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How to make a Leylandii hedge more wildlife friendly

At the bottom of my garden I have a large border with Leylandii at the back (half dark green, half the golden variety). I know that Leylandii is virtually useless to wildlife, but this hedge is not going anywhere - it provides much valued privacy and we keep it well pruned.

At the moment there are some large shrubs (berberis, hypericum, forsythia, pieris and elder) growing against it which the birds love. For about a foot or so in front of the Leylandii absolutely nothing else grows and then we have a beautiful red peony and usually some hardy annuals growing. This whole border gets a decent amount of morning sun.

In the barren ground at the back we've just let the dead wood build up around the trunks and added some extra dead wood piles. I've no doubt that the mice shelter in here but the wood piles aren't exactly teeming with life - it just isn't breaking down. Do you think we should leave this deadwood jungle alone or try something else? It's very dry and sheltered down there and does get a few hours of sun - maybe a bee hotel?

There's a lot of bare soil underneath the shrubs and trees which we've noticed is attracting birds (mostly blackbirds) who are feeding there. We brought the border forward again last summer, so there will be a lot more planting this year - should we try and keep a decent area of bare soil? Also, is there any point in putting in nest boxes?

We don't want any more big shrubs, because being able to see under the trees gives the effect of a forest floor and extends the garden. We were thinking epimediums, geum 'marmalade' and possibly the red field poppy if it will get enough sun at the front. Would getting a climber to shin up it make the leylandii more appealing to wildlife?

Next door have a hedgehog family living under their son's old tent at the back of the garden which is on a level with our border. They come in to explore this area so is there anything we can do to benefit them? Another hedgehog house perhaps?

The planting scheme we've started is hot (yellow from the hypericum and forsythia, flame colours from the pieris and orange from the berberis). Any more suggestions for wildlife friendly planting? - groundcover is really what's needed.

Any help would be hugely appreciated image




  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,160

    Hi Ruth

    re the deadwood, it's always very dry under leylandii. You're probably doing the best you can with it.

    birds will peck around for food under shrubs whether the ground is bare or covered but the more plants there are the more food there will be

    keep the new plantings to single insect friendly plants for best effect. The more different species you have, the more wildlife you will please

    The great thing about next boxes is watching them. The birds are just as happy in garden shrubs, hedges and leylandii

  • Thanks very much nutcutlet image

    We'll put up some nest boxes and get that area planted up as best we can. It's quite a large area so we should be able to get a few different species in.

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,160

    image great stuff

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 64,541

    We took down leylandii and thuja from this garden when we moved in, not knowing that there were resident hedgehogs loving it under there in all the dry leaf litter.  Now we're having to plant up more undergrowth to provide more cover for them again. image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,148

    Hi Ruth. I have a large conifer at the back of this new garden I have and it does provide privacy so I won't remove it. All the small birds flit in and out of it while going to the feeders so they make great use of it. I cut down a dead tree and a neglected cherry last summer and used those to create a small border along the front of the conifer and the pine next to it and put turf from the garden in the bed along with soil and compost to give me a raised area to plant into. There are now ferns, bulbs, hardy geraniums, sedums, primulas and even chives and a nettle growing happily under there.   I'll be adding more bits and pieces this year as well. The Vincas (periwinkles) will cope under there but you may not care for the colours in your scheme (purpley blues and whites) but the prostrate Gaultherias (procumbens) have red berries and are evergreen. They like a shady spot. Tiarellas will grow there too and Heucheras - there are lots of bright greens and orangey colours of those now and  bees love the flowers. Erythronium (dog's tooth violet) like shade and there are yellows available so might be worth trying. These are all low growing. image

    Probably best to give anything new you plant as good a start as you can with compost and slow release fertiliser as the ground will be quite depleted there. Once things establish they won't need much maintenance.

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Jim MacdJim Macd Posts: 750

    You ask about hedgehog. Yes, hibernacula are always good, but above all make sure there's enough water. You could mulch the area underneath the hedge. The mulch alone would benefit more wildlife than bare soil and you never know you could get stuff growing afterwards. Honeysuckle will definitely grow through laylandii. There's a hedge in our graveyard which is full of it, plus elder. I have a rose which grew 3 meters in the first year underneath a 5 meter high Cupressus. The birds will happily shelter in your hedge so it isn't all bad. I personally don't want to get into design points because for me wildlife come first and recreating a British woodland edge is my primary goal, (with the inclusion of what I was given and what will pep it up for diversity.) The sky is almost the limit for what to plant. You are better off looking a 'top ten plants for wildlife' list and a wildflower supplier such as Emorsgate Seeds and Naturescape, there others but I find these are the best.

    Your woodpile should be shady for detritus feeders. For a bee hotel etc then it should be in sun. For a dry stone wall effect it should be in full sun, south facing so don't try to compromise. One or the other is best if you want the best. how about both and burry some of the logs. Make a hibernaculum using some of the logs, could be an underground one for frogs and toads, and even for lizards depending where you are. There's loads of suggestions and loads of great websites. Knowing what to search for helps though. image

  • Thanks image Really helpful responses.

    Dovefromabove - yeah our shared hedgehog family seem to love mooching around down there! If you look between the shrubs its like a scruffy hedgehog mansion.

    Fairygirl - I love your idea of using old wood to create a raised bed. It sounds lovely and there is probably room for me to incorporate something like that. It will also help me increase the diversity of plants. The gaultheria procumbens is perfect! I have a little one growing in my rockery actually but I didn't know it's name. There's a low growing berberis 'admiration' which I think would look good paired with this also. The colours of the heucheras and tiarellas are also great.

    We'll definitely mulch and fertilise this spot in the next week or so (weather permitting). To be honest we've resisted in the past because we didn't really know what we wanted to do with the area and increased fertility makes leylandii grow even faster.

    Jim Macd - We're actually putting in a water feature this year quite close to the spot I'm talking about. It will be a low mossy wall with a pool in the top. We can make sure there's a slope for the hedgehogs to gain access. They also have a pond next door and the boundaries between all our gardens have been allowed to crumble for their benefit).

    We're pretty set on having a climber run through the leylandii and honeysuckle might be the best for nectar. We also thought about golden hops. We'll definitely think about a rose though now.

    Yes the birds do shelter there really. I mean, they use it in conjunction with the shrubs and trees they like better and, as a lot of the others are deciduous, it provides nice dense cover year round.

    I think I will bury more of the logs - then it will be half under half over and I'll have more space for plants. Thanks for giving me an idea of where to look for this stuff image We already have a south facing dry stone wall on the other side and we've just dug out a new border in front which is going to be full of bee flowers.

    Thanks again for all the help!




  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,148

    Ruth, I came across a nursery online which specialises in Shade Plants. It's called Long Acre Plants. I haven't used them personally but it has loads of lovely ideas there for the sort of plants you're looking for. image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • We have leylandii for privacy and far from being devoid of wildlife, we have blackbirds,  dunnocks and wood pigeons nesting each year in them. Also the tits are always fussing around the leaves looking for insects.

    It is of course very dry there but we have grown snowdrops successfully under them. I am sure that perriwinkles will grow there as well. It's a useful storing place for stuff that takes time to break down in the compost (leaves, old turf etc) and whilst the stuff is there I'm sure that the hedgehogs will make use of it.

    We have placed a garden arch in front of the leyandii and the evergreen background is proving wonderful for the honeysuckle that we grow over the arch.

    Here are some photos:









  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    Wow!  What a lovely-looking place!  Do you charge admission?

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