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The not-so-humble hedge


Scientists have learnt that a certain type of hedge tackles pollution with ease. But what else is this humble plant good for?


A team at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have made the amazing discovery that just one metre’s worth of Cotoneaster franchetii (pictured above) can neutralise the pollution caused by a 500 mile drive in a single week.


Cotoneaster is believed to be at least 20% more effective at cleaning up pollution than other similar plants. This could be because it is particularly dense – with hairy leaves – providing a large surface area which interacts with the air.


Air pollution is a serious health threat, and these findings highlight how even those of us with small gardens can play a part in tackling it. It also highlights the potential opportunities around using hedges in high pollution areas, or in sensitive locations such as urban school playgrounds.


Image: Public Health England



What else are hedges good for?


While the humble cotoneaster particularly excels at cleaning up air pollution, it’s not the best at everything. Professor Alistair Griffiths, director of science the the RHS said:

We are continually identifying new ‘super plants’ with unique qualities which when combined with other vegetation provide enhanced benefits while providing much needed habitats for wildlife."

While all hedges will support wildlife, the best results will arise when a diverse mixture of plants is used. Other benefits of hedges can include:


Security - a dense hedge will be almost as hard to get through as a good wall, and it’ll almost certainly be more difficult to climb over!


Shading – like trees, hedges can provide shading and absorb sunlight, providing comfort on the very hottest days.


Decoration – a colourful, textured hedge surely looks better than a soulless grey wall!


Wind & noise – Hedges can be great at absorbing wind and noise, making a real difference in urban or exposed locations.


Protection against flooding – amazingly, RHS research has also shown that hedges can help soak up water after heavy rainfall, reducing the severity of localised flooding.


Well there you have it. Who would have thought that the humble hedge could benefit us in so many ways! If you’ve been particularly inspired, check out this guide to planting new hedges!

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