Hazel Hedging – Corylus Avellana
Corylus avellana, more commonly known as Hazel or Common Hazel, is a native deciduous shrub or small tree widely found across the UK and Europe. Celebrated for its multi-stemmed habit, valuable nuts, and its importance to wildlife, Hazel hedging is a quintessential part of the British countryside.
Description and Characteristics
Hazel is characterized by its multiple stems or trunks, each clad in smooth, grey-brown bark. The leaves are broad and round, with a pointed tip and double-serrated margins, unfolding a vibrant green in spring and summer before turning to a charming yellow in the autumn.
As a hedging plant, Hazel typically achieves a height of 3-4 metres (10-13 feet) and can reach up to 6 metres (20 feet) if grown as a tree. It has a fast growth rate of approximately 60cm (24 inches) per year, and with the right conditions, Hazel can live up to 80 years, or even longer when coppiced.
Flowering, Nuts, and Reproduction
Hazel is monoecious, producing both male and female flowers on the same plant in late winter to early spring. The male flowers are familiar yellow catkins that shed pollen to the wind, while the tiny, red female flowers are less conspicuous. By late summer to early autumn, these flowers develop into clusters of hazelnuts, each encased in a leafy husk.
Benefits to Wildlife
Hazel plays a crucial role in supporting local wildlife. Its catkins provide early pollen for bees and other insects, while the nuts are a critical food source for numerous birds and mammals, including jays, woodpeckers, squirrels, and dormice. The plant’s dense, twiggy growth also offers shelter and nesting sites for birds.
Ideal for British Gardens
Hazel hedging is a great addition to British gardens for several reasons. Its rapid growth and easy-to-manage nature make it ideal for establishing hedges or living fences. When regularly coppiced, it produces a wealth of poles and stakes, useful for various gardening and crafting applications.
Its year-round interest, from the yellow catkins in spring to the golden foliage in autumn, adds visual appeal to any garden. Furthermore, Hazel is hardy and adaptable, thriving in a variety of soils and light conditions, from full sun to partial shade.
Distribution in the UK
As a native species, Hazel is widely distributed across the UK, particularly in woodland understoreys, hedgerows, and scrubland.
In conclusion, the Hazel, with its fast growth, year-round interest, wildlife benefits, and practical uses, makes it an excellent choice for British garden designs. If you’re looking for a native, wildlife-friendly hedge, or a practical plant offering both beauty and utility, Corylus avellana is a solid choice.