|Project by Radicalfarmergal||posted 12-26-2009 08:12 PM||5644 views||1 time favorited||28 comments|
We live on a fairly busy street. In an effort to increase our privacy, minimize the noise of the traffic and reduce the amount of lawn that needs to be mowed, my biggest garden project (at least in terms of area) has been creating a living fence, modeled after a traditional farm hedgerow. People have planted hedgerows since the Bronze Age for a variety of purposes including confining livestock, defining property lines, creating shelter from wind as well as a source of food, herbal medicine, fodder, building materials and fuel.
I started the living fence project shortly after we moved into this house, about four years ago. Because of the size of the project, I have been using very young plants and expanding slowly to spread out the work and reduce the cost. The width of the hedgerow garden currently ranges between six and ten feet wide but I plan to expand portions of it to twenty feet wide to ensure depth and variety. Annually, I add small and medium-sized trees, shrubs and perennials to slowly form a vibrant, low-maintenance, living barrier between our house and yard and the street.
I want both winter and summer coverage, so I have chosen a mixture of evergreens, such as spruce, cedar and fir and deciduous shrubs such as lilac, forsythia, willow, dogwood and vibernum. I have been trying to vary the height, width and bloom times to create an interesting collection of plants, planting in groups and using multiple rows to create a more natural looking depth. To leave space for the plants when they mature, the garden has wide gaps between plants that are slowly filling in as the plants mature. To keep the weeds down, I have used bark mulch over cardboard which has worked fairly well with a little light weeding. This year I plan to fill in gaps with more annuals and small perennials to provide color and interest while the hedgerow matures. Bon generously gave me some flower seeds she collected and I plan to add some of them to the sunny edges of the hedgerow garden.
I also intend the hedgerow to serve as wildlife habitat, providing food and shelter for native insects, birds and mammals. (Native reptiles and amphibians will probably live more happily in the wild, wet portion of our land behind our house.) To this purpose, I have been trying to incorporate native plants, such as the Hawthorn, Eastern Red Cedar, Paper Birch, Winterberry, Holly and native viburnums (Arrowwood, Maple-leaved and Nannyberry). I wanted to plant Eastern Hemlock, but the four young hemlock trees I planted died, probably because the trees were too young to be planted in full sunlight. Also, I am concerned about planting hemlock when the wooly adelgid (an invasive aphid-like insect) is seriously threatening the survival of hemlocks in our area. Instead I planted four Norway spruce, which are fast growing and hardy and will produce shelter and some food for both winter and summer birds, even if they are not native. This spring, I planted six Frasier Fir, more closely together, thinking that I could harvest every other one as a Christmas tree when they grow too large for the space I have provided.
To attract beneficial insects, as well as create a beautiful and colorful border around the front lawn where the children play, I am trying to incorporate native wildflowers with large flower heads and multiple flowers, to provide plentiful pollen, nectar and wide landing pads.
Winter is the time to plan and prepare, so I have ordered eleven shrubs to add to the living fence in the spring: six American Holly trees (Ilex opaca) and five additional female Winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillata). This year I also plan to introduce patches of poppies, buckwheat, yarrow and coreopsis. My goal is to have this garden firmly established, in its “final” borders, within the next five years. I posted a few pictures to show how pieces of the garden looked this year, winter and summer. It is difficult to capture the entire garden because it spans our entire piece of property along the road. If anyone on GT has had any experience with hedgerows or living fences to share, I would be interested in reading your stories.
-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout