Atwitter over hedgerows: Networks at work in the ground and beyond | TIDAL LIFE

This month I’ve been ensnared in planning hedgerows.

Sustainable landscaping is part of a low-impact

development project, so I called local wildlife biologist Russell Link, author of “Landscaping for Wildlife,” for advice. A proponent of the State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Backyard Sanctuary Program, Russell provided a list of plants that attract birds and other creatures, as well as ideas for where to get them.

Next I spoke with Stacy Smith of Whidbey Conservation District, who put me in contact with Washington Conservation District, where I ordered some bare-root plants. Stacy also gave me a bundle of brochures about planting hedgerows. Sarah Birger of Taproot Architects helped me lay out the plants and figure out how many of each we needed. Nancy Waddell of Whidbey Watershed Stewards offered volunteers for planting and recommended Native Plant Stewards, a group dedicated to salvaging native plants that would otherwise be mowed down during construction of a building, road or home.

What a dedicated network we have here on Whidbey for support of native plants and wildlife.

All this “bustle in the hedgerow,” to borrow a phrase from Led Zeppelin, reminded me of a couple of previous times that hedges have captured my attention.

One was the day 10 of us from the office had lunch in Langley to celebrate a birthday.

We chatted, laughed and ate wonderful Mediterranean food. Afterward, full and happy, we walked — still talking — back to our cars. As we passed a hedge full of twittering sparrows, one of our number stopped, glared into the shrubbery, put her hands over her ears and burst out, “I just can’t stand that noise.”

The rest of us, rather stunned, looked at her for a moment. Then we turned and walked on, embarrassed, saying nothing.

The other was a trip to England with my kids. There is no way to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon with children and avoid interfacing with a cashier at a gift shop. It’s doubly difficult with kids brought up on Beatrix Potter books. When Emily found a bin of stuffed hedgehogs, I was done for.

None of us had ever seen a hedgehog in the flesh, so as I paid the bill, I asked the clerk how big the real ones were. “About the size of a pudding,” she said. We found this funny, if not very enlightening.

By the end of the day all three kids had named their new pets. Mari’s was dubbed Henrietta Scuttlebottom. Jeremy knighted his Sir Pinkerton Pinwell. Emily called hers Spike.

Back to work. Not satisfied that I’d tapped all available sources of comment on the subject, I turned to Twitter. A quick search gave me a million quick mentions of hedgerows from around the world, including the quote from Led Zeppelin and this tweet from Irish poet Seamus Heaney:

Evicted wildlife gives ground to the economics of arable now; supplanted hedgerow contains no livestock; makes way for the horseless plough.

Not everyone likes the twittering, but there’s no denying Internet hedge is rich with life.

While we’ll never have real hedgehogs here in the Pacific Northwest, on March 27 a group of volunteers from the above-mentioned groups, and residents of the Highlands will be planting the hedgerow, so at least for the day they’ll be our local Hedgehogs. They’ll be planting Oregon grape, red-twig dogwood, sedges, nine bark, native mock orange, and if I can find them, snowberry. (Anybody got any snowberry? Let me know.)

“What’s the big idea here?” you may ask. Why all this activity to plant a hedgerow? The answer is that hedgerows do a number of important jobs in the landscape. They create a visual buffer between houses without resorting to a fence. They provide much needed habitat for birds, frogs, garter snakes and small animals. Planted correctly, they can help manage stormwater, as the one at the Highlands will do. And if most of the plants that make up the hedge are native, there are even more benefits, such as low maintenance.

Here’s a list of 10 reasons to use native plants, from King County’s Northwest Native Plant Guide:

1. Native plant landscapes do not need pesticides or fertilizers; better for kids and pets.

2. Native plant landscapes need less water; saves money and resources.

3. Replacing a lawn with native plants reduces time spent mowing, raking and watering.

4. Native plants attract native wildlife, more birds and butterflies!

5. Native plants are great for creating drought-tolerant yards.

6. Native plants can be less expensive than non-native plants, or salvaged ethically (through Native Plant Stewards).

7. Native plants help control erosion and reduce runoff, keeping sediments and pollutants out of our waterways.

8. Native plants survive better than many ornamental plants.

9. Native plants reduce problems with weed species.

10. Native plants give your yard a true Northwest aesthetic.

The public is invited to come see the hedgerow being planted, or even lend a hand, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 27. The hedgerow is also intended to be used for educational purposes.

Information, photos of planting and growth around the year will be available on the Highlands blog. Maybe in the future some intrepid Langley Middle School student will install a Hedgecam to offer a glimpse into the life of a hedgerow.

For more information:

Northwest Native Plant Guide, click here; Native Plant Stewards, call 360-679-4281.

Whidbey Island Conservation District, click here.

Highlands blog, click here.

Hummingbird Cam, click here.

More about Whidbey, Puget Sound and Hedgerows on Twitter, click here.

For more info go to my Tidal Life Blog.

Questions or comments for Tidal Life? E-mail tidallife@whidbey.com.

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