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Hedgerows and Hedges: Then and Now




  • Often, as we plan our own home landscaping, we neglect to contemplate the early uses of certain bushes and plants. Let’ take a moment to do so here with respect to hedges and hedgerows.

    History of Hedgerows and Hedges

    Few things have helped create the look of the English countryside more than hedgerows. Hedges have been used for a long time in England, yet for all their antiquity, much of the familiar checkerboard pattern they create is of very recent vintage.

    Hedges have, as stated above, been used in England for centuries. Some were planted as field boundaries and others as enclosures for the property of wealthy estate owners. Certain examples of the latter still exist and field hedgerows abound.

    In the 15th century, hedges and hedgerows in England multiplied as farming of cleared lands expanded. Naturally, farmers wanted to enclose their land so as to exclude others from using it, be it for grazing or crops. Hawthorn and blackhorn were frequently utilized because of their thorny nature to discourage entrusion of animals of humans.

    More recently, hedgerows diminished in England and elsewhere.

    As farmers found it easier to string new metal fences than to maintain hedgerows, these practices increased. Losses have slowed lately as conservationists have introduced incentives to maintain hedges. Some estimates state that there may still be as many as 500,000 miles of hedgerows in England today.

    What are hedges and hedgerows?

    []I have not found a clean and precise distinction between hedges and hedgerows. Basically, the term hedgerow is typically applied today to rather expansive rows of plants which, when left alone, become thick and lush. They are often covered by vines, sometimes dotted by trees and edged with wildflowers. Hedges, on the other hand, may have less length, be of smaller height and, often, are routinely trimmed.

    Advantages of both

    A hedge or hedgerow, if designed carefully, may offer food from nuts and berries for wildlife, provide shelter from weather and predators, and nesting sites for birds. Hedgerows may also function as corridors connecting different habitats and offering safe passage for birds and other animals. In estates and yards, either may help muffle sound, act as windbreaks, create privacy, and serve as a backdrop for smaller plantings. The immense aesthetic pleasure of hedges and hedgerows may be as important as their practical and ecological value.

    Hedges or Hedgerows in the Yard

    Even those living on small plots need not despair. These plantings are highly versatile and may be adjusted to fit a variety of plot sizes and shapes. Here are some basic principals which apply to planting hedges or hedgerows in your yard, should you be so inclined.

    Consider your Property

    Before proceeding with a plan, look carefully at your property. Size, configuration, and present plantings are important, as is what you hope to accomplish with your hedge. Sun, shade, and moisture are considerations. If you desire a windbreak or privacy protection, this may suggest a taller hedge than otherwise might be contemplated. Do you want a controlled or pruned hedge or one which grows and flows freely? Does your available space permit the latter? Drawing a simple site plan may help here.

    More on Height and Size Options

    One must always consider the estimated adult size of shrubs in developing a planting scheme. Low hedges (1 to 3 feet tall) must tolerate regular or occasional pruning, Medium hedges can accept somewhat larger plantings, and tall ones must avoid power lines and other tall plantings that might eventually interfere with their growth.

    Types of Plantings

    What you plant in your hedge depends upon your desires with respect to intended adult size and spread. For small hedges, boxwood, holly bushes, azaleas, and japonica are possibilities. Pruning of small hedges is probably necessary once a year or more. Medium hedges include juniper and hemlock if well controlled, and such flowering shrubs as forsythia and spirea. These may need pruning annually if height and width limitations apply. For large hedges, the choices are numerous and may include evergreens such as junipers, hemlock, white pine, and spruce trees to name a few. For these larger species especially, staggered rather than straight line planting is recommended.

    Personal Thoughts

    There is a danger that hedgerows may, over time, decline or disappear from the landscape. A local friend of mine suggested this article with that fear in mind. As we contemplate land usage in Adams County, is there a place where we might preserve or create this marvelous and environmentally sound practice? Perhaps our local planning groups might consider this question. Think about a hedge or hedgerows for your property. It will enhance it immensely and give you that eye-catching curb appeal.

    Original Article Here

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