Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hedgerows

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?

14 comments:

  1. I love this post and what gorgeous roses! I had read somewhere that you can also change the color of a rose by controlling acidity in the soil but I don't recall where I read it or how it was done.

    We have a semi hedgerow of peony out near the border of our land that I would like to add too. its not in an area where wild animals come but one thing I like about hedgerows is how thick they are and how useful they can be. For example-they can be a fence but if you want to encourage wildlife you can plant low laying bushes for shelter or you can do some decorative or some food. Some plant food for unwanted wildlife on the outside of the hedge and food for themselves on the inside. On and on.
    I think its a marvelous idea in place of a non organic fence!

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  2. What a great idea! We are in the midst of planting a lilly pilly hedge to give us some privacy from the road at the front and the neighbours on one side. I'm betting it won't be as pretty as yours though!

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  3. Hi LindaM, peony's have lovely big flower heads. Is your's a herbatious or tree peony? I too love how hedgerows can be thick and tangled, I believe that is the true hedgerow.

    Our Tiger roses are more just a hedge at this stage, but we'll incorporate some groundcover plants later on. Unfortunately roses don't fancy too much competition from tree roots, so we'll save our experimentation with the true hedgerows in another section.

    You shouldn't have too much trouble incorporating more plants with your peony though. As long as you don't cultivate around the roots much, as I hear they don't like it. I think your idea of layering within the hedgerow itself is a good one. Lots of plants mingled together, all protecting one another and the animals which feed there too.

    Sometimes the biggest issue is just getting hold of the plant stock, without breaking the bank.

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  4. Rinelle, your lilly pilly hedge is just the thing for attracting native birds, and should be perfect for your area. Many of them are vigorous growers too.

    We've had lovely success with Lilly Pilly "Cascade" and I read they have lovely big berries too, which ours is yet to produce. Maybe this year?

    Have you thought about mixing other plants on the edges of the Lilly Pilly's? The native rosemary or Westringa's are great, as are the correa's. The honey eaters love the green bells of the correa flowers, plus they flower in winter.

    Even better, many banksias are winter flowering too and the honey eaters absolutely love them!

    Now you've got me thinking about a native hedgerow too, LOL. ;)

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  5. Breaking the bank has been what has been stopping us. I'm hoping to be able to transplant berries over by the peony which are herbaceous not tree peony. Somebody had interplanted iris there too so we have color and beauty already. We have a wild thorny berry that takes over quickly growing where we would rather it didn't but we also don't want to let it grown out of control so we have to be careful.

    I think some of the wild roses don't mind competition but cultivated ones certainly are sensitive to the issue. I have a rambling rose in my overgrown herb garden that hasn't minded sage, lemon balm, calendula and feverfew plus native noxious weeds trying to take it over. We have tea roses in there too that continue to thrive despite competition. We will be transplanting these in the spring to another herb garden-where they can form a border (not the rambler-that one needs a special place). I think it just depends on the species though. I think my roses were hybrids grafted onto older roses that are hardier for my area so they know how to survive a bit of overcrowding.

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  6. That's what I read too, about the wilder varieties of roses being more adaptable to competition. It's one of the reasons I wanted to go with a Rugosa Rose originally. I've tracked down where I can buy one now, but it's mail order and I'll have to wait until winter to receive it.

    I'm curious to know how you've gone with your rambling rose. Does it need much maintenance (pruning/feeding/watering) or does it throw up a lot of nuisance suckers?

    Creep, is an issue for why I went with the standard bush rose, as it doesn't send up suckers like some roses can. When I plant a thorny rose on a slope, I don't want to have to be maintaining it more than once a year. It becomes too much of a safety issue with thorns and the effects of gravity, LOL.

    Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever keep roses, because they have a reputation for being fussy. But I must admit to reading a lot of rose catalogues now, and dream of my next victim...I mean, specimen. ;)

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  7. Chris
    I don't know what to tell you about my rambler. It is planted in the midst of the thorniest thistle a person can imagine and its thorny too. I am waiting till spring to go and see if I can get rid of the thistles when the their prickles are really dead first then inspect the rose itself. Its too painful to take a closer look right now.
    The first year we planted it though, it was more bush like in its growth and I thought it had been mislabeled. Then this spring, it just went insane with growth-its second year. If I dared to lift it to measure it-it would be about 5 feet of canes (it broke free of the trellis and is lying there over my herbs).
    From quick observation, I don't think it sent out suckers. First year we pampered it, this year we abandoned it along with the rest of the herb garden due to severe weed invasion and not having time to deal with that area at all.
    We had drenching rains and then long periods of severe heat and no rain but humidity. Its very hardy.
    The area its planted in is compacted clay topped with cardboard and compost. The cardboard isn't totally broken down.
    I might be able to find the nursery label for it somewhere around here and give you more specific information if I do and I will try to write a post about it when I salvage the herb garden next spring. Right now, I have the situation you fear-dangerous territory-but not due to the rose itself but the horrific thistles-thorns are 2 inches long on those! LOL!

