Category Archives: Biology

Why walk 5 miles a day, every day?

When it comes to walking, it’s all good.

In case you hadn’t heard, there is a health and fitness trend that says walking 10,000 paces a day is good for your body, mind, and soul.  For me, ten-thousand paces equates to about 5 miles on level ground, and will usually take me the best part of two hours to accomplish.  Which begs the question; is it really worth my while to devote two hours a day, every day, just walking to somewhere, or even to nowhere and back again?

Well, actually, yes it is, and these are the reasons why.

Let’s start with something scientific and anatomical ~ blood flow in the legs.  The circulation in our feet and legs only works because we use our calf muscles, and because of non-return valves in the veins.  If we sit still, we have bugger-all blood flow in our feet and legs ~ which is why there’s a risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis during long flights.  If you sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, you are in danger of developing poor circulation, which is nasty.

So if you want to have healthy circulation, one of the things you can do is just get out of your chair, and walk.

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty.  She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.  ~  Ellen DeGeneres

Walking more, whether it’s to go somewhere, or for leisure, or part of your health and fitness programme is an easy way to be more active without all that unpleasant sweating, huffing, and puffing that comes with some other forms of exercise.   A brisk walk is classed as moderate-intensity activity, and does count towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.  Walking is a form of exercise that’s easy to fit into your daily routine, for example instead of taking the elevator up a couple of floors, take the stairs.

If you’re not used to taking much exercise, then don’t start off by trying to walk 5 miles.  The Mayo Clinic recommends that you add 1,000 steps a week to your baseline average.  This means you are going to need a pedometer, and the first thing you should do is measure how many steps you take in an average day.  Very Well says that if you are an average American you will most likely be walking 5,000 steps in an entire day, (HA! I don’t believe a word of that, I’m certain the average Californian walks about 2,500 steps a day.)

The respected Mayo Clinic is very keen on walking as a form of exercise and even has a 12-week walking schedule based on work done by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The benefits of walking include improving your blood pressure, energy, happiness, mental health, skin tone, sleep, stamina, strength, stress levels ~ as well as reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, joint problems, obesity, a stroke, and nasty diseases in general.  On top of that you are going to look and feel a hell of a lot better.  The key to walking for health and fitness is to build walking into your daily schedule.

These days I am keen on meditation and mindfulness, but I find it difficult to meditate in the traditional fashion.  So, I meditate during yoga, and I also practice a form of walking meditation.  I have never been taught, nor led through yoga meditation or walking meditation, these are mindfulness practices which just came naturally to me.

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.  ~  Friedrich Nietzsche

All of us should also do some strength exercises, at least twice a week, particularly as we get older.  Personally I like to do some yoga, but I also add an isometric workout into my daily walk.   This two-for the price of one routine means that I make the most use of the couple of hours I spend in the fresh air and sunshine, (we sometimes get sunshine in England).

You don’t have to believe me that walking 10,000 steps a day is a good idea.  Just google 10,000 steps and you will come across loads of articles by people such as the well-respected Dr Mercola who say that walking 10,000 steps a day is a basic requirement for good health and fitness.

In life a couple of things now scare me; having a stroke and developing dementia.  If I can improve my chances of avoiding these life-destroying conditions, then a couple of hours walking every day seems a small price to pay.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

arachnids

A Spider sewed at Night

Without a Light

Upon an Arc of White

~

If Ruff it was of Dame

Or Shroud of Gnome

Himself himself inform

~

Of Immortality

His Strategy

Was Physiognomy

Emily Dickinson

~

Unlike a close friend of mine,

I am not a big fan of spiders,

nor scorpions, nor octopuses.

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Don’t Eat Meat

Take Good Care Of Yourself.

It turns out that the urban myth of red meat being bad for you is true after all.  Which is sad, because I do enjoy a good steak.

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.  ~  Julia Child

Eating a lot of steak, or roast beef, or burgers, or lamb, or pork increases your chances of dying from 9 major diseases by 26%, according to the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.  Red meat raises the risk of death from cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, a stroke, various infections, and kidney, liver, and lung diseases.  (You can die from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.)

