Hedging our bets: A lesson from Ireland

This past semester I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland.  Known for its “40 shades of green”, I hoped that Ireland would be a horticultural haven for me in my last year of my Environmental Horticulture degree program.  What I found was more than I bargained for!

My study abroad experience heightened my interest in horticulture because I was able to bring my knowledge of Minnesotan plants to another whole part of the world.
While I was there I was introduced to a whole set of new plants, including Sequoias! (see picture) I didn't know Sequoias could live in Ireland until I saw this one in the Fota Arboretum in County Cork.  Not only were these tall tree species new to me, but I was also quickly introduced to the beauty, elegance and practicality of hedges.

Riding the double-decker city bus to Dublin’s city centre from the University College of Dublin’s Belfield campus, I passed by residential and professional yards with hedges lining them, most often made of Fagus sylvatica, but many types of plant materials were used, even more common ones for Minnesota, like Buxus.  My horticulture coursework taught me more about the uses of hedging and why it’s important in residential areas.

Hedges not only provide biodiversity, protection, solitude, privacy, homes for critters, food for birds, edges and windbreaks, but they also define areas and make unique shapes.  I saw hedges all over the island of Ireland and I loved them.  The pictures I've included are from a garden in Killarney National Park, in County Kerry.  The garden was near Muckross House, which is in the Park and surrounded by gorgeous mountains and lakes.

I think hedges could be used on the University’s organic farm fields.  They could be helpful and useful in providing biodiversity, windbreaks and a buffer against pollution from nearby streets.  Fagus sylvatica in the Irish climate is a great choice because it only requires 1-3 trimmings per year to keep its shape, based on the sizing desired, plant material, and formality of the enclosed space.  We could even use perrennial fruits to create an edible barrier.

I think that we could take a tip from the Irish. Hedges could be a great, multifunctional idea to incorporate into the Student Organic Farm, and could add to its shades of green (and brown in the winter)!

Laura Geris

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