What Are Hedgerows?

Dan Cavallari

Hedgerows are lines of shrubs or other plants that are planted closely together to form a line or row. These plants are usually used to form a border around a yard or other area, and they are commonly seen planted between closely spaced homes or along roadways. The particular types of shrubs or trees used to plant a hedgerow can vary according to the region in which the row is planted, as well as the planter's preferences. Some shrubs and trees lend themselves to such spacing better than others, however, so when considering planting such rows, it is important to research which plants will thrive in this configuration.

Hemlock can be used for hedgerows.
Hemlock can be used for hedgerows.

Upon planting, the hedgerows are designed to be formed into lines, and they can be run around corners or waves. Each individual shrub or tree is usually trimmed once it reaches a certain height to train the plants to maintain a certain size. Sometimes a shrub or tree is allowed to grow to full size to improve the aesthetic and soil stabilization of an area, though most of the shrubs and trees are height controlled. These hedgerows essentially form what is sometimes known as a living fence; full size trees with low-hanging branches can also form such living fences.

Maintaining hedgerows is a simple form of topiary, or shaping shrubs and trees into specific shapes. Topiary often involves forming shapes that resemble animals, but hedgerows are far simpler; the shrubs are usually pruned into box shapes, or even arches or rounded tops. In some cases, much larger shrubs can be pruned to allow entrances to driveways or walkways, forming a natural gateway or arch out of the large shrubs. The ends of the hedgerows can also be shaped to mark the end of the row or even a corner of two rows.

Some of the most common hedges used for planting a hedgerow include privet, beech, and hemlock, though several other types of plants can be used. The planter will often decide what type of aesthetic he or she wants and choose a plant accordingly; he or she must also consider which plants will thrive in a certain environment. Hedges are sometimes planted on mounds, which means certain plants are better suited for this application than others. Deep rooted shrubs can act as soil stabilizers, so areas that require such action will benefit from shrubs with longer, more copious root systems.

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