Processed red meat such as corned beef is even worse for you, as is eating offal, liver, kidneys, pate…

There is a lot of ‘bad’ stuff in red meat, including cholesterol, (although there is a lot of ‘bad’ cholesterol in other popular foods such as macaroni and cheese). As well as the fat in red meat having too much of the ‘bad’ cholesterol, (Low Density Lipoprotein), red meat also contains a lot of heme iron, and too much of that is very bad for you as well.  Too much heme iron increases your chances of dying from cancer, a stroke, liver failure, or heart disease.

At the moment I am taking a daily iron supplement, because I was diagnosed with a low red blood cell count, (anemia), but when my blood count returns to normal I will stop taking iron supplements. Too much heme iron can result in haemochromatosis, which is a particularly nasty illness causing things like fatty liver, cirrhosis, and liver failure.

Luckily, regularly eating white meat, (chicken breast), and oily fish may reverse the damage caused by eating steaks.  Just don’t eat the chicken skin, or processed white meat, or processed fish.  In fact don’t ever eat processed meat or canned meat ~ canned food is generally very bad for your health.

We are what we eat.  Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.  ~  Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

It is a scientifically proven fact that our food choices affect our health.  I know that if my diet is bad ~ if I drink too much booze, have too much sugar, eat processed foods, eat out, eat ready-meals, eat too much fatty meat, then I feel bloated, lacking in energy, and I gain weight.  It is also a scientifically proven fact that an unhealthy diet will significantly shorten my life.

Health is the natural condition.  When sickness occurs, it is a sign that nature has gone off course because of a physical or mental imbalance.  The road to health for everyone is through moderation, harmony, and a ‘sound mind in a sound body’.  ~  Jostein Gaarder

Like everything else in life, our diet should be moderation in all things.  When it comes to my diet, I have tried various fads, including eating only one meal a day, being vegan, and never eating carbohydrates.  Now I believe that a mixture of the Paleo Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet is right for me.

Some things I try not to eat include wheat, (bread, pasta, cookies), and some other grains, (white rice), processed food, canned food, and dairy products.

I need to eat more oily fish, such as salmon.  Looks like I also need to cut down on steak too.  Shame, especially as I like my steak well-done, and that is really bad for my health…

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

The Medicinal Rose

Not All Roses Are The Same.

Red_RoseSome say that one should never use garden hybrid roses for medicinal purposes.  And, that there are more than 300 active compounds present in roses, of which only about 100 have been identified.  All I know is that medicinal preparations from any rose can have strong and immediate effects on some people, especially women.

The good witch or experienced herbalist will try to find a true wild rose for medicinal use.  There are many species of wild rose, but they are all easy to identify.  Every wild rose has exactly five petals, and almost all of them are pink shading to white.  They also tend to be leggy and straggling in form, extremely hardy, and likely to thrive on total neglect.  There are also some ‘nearly wild’ roses which are just as good as the true wild rose for the herbalist, but are much more suitable for the average garden.

Here in England the good witch or experienced herbalist will preferentially use the true wild rose, the dog rose, rosa canina, for medicinal purposes.  The thing is, unless you have a huge estate, you’re not going to plant this vigourous thing.  Luckily it does grow wild all over in England, especially in mature hedgerows.

However, if one has a largish garden one can plant the Japanese wild rose, rosa rugosa instead.  This is still a very strong growing shrub, but it’s more manageable than the dog rose, and you still get great hips.

Another great medicinal rose is the aptly named apothecary’s rose, rosa gallica.  This is another wild rose, basically from France.

In North America there are dozens of species of wild rose, all of which have been used by Native American tribes in medicine and magic.  In addition, many other species roses have naturalised into the American landscape, so sometimes it’s difficult to know which is a true American wild rose, and which is an introduction.  It doesn’t really matter.  If a rose has five petals and is pink or shading to white, then it’s a good medicinal plant.

nearly-wildHowever, if you are growing an apothecary’s garden, a herb garden, or a medicine garden, then perhaps the rose nearly wild in whatever variety you can find it would be your best choice.  It’s compact, has a long flowering season, and is close enough to the species wild rose to be ideal as a medicinal plant.  This rose is also readily available from specialist rose nurseries all over the world.

