Shelter Belt and Game Cover

Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)

A hardy European native, the deciduous Alder Buckthorn is actually thornless. Often used in hedging due to its dense foliage, left as a small tree it can grow between 3 - 7m (10 - 23ft) with a 2 - 4m (6 - 13ft) spread. With a preference for wet soils, it thrives in open woodland, marshland and hedgerows with plenty of natural light with some partial shade.

The Alder Buckthorn’s small, green-white flowers appear around May/June and are a particular favourite for bees and butterflies. Once pollinated, the green fruits turn a bright red through the summer. Its glossy, dark green leaves turn a bright yellow before falling in the autumn, just as the fruits fully ripen to a near black colour, giving an excellent food source for birds.

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Widespread throughout Europe, the Common Ash is well established in the milder climates across the British Isles. Typically growing to heights of 18m (60ft) or beyond, it does well in well-drained, moist soils, particularly those which contains chalk or limestone, and requires full sunlight.

Recognisable for its black buds in winter, Ash flowers appear dark, almost purple in colour in early spring. However, it’s usual for the leaves to open later in the spring, while falling earlier in the Autumn, often while still green. Due to their potential full size, Ash trees require open space and suit woodland or large gardens.

Aspen (Populus tremula)

A fast growing, medium sized tree, the Aspen will reach between 15 - 20m (50 - 65ft) when fully grown. It can also spread extensively through suckers, appearing anywhere up to 12m (40ft) away. Tolerant to most soil types, it’s preference is for heavy, wet soil and can cope with short periods in waterlogged earth. Preferring full sunlight, the Aspen doesn’t cope well with shade.

From grey catkins appearing in early Spring, the Aspen’s distinctive rounded leaves appear, creating a familiar rustle at the slightest breeze. Turning yellow in the autumn, the leaves often remain on branches for an extended period. Perfect for larger gardens or parkland, the Aspen is ideal for creating a natural windbreak.

Bird Cherry (Prunus padus)

Being hardy and versatile, the British native Bird Cherry tree fares well in many different locations and is easy to spot in woods as well as hedgerows and even riverbanks. Growing well in moist, fertile soil and positioned in full or partial sun, it can reach up to 15m (50ft), making it ideal for larger gardens or parks.

With its spectacular white, almond-scented blossom, the Bird Cherry tree is a showstopper for a short period in the spring. Going on to produce small, black fruits in the summer, particularly enjoyed by birds, before its leaves turn a distinctive yellow-bronze, falling in the autumn.

Black Poplar (Populus nigra)

This large, deciduous tree is native to the UK, particularly in the south, but is on the endangered list due to its declining numbers. When found, it’s commonly around exposed damp low-lying areas and riverbanks where it thrives in moist soil, where it can rapidly grow up to 30m (100ft) in height.

Both male and female trees flower with red (male) and yellow-green (female) catkins that pollinate by the wind. Female catkins then blossom with distinctive white fluffy seeds that fall in late summer. Its glossy, dark green leaves are a characteristic heart shape, and have a soft aromatic scent. However, its powerful roots may cause problems to building foundations and drainage systems, so suited to open areas with lots of space.

Downy Birch  (Betula pubescens)

A medium size tree capable of growing up to 20m (65ft), the Downy Birch is a UK native that feels at home in damp locations such as woodlands, near rivers or areas with higher rainfall. Though it copes well with heavy soils and handles exposed locations well, it is light demanding and requires full sun or partial shade to thrive.

It flowers in April/May with both long (male) and short (female) catkins, followed by diamond shaped leaves that turn yellow in the autumn. The Downy Birch also provides a good source of food and shelter to many birds, insects and wildlife. It’s not unusual to see woodpeckers making their home in its trunk also.

Field Maple (Acer campestre)

The UK’s only native maple, the Field Maple is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that, if left, will reach up to 20m (65ft). Easy to please, it’s at home in most soil types, unless particularly wet or acidic, and can be cut back to any size to suit most garden sizes. Regular trimming can also create attractive, dense hedgerow.

Until the Field Maple reaches full maturity where it prospers under full light, it will develop in either full light or shaded areas to produce light green leaves with bee-friendly flowers in the spring. Darker green mature leaves take on the reddy-yellow colours associated with Maples in the autumn to glorious effect.

Grey Willow (Salix cinerea)

The UK native Grey Willow is commonly found in low-lying, wetland areas such as woodlands, marshes, as well as near rivers. Reaching heights of around 10m (30ft), it’s certainly well suited to fairly moist and well-drained positions and grows well in most soil types.

The Grey Willow is a rich source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, as well as being good for other wildlife. In spring, male catkins are silver before appearing to turn bright yellow as they become laden with pollen. The female catkins appear green, before maturing in summer. Its seeds are wrapped in white cotton-like fluff which are dispersed in the wind.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

One of the UK's most common hedgerow plants, the Hawthorn creates strong, thick hedging for farm or rural land when regularly pruned and maintained. It’s slow growing, but left to spread, it grows to a large shrub or small tree reaching heights of between 5 - 14m (16 - 45ft). A tough and hardy plant, the Hawthorn can handle planting in exposed areas, but prefers full sun and moist, fertile soil.

The Hawthorn’s leaves provide a glossy dark green backdrop for its white blossom, appearing in late spring. A favourite for bees, when pollinated it produces rich red fruits known as Haws. A good food source for birds, they ripen in September before the leaves turn yellow-red, falling in autumn.

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

A common UK native, the Hazel is a familiar sight in hedgerows up and down the country. Favoured in hedging for its fast growing, thick coverage, it’s also a frequently coppiced tree. As a small tree, the Hazel can typically grow from 3 - 8m (10 - 26ft), but can reach 15m (50ft). Hardy and adaptable, it grows well in all soils ranging from dry to wet and well-drained.

