly what you want. The size, scale, design, materials and finishes. I will work with you the create the perfect space for all ages.
One of the things that I feel makes a good play area is something that has lots of different uses for lots of different ages and the only restriction is your imagination. Nobody wants something in the bottom corner of the garden that the family don't use and the kids give up on once they get over 4ft. Nobody wants to be wondering what to do with the bleached ten year old plastic hutch that the storms keep blowing around. Build something beautiful, something you can incorporate into the garden. Bring it into the area of the garden you use not the back corner under the hedge. You can sit on your patio and relax as the kids run back and forth on their adventures. Aunt Mary can be persuaded she will fit on the slide and Uncle Tom can get a coffee from the shop!! (These characters may or may not be based on real life people!!!)
I like to also build my play areas that they will grow with the kids and family....and the garden of course. They are build to last and not fall apart after the kids tenth birthday!!!
This particular design has a house section which has a roof 2m at its lowest (this allows it to be used in the future by teenagers as a sulking area or dads and moms shed) The swings could be removed and turned into a pergola for climbing plants and the bark area returned to lawn. (There is plans a foot for the rest of the garden so I'll keep you posted)
Some of the key design features of this play area are. All pressure treated wood used and all fixings are outdoor grade. Everything is screwed and bolted together. The floor of the house area is paved for ease of cleaning and durability. The house itself has a few different openings. A hatch like area that serves as a shop or cafe or whatever you can dream up. A second secret door allows access outside to a lower deck. Once here you can explore outside. Up the climbing ramp or into the covered sand box. Up the ramp leads to a top balcony with look out capabilities and slide access. Once down the slide its onto the fantastic swings for a good game of who can get the highest. The whole area is covered in 120mm of bark mulch.
Contact us today to see what we can come up with...the kids are worth it!!!