Almost every part of the rose has therapeutic uses.  The petals can be used to make rose petal tea or an unusual scented jam, or rose water hydrosol, or what about a rose, cardamom, and ginger body soak?  The rose hips can be added to organic cider vinegar to make a great salad dressing / tonic, and the leaves make a kind of substitute coffee.  If you dry the leaves you can smoke them ~ and I have no idea what that’s like.

dscf0012The main active effects of rose preparations are; laxative, opthalmic, diuretic, and linthontriptic, (removes kidney stones).   There are many benefits of using the rose as a medicinal plant, and some potential downsides.  Some people feel ill after ingesting rose medicines / tea, and some people feel mild hallucinogenic effects.  As I have already said, there are at least 300 active compounds in the rose and we only know what about 100 of them are, let alone what they actually do ~ weird.

If in doubt of any herbal preparation, then try just a little, in a very diluted form ~ especially if you are a woman.  And if you are either pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, then take specialist advice from your doctor or an expert herbalist before using any herbal / medicinal plant product.

~

dog-roseAphrodite’s Herbalist, jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

aphrodite

Rose Petal Tea

The Healing Powers Of The Rose.

Herbalists and witches know that the rose is a very useful and powerful medicinal plant, and that one of the interesting things you can use it for at this time of year is as a remedy for coughs and colds.  A very easy way to take advantage of the natural healing power of the rose is to make rose petal tea.  Well, the petals do contain vitamin C, which helps combat the common cold, but the petals also hold some powerful polyphenols and antioxidants.  Ideally one should use the petals of the wild dog rose, rosa canina, but I also use the petals from garden hybrid roses.

dscf0012Try making rose petal tea with just a handful of fresh rose petals, and a very little sugar or honey, (don’t use a lot of sugar or honey as it will overpower the taste).  Personally I just scald the petals, but some suggest simmering, (stewing), for 5 minutes.  Some also suggest removing the white portion of fresh petals, although personally I wouldn’t do that.  The white area does impart the tea with a slightly bitter, tannin taste, but I firmly believe that’s also where most of the good stuff is concentrated.

Scientifically, the principal qualities of rose petal tea are that it has; Laxative, Opthalmic, Diuretic, and Linthontriptic virtues.  I firmly believe it’s a lot more complicated than that.  For example, you should find that rose petal tea will slightly numb your mouth and ease any sore throat and cough you may be suffering from.

Among herbalists it is widely accepted that rose petal tea boosts the immune system and has beneficial effects on the following problems;

  • anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • arthritis.
  • constipation and other digestive problems.
  • coughs, colds, and sore throats.
  • menstrual cramps and pain.
  • skin and hair problems ~ the tea is said to relieve the symptoms severe acne.
  • urinary tract infections.

dscf0016If that wasn’t enough, drinking rose petal tea is supposed to help ward off cancers due to its beneficial effects on the immune system.  Some say that drinking rose petal tea also promotes weight loss ~ I couldn’t promise that, other than you may use much less sugar and cream than if you were drinking coffee instead of this herbal tea.

You can make rose petal tea either with fresh petals, (make certain they are pesticide free), and you can also make a green tea with dried rose petals.  You can buy dried rose petals mail order from all kinds of places, including Amazon.  As far as I’m concerned, I think it’s better to collect fresh rose petals, and keep a few handfuls in the refrigerator.

There are a couple of things to be careful of.  Firstly, drinking more than three or four cups of this stuff a day is likely to give you diarrhea.  Secondly, most really effective herbal remedies for menstrual pain are also female aphrodisiacs as they affect the production of oestrogen~ don’t say you weren’t warned.

~

p1050056Aphrodite’s Herbalist, jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

aphrodite

You Are Not A Prisoner Of Time

Time Is An Illusion. ~ Albert Einstein

DSCF0037Time is not a universal constant.

Time passes at different rates and in different ways depending upon who we are, where we are, what we are, why we are counting time, and how we measure time.  There is no such thing as an absolute past.  There are probably an infinite number of futures for us to choose from.  The present isn’t just now, the present also encompasses the past and the future.  My perception of time and my reality is different from yours.  Most importantly, we are not trapped by time, we can choose to use and take advantage of time as we will.

Time is not constant and one minute is not the same length as another.  ~  Jeanette Winterson

Subjectively we know that time passes at different rates depending upon circumstances.  If you’re stuck in an airport departure lounge waiting for your much delayed flight, then time passes painfully slowly ~ the minutes seem like hours and the hours crawl by like a wounded fly.  Conversely, if you’re getting ready for a really hot dinner date, then the hours fly by, and there’s just no way you’re going to be ready on time.

