What is a Hedgerow?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A hedgerow is a line of plantings which are trained to grow together to create a dense barrier known as a hedge. The practice of hedge laying is ancient, with evidence to suggest that neolithic humans were among the first to use hedges. Hedgers, professionals who specialize in laying hedges, are found primarily in Ireland and United Kingdom, although they work in other regions of the world as well.

Hedgerows can be used to contain livestock.
Hedgerows can be used to contain livestock.

Hedgerows can be made with trees, shrubs, plants, and grasses. A number of factors can dictate the materials used, including the purpose of the hedge, the climate, and the aesthetic preference of the person laying the hedge. Some hedges are hundreds of years old, requiring periodic relaying and maintenance. These examples of living history are under increasing threat, and some steps have been taken to protect them from destruction.

One of the most basic reasons to establish a hedgerow is to create a barrier, which may be symbolic or practical. Practical barriers can be used to contain livestock, while symbolic barriers might distinguish between property lines, or create a visible marking of some sort of boundary. People also install hedgerows for decorative purposes, as is especially common in formal gardens, where hedges may line many of the plantings.

In addition to acting as a barrier, a hedgerow can serve a number of other functions. The dense plant material acts as a habitat for many animals, birds, and insects, and the plants can also form a windbreak. Hedgerows contribute to erosion control by holding the soil in place, and they can reduce pollution of soil and waterways by trapping pollutants. They also make excellent noise barriers, especially when they are allowed to get large, and they can be useful in weed and invasive plant control.

There are many different styles of hedge laying. In all cases, it is important to establish a hedgerow correctly from the start, because if it is allowed to grow out of control or too quickly, it can develop gaps which will only widen over time. Experienced hedgers can use a variety of tricks to ensure that the plants grow as desired, and the hedgerow will also need maintenance such as trimming to help it keep its shape.

It can take some time for a hedgerow to grow to maturity, although some plants will grow faster than others. People who want hedges which will develop rapidly should consult experienced hedge layers and gardeners to find out which plants will grow quickly in their regions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


We live on a busy street and there is a hedgerow of trees between our property line and the street.

These were already planted when we moved to our house 15 years ago. While I like having the privacy from the busy street, I would have chosen something different than what was planted.

I wish we had torn them out and planted something else when they were smaller. Now they are huge and out of control. It is a big job to keep them pruned and maintained.

I am hesitant about getting rid of them now because they really are a nice barrier. I just wish they did not look so overgrown, and were not so hard to take care of.

If you are thinking about planting something for a nice hedgerow, make sure you do your homework. It is important to know what they will look like when they mature and how long it will take them to get to that point.


When we moved to our house, there was not much privacy and I wanted some hedgerow plants that were attractive and fast growing.

I could have put up a fence for privacy which would have been much quicker, but I like the look of a natural privacy barrier.

I planted several Rose of Sharon bushes along two sides of my property. These are moderately fast growing, and I love their beautiful blooms.

Even when they are not in bloom, they look nice and provide the privacy I was hoping for. Each bush can grow up to 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

It didn't take too many of them to get the look I wanted. Other than pruning them to keep their shape, they are easy to maintain.

It is so much nicer to look outside and see an attractive hedgerow than the neighbors stuff all over their yard.

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