You want to diversify your garden and at the same time do something for insects, birds and other animals? You would also like to harvest berries, fruits and nuts at the same time? Then try it with a snack hedge from different woody plants. In this article, I’ll introduce you to some snacking shrubs for humans and animals and show you what benefits they can bring.
At a glance
Snacking hedges offer several advantages:
- edible fruits and nuts
- easy to maintain
- a beautiful sight all year round: In spring the blossoms, in autumn the fruits
- important food sources and habitats for insects, birds and other beneficial insects
- windbreak – erosion control
- visual protection
So if you want to attract beneficial insects or do something good for endangered species, nutrient trees are a great option. Plus, they can edge your garden and look more diverse than walls or privet hedges. In more open areas, they protect against wind, preventing garden soil from being worn away (erosion).
Rock pear (Amelanchier ovalis)
Dark blue edible fruits resembling small blueberries ripen from the white flowers. The fruits can be harvested starting in June and also provide food for birds. In addition, their flowers serve as bee pastures in the spring. The fruits can be used to make jam or compote, and they taste great in cakes, too! In addition, the berries can be used dried in mueslis. Their light marzipan flavor is then even more pronounced. They grow in both sunny and shady places. In addition, they do not make great demands on the soil. Due to these properties, they often appear as pioneer shrubs in difficult locations.
Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas)
Cornelian cherry is not related to cherries, but belongs to the dogwood family. The shrub can grow to a height of several meters, but can also be cut back to form a hedge. The shrub is particularly popular in gardens because it often begins to bloom yellow as early as February. Early in the year, active pollinator insects such as bumblebees and wild bees seek out the shrub. The red fruits are edible for birds and humans and can be harvested from late August to early October. In a harvest period of four to five weeks, all ripe fruits can be gradually shaken off the tree. Due to their high vitamin C content, they are also considered immune-boosting in the cooler autumn season. In addition to eating them fresh, the fruits can also be made into a tasty jam. Cornelian cherries thrive best in sunny or semi-shaded locations. They also tolerate both heat and wind. Soils should be well-drained and not too compacted. With a simple soil test, find out what type of soil you have in your garden.
Hazelnut (Corylus avellana)
Popular shrubs in gardens are hazelnuts. After all, it’s just a great feeling to be able to harvest nuts from your own garden. The nuts are readily consumed by squirrels, birds, dormice or mice to get them through the cold winter. In addition, the flowering catkins are an important food source for many insects in the spring. In warm regions, it can come into bloom as early as December or January. The nuts can be harvested from September. To catch only the ripe fruits, you can shake off the branches every few days and pick up the fallen hazelnuts. To preserve the nuts, you must first let them dry for a few days in a warm, dry place. Tip: The young leaves are also edible and can be used like lettuce or spinach. Hazel bushes like sunny to semi-shady locations. The soil should be well-drained and not too acidic.
Dog rose (Rosa canina)
Like many other wild roses, the dog rose (also known as dog rose) produces edible rose hips in the fall. These collectible nut fruits can be boiled down into jam or dried and used as a tea. The rose hips of the dog rose do not ripen until late October and usually remain on the bush throughout the winter. This makes them an important winter food source for many birds. The pink flowers, provide important pollen for (wild) bees in the spring. The shrub is quite undemanding and hardy. Only very wet soils do not like the dog rose.
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
The sloe, or blackthorn, produces dark blue fruits in autumn, which are edible. However, they taste good only after the first frost, before that the fruits are very sour and bitter. The fruits can be made into jam, juice or liqueur. Birds also like to eat from the berries over the winter. In the thorny branches they are also protected from predators and therefore prefer to build their nesting places in sloe bushes. In spring, insects like to nibble nectar from the white flowers. Blackthorn grows best in sunny locations with calcareous soil. However, the shrub can also cope with shadier and cooler conditions. Blackthorn is considered a pioneer shrub in particularly dry locations.
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
The fruits of the sea buckthorn contain a lot of vitamin C and are therefore perfect to strengthen the immune system in autumn. They can be eaten directly (beware of sourness!) or made into jam and juice. Birds also use the healthy fruits as food and like to nest sheltered among the thorny branches. In order to be able to harvest fruits, you should make sure to plant both male and female plants: Sea buckthorn is dioecious. This means that there are male plants that are needed to fertilize female plants. Only if fertilization is successful can the female plants also produce fruit. Sea buckthorn grows mainly in coastal regions and therefore prefers sandy and permeable soil. In addition, the woody plants have a high light requirement. However, sea buckthorn does well with salty and windy sites.
Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
What is often forgotten: Hawthorn is also edible. It is even said to have healing properties. Although the raw fruits taste rather mealy, they can be processed together with other fruits to make jam. The often strongly branched woody plant provides food and shelter for numerous native bird species. In addition, the flowers attract many insects and beneficial insects, such as wild bees, in spring. In addition to the encroaching hawthorn, there are several other species of hawthorn that are native to our area. All native species are edible. Hawthorn also grows in shady places, but produces more fruit the sunnier the location. The bush thrives best in soils rich in lime and nutrients.
Mountain ash/Barbeard (Sorbus aucuparia)
As the name suggests, the rowan is very popular with birds. The woody plants, some of which grow into trees, produce bright orange fruits that are the food source for many native bird species. The flowers are rich in nectar and pollen, which attracts numerous insects in spring. We humans can also eat the berries: However, not raw, because it contains slightly toxic parasorbic acid, which in large quantities leads to nausea and abdominal pain. Cooked as jam or compote, however, rowan berries are tasty and harmless, as the toxin is decomposed in the process. Mountain ash does not have high site requirements and thrives in sunny to semi-shady locations.
Most woody plants can be planted either in the fall or spring. In our article on planting woody plants, you will learn how best to proceed when planting a bush or tree.