Scientifically, time also passes at different rates depending upon how fast you’re moving, and how much gravity there is where you are.  In the world of quantum mechanics time may, or may not, exist at all.

We choose to examine a phenomenon which is impossible to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics.  In reality it contains the only mystery.  ~  Richard Feynman.

The present, your ‘now’, isn’t only the present.  This instant of ‘now’ also includes the past and the future, and both the past and the future can and will change in a way that’s dependent upon now.  Once you accept that time is not an immutable constant you have the ability to change your future, your present, and your past.  Changing your own past is called retrocausality.

Everything, and I mean every moment of joy, happiness, sadness, trauma, learning, experiencing, dreaming and imagining, everything that has ever happened to you, and everything that you have ever done is present in the now.  Mostly we just aren’t consciously aware that the past is with us in the here and now.  But, without your past you wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, drive, hold down a job, or maintain a loving relationship.  The downside of this is that all the bad things about us were created in the past.  All the anger, attitudes, insecurities, jealousies, phobias, and mental illnesses are from the past.  But, you do not have to be a prisoner of your past, you have the ability to change the past.

The future is also with us in the present.  Everything you do is dictated by the future.  You most likely will go to work on Monday, and that’s dictated by things that will happen much further in the future than Monday.  If you don’t go to work, then somewhere in the future you may lose your job, and then your home, because you can’t pay the rent / mortgage / local taxes.  If you knew for certain that the Second Coming of Christ was going to happen this Christmas, then most likely you wouldn’t go to work on Monday.  The future changes and creates the present, and the present changes the future.  The more brave choices you make in the present the greater number of possible futures you have to choose from.

We can choose from our possible futures, but most people are very bad at making brave choices.  Almost everyone will do tomorrow what they did yesterday, with exactly the same people in exactly the same places.  Those people have made the choice to make no choices at all, and the more they do that the fewer possible futures they have to choose from.  If nothing changes then nothing changes.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  ~  Albert Einstein

We can choose to change our past.  After all, the past is only what we remember and how we interpret those memories.  If you had an abusive childhood, then in all likelihood it will have blighted your whole life, right up to the here and now.  Trauma in your childhood could have left you with Alcoholism, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or any of a number of other psychological problems.

You can change all that and have a good life now by reinterpreting the past ~ after all the past is only memories.  I can’t tell you how to do that, you may need counselling or psychotherapy.  However, I can tell you that I stopped the past from blighting my present by unconditionally accepting who I am, and acceptance created a whole raft of new futures for me to choose from.  Today I am enjoying enlightenment and empowerment because I changed the past in my present.  Today I have more futures to choose from because I changed the subjective past.

You can change your own past, your present, and your future.  All you need to do is to have the willingness to change.

please listen responsibly

~

WAF Landscape Christmas Cards.qxdthese opinions are mine and mine alone

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

Medicinal Plants ~ Rosehips

p1050182

Autumn is upon us, and in England the hedgerows are full wild harvest.  One of these is the false fruit of the dog rose, (rosa canina), more commonly known in England as rose hips.

p1050177You can do a lot of stuff with rose hips, from making syrups and jams, to my preferred use which is to make a tincture of rose hips and rosemary in apple cider vinegar.  As well as sweetening and adding taste to the cider vinegar. the rose hips also add diuretic, lithontriptic, and mild laxative qualities to your brew.  As for rosemary, this stuff is almost a cure-all.  I just add an odd number of fresh sprigs to the bottle, (it must be an odd number.)

The finished product, (ready in about 6 weeks and will keep for a year or more), is a great basis for a salad dressing.  Diluted in water it is also a first class tonic and as part of a whole-body cleanse.  There is no truth whatsoever in the rumour that this is a female aphrodisiac.  However, it is supposed to be a cure for practically whatever that ails you.

You can also make a true tincture of rose hips using medicinal alcohol, (or vodka).  For those of us with a real taste for booze, just make a rose hip brandy or vodka.  I have even heard of rose hip gin, although I’ve never tasted it.

The dog rose is an important plant to the herbalist, because the leaves, petals, and hips all have their uses.  In a hedgerow, the plant may reach six feet or more in height, its flowers can be anything from white to a delicate pink, and if will guard its bounty with some particularly persistent thorns.  (You can also use the hips, leaves, and petals of the cultivated rose, but I would look for a rose variety that’s as close to the wild rose as possible.)

The mixture of rose hips, rosemary, and organic apple cider vinegar is as near to a sorcerer’s brew as anything I know.

~

canina1jackcollier7@talktalk.net

liebster-12

Wheat and Money

Be fit and healthy ~ stop eating wheat

This is not about food, this is all about money.  Wheat has been all about money since the dawn of egyptagriculture in about 9,500 BC.  In fact for a long, long time wheat and bread took the place of money, being both a store of value and a medium of exchange.  The builders of the pyramids were paid in bread and beer, both by-products of wheat.  Every American consumes about 55 pounds of wheat flour every year, and this consumptions pays for the powerful business and political empires that go along with modern agriculture.

Modern wheat is very bad for you, and so are wheat products; flour, bread, cakes, cookies, biscuits, pasta, noodles, tortilla, wraps, pizza, pancakes, flapjacks, doughnuts, soups, beer…  The wheat and it’s products that we eat now is the end result of genetic research and long way from the simple 14 chromosome Einkorn wheat plant we ate 10,000 years ago.

Wheat is basically the worst of the worst carbohydrates, and even a modest exposure to the starches in wheat is enough to increase the appetite, raise blood sugar, induce fat accumulation, initiate inflammatory processes, increase bad LDL cholesterol, and cause high blood pressureCeliac Disease is described as far back as 100 AD, but wheat problems aren’t restricted to people with celiac disease.

Cutting wheat products in my diet, in particular, proved a dietary turning point that reduced my appetite, accelerated weight loss, and just helped me feel clearer, more energetic, and happier than I’d felt in years. ~ Dr. William Davis, Cardiologist.

Wheat makes you ill.

Wheat is full carbohydrates and some very bad proteins; gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, and amylase trypsin inhibitors.  These proteins irritate your gut, and cause inflammation and bloating.  This irritation causes a problem called intestinal permeability which is a contributory factor in autoimmune diseases.  Wheat germ agglutinin exacerbates this leaky-gut problem which allows all kinds of nasty things into your blood.  The gluten in wheat also messes with the friendly bacteria in your gut.  All of this makes you prone to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases, along with diarrhea and or constipation, heartburn, bloating, farting, and other gut problems.  Wheat is also a contributory factor in brain fog, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, schizophrenia, autism, and other mental health problems.  For good measure the gluten in wheat will mess with your skin making you feel itchy and leading to eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.  The thing is, everyone is gluten intolerant to a greater or lesser degree.

Wheat makes you fat.

  1. The super starch amylopectin A in genetically modified dwarf wheat that makes great bread and cakes will spike your blood sugar just as much as eating pure refined sugar.  There is no difference between whole wheat and refined white flour, both are equally as bad.
  2. Dwarf wheat gluten has twice as many chromosomes as the gluten protein found in ancient wheat plants, as well as a lot more gluten in general.  This gluten will make you sick and fat.
  3. Dwarf wheat contains a super drug which will make you crazy, hungry, and addicted.  Your body turns the proteins in wheat into polypeptides called exorphins, which are exactly similar to the endorphins you get from a runners’ high, which are exactly similar to opioids.  People will binge on cakes and cookies because of this super drug, but people never binge on broccoli.

bread-beerSo why do we eat wheat and other grains?  One reason is that wheat and other high carbohydrate grains are addictive.  The other reason is that we are all subjected to endless propaganda encouraging us to consume more and more of these nasty foods.  From the tempting counter displays in supermarkets to pronouncements by official bodies like the US Food and Drug Administration, and the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom we are constantly encouraged to consume wheat, barley, oats, rice.. all of which are bad.

There is another reason wheat has become highly toxic in recent years.  It is common practice in the USA, Canada, and Europe to drench wheat and barley fields with a herbicide called Roundup a few days before the combine harvesters start work.  Killing and desiccating the grain plants like this allows an earlier, easier, and more efficient harvest.  Roundup contains the deadly chemical glyphosphate, and it’s residue in wheat and barley also kills the good bacteria and contributes to leaky-gut syndrome.

Wall_StreetRoundup is made by the giant chemicals company MonsantoMonsanto is set to merge with the Giant German chemicals company Bayer.  No politician or regulator is going to want to annoy Monsanto or Bayer.  It is all about money.  The production and consumption of wheat and other grains has nothing whatsoever to do with good food, it’s all about money.