Preferring a sheltered location, the Hazel is shade tolerant, but does flourish a full sun position if possible. WIth yellow catkins appearing in mid-February, it’s often first to provide colour. And, providing a rich food source for birds and wildlife, its nut clusters appear from September/October onwards.

Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

An evergreen shrub that’s a familiar and much loved sight all over the UK. The Holly is commonly seen as a large shrub growing to around 4 - 7m (12 - 25ft), but is an excellent and sturdy hedging plant when grown to approx. 1m (3ft). Though slow growing, it’s adaptable to almost any soil type except very wet.

Known for its dark green, glossy - and spiky - leaves, the Holly has both male and female varieties for cross pollination, resulting in the female producing its wildlife-friendly striking red berries. With both showing yellowy-white flowers, the female produces less and have four distinct petals. Extremely hardy and resilient, it’s also shade tolerant, though could produce fewer berries.

Oak (Quercus robur)

One of Britain’s larger deciduous trees, the Oak is instantly recognisable across the land with its pale green leaves and easily identifiable fruit, the acorn. Growing to between 20 - 25m (65 - 85ft), it’s very tolerant to most soil, though thrives in heavier, well-watered and fertile conditions. Mature trees can also cope with flood and waterlogged conditions.

Though slow growing overall, the Oak has rapid growth when young and has a long life expectancy due to its hardy ability to withstand winds and full exposure. Flowering in mid-spring, Acorns ripen come the autumn before the leaves fall, though shouldn’t be expected for many years. A perfect option for larger spaces and woodlands, it also provides a good source of food and habitat for all native wildlife.

Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)

One of the UK’s best known hedging plants, the Privet is a hardy evergreen, perfect for boundaries and screening. Growing at an exceptional rate, Privet can reach heights of around 4m (13ft) to create a dense, low maintenance hedge that provides an excellent barrier to noise and wind.

Thriving in practically any soil type, Privet can grow just as well in almost any location, from full sun to full shade. Clusters of white flowers appear in summer, which then give way to small, black berries, much loved by birds and wildlife, in the autumn. However, regularly trimmed Privet will not produce flowers or fruits.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

A well known and small to medium tree, familiar in gardens everywhere, the Rowan is a hardy, undemanding and vigorous grower that thrives in open and sunny positions. Coping well in a variety of soils, it can reach heights of up to 15m (50ft), but is easily pruned to control growth and shape.

The Rowan also has high wildlife quota attached to it. Blossoming between April and May, its clusters of off-white flowers provide pollen for bees and many insects. The bright red berries that appear from August to October are an important and rich autumn food source for many birds. The Rowan also provides classic autumnal leaf colours before falling.

Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

An easily recognisable tree, the Silver Birch is common throughout the UK. It can reach heights between 12 - 20m (40 - 65ft), making it a natural and distinctive choice for large ornamental gardens and parks. It’s fast growing, up to 1m (3ft) per year, if given its ideal conditions of full sun and deep, well-drained soil. It won’t tolerate shade, though it can cope well on most soil types.

Though delicate looking with its dropping branches, it’s a hardy tree and can withstand exposed areas. Flowering with catkins in April - May, its light green, heart-shaped leaves turn a rich yellow before falling in the autumn, while its distinctive silvery bark will ‘split’ as the tree ages.

Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa)

Introduced to Britain by the Romans, the Sweet Chestnut tree is perhaps best known for its edible chestnuts, popular at Christmas. Commonly used for coppicing, this fast-growing tree can reach between 25 - 30m (80 - 100ft) with a spread of around 15m (50ft). Although hardy and drought resistant, it does require full sunlight to grow best in light, fertile and well-drained soil.

Its pale green catkins flower and are insect pollinated in early summer before turning to green, spiky fruits. With each fruit containing between 1 - 3 of the familiar chestnuts, these ripen throughout October and November. Long pointed, dark green leaves turn yellow in autumn.

Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)

A large, broadleaved deciduous tree common throughout the UK, the Sycamore is tough and hardy. Suiting open and exposed landscapes like parklands and large gardens, it can grow to around 35m (115ft). Aiding its rapid growth is the benefit of being adaptable to almost any soil type. Though it can cope with partial shade when young, the Sycamore becomes heavily reliant on full sun as it grows.

Producing clusters of small, pale green flowers in early summer, the pollen is distributed by bees and insects as well as the wind. After pollination, its familiar ‘helicopter’ winged seeds fall and are again blown by the wind. Through autumn, it produces a fine display of colour.

Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)

Famed for its fine display of pinky-white, sweet blossom in April and May, the Wild Cherry is certainly an ornamental tree. Capable of growing between 10 - 20m (30 - 65ft) in a sunny position, this medium to large tree is well suited to most soils, particularly those of a chalky or sandy constitution. North facing positions are best avoided.

With its fabulous blossom appearing in April/May, the eagerly anticipated black cherry fruits ripen through July and August. Edible and delicious for us as well as many birds and assorted wildlife, they’re a favoured food source. It provides another fine display in autumn as its leaves turn a delightful blend of gold and russet.

White Willow (Salix alba)

This medium-sized, UK native willow is commonly seen across the south of the country in its preferred location of damp, low-lying areas close to water. Fast-growing, it reaches an average height of around 15m (50ft), but mature trees can reach around 25m (82ft). While tolerant of most soil types as long as they’re moist, it prefers a position in full sun.

Known as White Willow due to the soft silvery-white underside to its green leaves, its male (yellow) and female (green) catkins appear on separate trees in April. Once pollinated by bees and other wildlife, the female produces seed capsules that are released in soft white fluff and dispersed by the wind.

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