Paisean Faisean: The Irish Hedge

Hedge n 1 a fence or boundary formed by closely growing bushes or shrubs

In equal measures, in my past, I did so passionately adore everything that is an Irish garden hedge and also entirely abhor the thoughts of even looking at one.

Maybe it was something yellow pack Quinnsworth type bland 1980’s Ireland. Something pre that log roll pandemic that swept the country. A time when grow your own was that patch to the right of the washing line and composting was a mere heap.

Outside of that and of one’s front garden existed a Cherry tree and summertime landscaping was a tray of blue and white allysum and lobelia, just to better show off that single monoecious Skimmia.

For the elder statesmen of the garden fraternity, there did however exist the garden shears. Sharpened by hand, never replaced and complete with that Cliff Richard type tang top, a Saturday in the garden just like the Sabbath following, had its rightful place.

Que, the low maintenance syndrome era through the noughties of bad planting and decking for which we are in too many cases yet to see the after effects of en mass planted Phyllostcahys aurea [as versus Fargesia]. There was a reason why that quote was cheaper you know. But errors, era’s, seasons and trends aside, what of the garden hedge.

Historically and like most things Irish and gardening it was an influence of the Olde English garden that brought it via influence to Ireland in its more formal state. Through the boom of the 1960’s and the evolution of the Horticultural Societies, it was not a comes as standard when you bought that new home. One had a choice and one chose to plant.

Just like the use of the circle, the hedge however dates back absolute centuries thousands of years and were first used as agricultural seperations and divides, nothing new there you might add. But with the rise in popularity of anything however comes the splinter groups ~ pardon my witty pun ~ and so agricultural reticent hedges may now be referred to as hedgerows, by the definition alone, hedges they still are; and garden hedges may now be referred to as formal and informal.

Love them or hate them there is something I miss about the Irish garden hedge. They still exist, semi surprisingly to a point considering how they suffered under rise in populartity of the concrete block wall alongside the microwave. Maybe to blame in part is the increase in the number of two [or more] cars per family, both parents working and the major edits in shopping and shops opening times – Reasons why maybe the Saturday garden chores became etched, delayed or ommited from the weekend roster. All encompassing, the design of the Irish front garden changed. Its use, need and reason to exist edited.

For me, hedges were more than just photosynthetic arrangements. They were talking points. Talking places. Reasons and venues to gossip and talk. In short they were the friendliest possible version of a wall. Yet they weren’t.

I remember as a nipper kicking a ball against a neighbours hedge, to the point that it almost bled to death, or at least after the telling off I got [note: fully deserved] it sure felt like I had made that happen, at the time. In reality, it was a few leaves. But it wasn’t that, this hedge was gold and green perfectly striped Privot [Ligustrum ovalifolium aurea variegata] for about 12 metres and it was pristine. The first cut, sweeping, collecting and disposing took a full half day on a Saturday pausing only for Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks on BBC Grandstand and a cup of tea. I might have been 6 or 7 years old at the time. I’m now 35.

Biodiversity, fashionista’s and this years latest Chlelsea flower show award winners aside. I like it old school. And like the lights than adorned the ceilings of The Galtymore dance hall in Cricklewood I miss the olden days. Eloquent, wonderful and all the while everything that is chivalrous and romantic, yet still gardening.

For me, gardening since I was five years old, the years in college and the at times tough slog to get to a place, one thing I know for sure is that my life in horticulture is most fondly remembered and primarily for the people I have met and the stories that were told ~ as versus the plants, who were in hindsight, simply the reason we had met there.

hedge planting

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