Do yourself a favour and avoid wasting money due to ill-health, stop eating wheat and it’s products for six weeks.  Then see just how much fitter, healthier, and more alert you feel.  I gave up wheat on the 9th of June this year, and today I feel so much better than I could have ever believed.

~

Wall Streetjackcollier7@talktalk.net

liebster-12

Scenes on Sunday # 8

‘scape pictures.  Seascapes, cloudscapes, landscapes, cityscapes, roadscapes, or pictures of wildflowers in an English summer….

All these shots were taken with a compact LUMIX Panasonic DMC-AS3 camera.  This camera is so lightweight, small, and brilliant that it’s good for taking along on roadtrips, for hikes into the countryside, or just for stuffing into your pocket of a Sunday morning.

poppy

~

Poppies

~

P1020573

~

meadow

~

P1020572

~

liebster-12pictures by jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Wildlife Gardening ~ Hedges

There are hedges and then there are hedges loved by wildlife.  In this, (quite long), guest post by my friend Gillian Rooke she discusses some of the things that go towards a hedge designed to really attract wildlife.

pivet-hedge-wildlife-551098

Guest Post by Gillian Rooke

So many people now are looking out into their gardens and seeing  only a lawn  surrounded by close boarded fencing. Perhaps in a tiny town garden this is understandable, but in a long garden that could be beautiful? More people seem to be into minimalism now, which is fine indoors, but nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum. I am not a minimalist. I love intricate shapes and interesting textures. Horses for courses of course; and there is one way of making a minimalist garden that is good for wildlife:- replacing the fencing with hedging.

Hedging is gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds at the moment, which is very encouraging. Even I can find a striped lawn surrounded only by hedges exciting and uplifting. There is something about the angle of the green, going suddenly from horizontal to vertical that makes the senses swirl. And the things that one can imagine existing beyond a hedge are far more romantic, than anything one might find behind a fence.

Also hedges can be taller, Putting up a close boarded fence over six foot in height, requires very strong foundations, and neighbours and even the council can condemn it as an eyesore, whereas a neatly cut hedge can go on up to ten foot in a front garden. Very few people object to a huge ornamental hedge. I have seen them with crenulations and windows; really fantastic.

Of course in a back garden where the hedge is a boundary you need a neighbour that also loves hedges because he will have to cut his side, or let you on his land to do it. It makes a very good talking point though, especially if you plan between you what plants you would like to use.

Before advising on the planting I had better say a word about the wildlife of a hedge. As you probably know, hedges in the countryside are arguably the most important wildlife habitat. You have the two essentials side by side for miles: deep thick cover, and long grasses and flowers. A hedge provides the best cover of all habitats. Because the outside is cut back, the branches thicken up and  make better supports; a strong framework for nests, and the leaves on the outside are very close together providing an excellent screen.

This green cathedral is a sanctuary for wildlife of all kinds, from the monkey-pea, and exotic species of millipede and centipede that delight in the rich black leaf mould, through the spider species with webs of all kinds, catching the aphids and all the small wasps midges and flies, to the reptiles and amphibians and the burrowing mammals that can find a permanent undisturbed home here, among the rows of dark pillars that rise from the mould. And then, higher  where the pillars turn into vaulted arches, you find our most beautiful song birds living the safest and most productive lives that are to be found anywhere. Large predators cannot penetrate a well kept hedge, nor can torrential rains wash nests away or wild winds destroy them.

So why not create something so beautiful and so needed as a hedge? Here’s how…

Field hedges tend to be mostly of hawthorn blackthorn or hazel. The first two are good for domestic hedges which abut a road, because they are deciduous and the lower branches don’t get so messed up by traffic. Also of course they flower which is nice. But these hedges, because they are trees not shrubs are looser than you would really want in a neat garden. The twigs are just that much too thick to be cut well by domestic hedging shears, and the leaves aren’t very pretty.

