When you live on slopes, fencing isn't a perfect system. In fact, once constructed you could be replacing the fence again in your lifetime. It won't be for over a decade or so, but during that time many fence repairs could be in order too. Persistent animals like to find weak spots in fencing and work on that area until it becomes the main access point. This exercise of repairing access holes (with new ones re-appearing elsewhere) can be tiresome.
We've had problems with our fencing on the side with neighbours who had dogs. They don't have them any more, but at the time it truly did demonstrate how fencing on slopes doesn't work as effectively as you'd hope it would. With every problem presented however, there's usually a more ingenious solution waiting to be discovered. Enter hedgerows!
So what is a hedgerow? Basically it's an old world technology - mostly adopted in European countries as a way of dividing pastures, and providing windbreaks. They also doubled as livestock food during winter, when the grass was often frost bitten. Hedgerows use to be all over Britain, until modernization came with the promise of forever fertilisers found in a chemical factory. Such a shame, because hedgerows were a permanent source of fertility already - given they attracted numerous colonies of small nesting birds every year, dumping their free fertility within the long expanse of hedgerows. Planted on slopes, gravity did the rest for spreading that fertility to the pastures.
Hedgerows, just seemed like the perfect option for fencing on our slopes - but we also wanted a thorny one to discourage persistent animals. I've done quite a bit of research, but eventually decided on (of all things) a rose!
This is a Tiger rose, we purchased from Brindabella Gardens. I originally wanted to go with a Rugosa Rose having read about their fearsome and hardy reputation, but after talking to the local rose expert who has been growing and supplying roses, specifically for humid climates for decades, we went with their recommendation of Tiger. You can read more about it here.
Just to show you how different each flower can be, here is one that looks more white, than yellow. Apparently heat is the factor which determines the degree of stripes - so the hotter the climate, the more stripes appear! I think this is a most excellent indicator to watch every growing season. Now originally, I wasn't looking for blooms. I didn't go looking for a pretty hedge. I even told the Nurseryman at Brindabella, this hedge will most likely be awfully abused. We may get to prune it back, once a year (maybe) and we won't be running water to it beyond the initial settling in period. He said the Tiger Rose is very much one of those plants that won't die if it's abused.
So we purchased five specimens and planted them one metre apart. This is on the property line of our other side neighbours, who don't seem to access their front yard very much - other than to enter their driveway. There's about forty metres between our property line and their driveway. We'd never plant a thorny hedge where we thought it would harm our neighbours. This is more for keeping the stray neighbourhood dogs out of our yard, and hopefully the hares. We're even going to put an access fence between the two yards, so our neighbour can still come through without being injured by the hedge, and also so we can tend the hedge on their side of the fence too.
The benefits of this hedgerow for our neighbour will be a gorgeous view when they enter their driveway, free roses (and hips) if they want to pick them, plus it will also serve as a windbreak for their two citrus trees. What's more, no cost to fence or periodic maintenance. This will be a much prettier divide of our yards, plus any fertility gathered will benefit both sides equally.
This fence won't be completely maintenance free, as we hope to give it a prune once a year - during winter, so we can see where all those thorns are! It also wasn't particularly cheap - for 5 metres of hedge we spent $150. We do have the option for propagating free specimens, which I'm already attempting, but the biggest bonus for spending around $30 a metre for fencing is that it will be a living fence. Without too much effort from us, it will maintain itself over time. I also wouldn't mind trying rose hip tea (which I hear is packed full of vitamin C) but I'd also like to try making rose hip jam too.
So much more fun planning for (and planting) a hedge, than it is to manually construct a fence and see how it stands over time. I won't be visiting this fence with a wrench to re-tension it, I'll take the pruners and basket to collect flowers and hips instead.
My recommendation if you're looking for a plant to use as a hedgerow, is hardiness for your climatic conditions. Speak to local nurseries for what particular plants have the least pest and disease problems too. You may not want a thorny hedgerow and you may want one for different reasons (maybe an edible fence) either way, I think hedgerows have many more purposes than the mere obvious ones and are worth investigating further. Our Tiger Rose hedge won't be the only plants we use for hedgerows here.
Has anyone else experimented with planting hedges, or lucky enough to have inherited a hedgerow themselves? What plants have worked and what hasn't?