    I used to think roses were irrelevant and more about commercial romance issues but then I started to read about them and now I hope to keep planting them for their medicinal value.

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  8. Thanks for that info, I suspect a rambler on slopes could become an issue. There are so many different sorts of roses, so I'm learning what attributes each one can bring.

    So far I know bush roses grow in a bush shape, ramblers grow everywhere, floribundas grow like a bush, but have double clusters instead of single ones (I think), I'm not sure what the difference between a climbing rose and a rambler is? Then there are miniature roses and ground covers.

    So much to learn, but I think many of the wilder varieties and those bred for hardier conditions are the kinds of roses you shouldn't (in theory) have too many problems with.

    Look forward to what you write about your rambler in future. :)

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  9. Tree roses are another but I think these are rare. They are grafted on the top end of a healthy strong cane. I'd love to have those.
    I looked up the rambler vs. the climber. The book I have didn't elaborate on the differences but it looks like the rambler might divide through its canes, planting itself along as it grows, while the climber just grows longer canes and needs support?
    Ramblers bloom once a year according to the same book. Climbers can vary.

    I think mine is a rambler but I'm not certain now. The book I have states that ramblers are excellent for slopes but that the roots have to be surrounded by rocks to prevent wash off of the soil during wet times. Thats all it says.

    Its a fascinating topic! I now have a nice winter dream to sustain me through the next few months!

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  10. Yep, I'm planning on adding some other plants in layers around the lilly pilly's once they're established. They're only tubestock at the moment, so I want to give them a bit of a chance to get going before I put in any competition. I'm thinking more of a cottage style garden in that area though I think. We're trying to keep the plants pretty small there, as there is a limited amount of room between the front fence and the house.

    At the back side though, we're growing quite a selection of natives. Most of them I don't even know the names off, LOL. The native birds do love that area though, especially for the pidgeon peas (not native obviously).

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  11. Your plans for the garden sound gorgeous Rinelle - complete with resident birds. You must be doing something really well. :)

    We've noticed some of the parrots love the pigeons peas here too - but then they have a lot of their native foods too, they can afford to be picky. The gallahs and rosellas mainly love the black wattle seeds, which is indigenous to this area. We didn't plant them here, they came with the territory, LOL.

    A cottage garden would be great and I know the kangaroo paws and paper daisy's (both natives) love to sprawl underneath shrubs and trees. But then you might want to go with herbs or gorgeous lavenders, which hardly need watering at all.

    There's always such anticipation when it comes to planning a new garden. All those lovely possibilities. :)

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  12. I agree with you LindaM, roses can be addictive because they're oh-so fascinating. I'm sure cold winters are what caused people to fall in love with roses, simply because some of the blooms and perfumes are worth waiting the dormancy period for.

    Thanks for the info on ramblers vs climbers. I read something similar recently, only it suggested climbers are better at being trained over structures, while ramblers threaten to smother them, LOL.

    Just a question with your rambler though. Do you think you'll need to deal with the thistles this year, once the rambler wakes up and starts growing? I was wondering if the thistles only popped up because you would've disturbed the soil planting the rambler.

    It takes a good growing year or two for plants to take over a weedy area. They just grow so well that it shades out the weeds!

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  13. Chris, one book on my reading list is "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollen. I think there is also a movie which I have seen trailers for. In the trailers he talks about why a plant might "seduce" the human population and it comes down to survival of the plant. The rose is intoxicating in many ways-its the symbol of romance, its useful. That is how it kept itself alive. Its all very interesting.

    As to my thistle-Garry thinks its because we bought cheap compost when we started to rehab the area.It had lots of seeds in it that we were unaware of. This is the only area we struggle so much against these types of weeds. Its going to be years before we can tame it. What we think we will do is remove the plants we value and dig a pond there instead:) Or let it go wild and release some sheep in there to forage......but we will not be playing around with it anymore because of the time factor-it needs constant attention.

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  14. LindaM, that has happened here too with cheap landfill. We had it dumped, moved it around and then a plethora of weeds sprung up.

    Because it was on a slope we didn't mind the weeds moving in to hold the ground together. What we found is the best method for eradicating them is mowing. It feeds the grass which will grow in the residue of the weeds. Also weeds won't grow in their own residue after a period of building up.

    What we found entrenchs the weeds is when we constantly pulled them up. So I think your method of let them go, will work in the end, plus save your backs from a lot of unnecessary work!

    Slashing them ensures they won't reseed though. ;)

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