Everyone is familiar with the deep green velvety texture of the evergreen  Leyland hedge, but this although very beautiful  has the one big drawback that it is very fast growing, and needs to be cut so very frequently. If you can afford it or can take to time to grow it, a yew hedge is even more beautiful and much easier to manage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two non coniferous trees which make superb hedges are beech and the evergreen holly oak.  They are quicker to establish than yew and make equally good tall hedges. However when using trees for hedging, you have to consider the width of the trunks, and the spread of the roots. These hedges will spread outwards and may end up, in fifty years or so, as much as eight foot thick. Also you shouldn’t plant forest trees close to the house, even if you are going to be cutting them back all the time. While they are fantastic hedges; the beech keeping  its rich brown leaves all winter and the hollyoak turning bright silvery yellow with its new leaves, they are not; because of this thickening, suitable for  gardens of less than half an acre.

In smaller gardens it is better to use shrub hedging rather than trees.

The smallest and daintiest hedge of all is the European Box, Buxus sempervirens. This is most often used as a tiny hedge for dividing beds from paths, for making divisions within herb beds, and most famously for topiary. It is very slow growing with tiny leaves and so is capable of being shaped in great detail. It is actually a small tree, and left to its own devices will grow to thirty feet or more. The fact that it has a trunk, and a very strong one, makes it possible to create fantastic and durable living sculptures.

Another hedge which is very similar in appearance to the box is the Lonicera nitida, but while it looks the same, as a clipped hedge, its habit is completely different. It grows very rapidly and is difficult to keep clipped although it does make a very smoothly sculpted surface. The drawback of this little honeysuckle is the weakness of its stems and their habit of twisting round each other, which means that as you are pruning one section you can be killing branches in a completely different section. Also it is prone to collapsing and needs to have a post and rails to keep it upright if you want it as a sizeable hedge, or a permanent armature if you are using it as topiary. It has another even worse drawback, in that bits keep coming up where you don’t want them.  As with all the other green hedges a golden version is also available, and marbled in with the green it can produce a striking effect.

Flowering hedges. Many people may be surprised to learn that privet has a flower. Unpruned it makes a bush of up to eight foot which is covered in summer  with white frothy floppy candles with a delightful strong heady scent. Unfortunately it is impossible to keep it in any semblance of a clipped hedge and still retain the flowering.

One that everyone knows is the Forsythia, with its brilliant yellow flowers in early spring. This does flower very well as a hedge and indeed it should always be pruned fairly closely. However it is deciduous and the branches show twigs between the leaves even in summer. It is really rather unattractive when not in flower.

Most of our garden shrubs have an inverted conical habit. They grow up on many long stalks which fan out into a wide, domed area of leaves and flowers. You could shape the top of them loosely into an elongated hedge but there would be nothing but bare branches close to the ground. However by putting a flowerbed at the base of these plants to hide the bare stalks, you could use the height of plants such as philadelphus or wigelia or lilac as a continuous barrier hedge. This type of hedging is useful if you have a boundary wall which is not quite high enough to provide privacy. However these plants do not cut back strictly as a hedge and although they should be pruned, they should also have space to ‘billow’ a bit, and of course flower.

My favourite flowering hedges are the Berberis .There are two main types of which there are various cultivars. Berberis  thunbergii  is a short  usually purple leaved variety, (atropurpurea) with yellow flowers. It makes a neat attractive hedge up to four foot, which is almost as beautiful when not in flower.  Berberis Darwinii has thinner glossier leaves which are usually at least partly retained through the winter, and deeper orange flowers which make a solid wall of colour. It is an altogether tougher, stronger growing plant and can be self supporting to six foot in a sheltered location.  Berberis are also useful for keeping trespassers out because they are thorny.

There are also some pretty hedges grown for their leaf colour. Choisya is usually found with a golden leaf and it also has a nice white flower. Aucuba the spotted laurel is very famous, although with its large leaves it is difficult to shape,  Photinia fraseri red robin, is a wonderful  plant although it is also difficult to clip. It makes a barrier rather than a hedge.

hedgeWith all this choice, (and I’ve only named a fraction) of planting, and of course you can mix and match, who wouldn’t want to look out on a hedge rather than a close boarded fence?

With a hedge you have the beauty of seasonal colour changes, but best of all you will see goldfinches, long tailed tits, linnets etc etc flying out of your hedge to your bird table and you will know that they are nesting, part of your family, sharing your space, and not flying in perhaps from miles away to grab a few mouthfuls and try to keep their distant chicks from starving.

Next time I will tackle Wildflower lawn versus wildflower meadow.

 

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