Wildlife Attracting Hedgerows

Azaleas, Arborvitae, Bamboo, Boxwood, Yews, Ligustrum, Viburnum, and Oleander are readily available for hedges in landscape design. By adding a mix of trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers, the hedge becomes wildlife, attracting hedgerows while providing beauty, obstructing views, enhancing privacy, and a host of area ecological benefits.

The word hedge, translated from its Old English root word, means enclosure. “Hedges have formed a part of our gardens for at least 2,000 years,” according to the Financial Times. “Among the earliest examples are those used in the landscaping of Roman villas.” Hedgerows consisting of plants anchored together forming living walls were widely used in the United Kingdom for hundreds of years. Still, they waned in popularity after WWII with the rise of industrial farming practices. “Symbolic of the English countryside and teeming with life, there are over 30 different regional styles of hedgerow in the UK,” according to Seedlipdrinks UK. “A border, a boundary, a home, and even a fruit basket, in late Spring, these iconic landmarks come into their own as bright young leaves sprout from bare branches and the first wildflowers appear.”

Americans don’t have this rich history with hedgerows. “Hedgerow plantings were uncommon in the early United States,” according to Oregon State University. “In the 1930s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Shelterbelt Program briefly supported planting trees for windbreaks to prevent soil erosion in the Midwest. Today, as interest surges in sustainable farming methods, more people are turning to this age-old practice.” Government agencies, NGOs, and educational institutions now guide Americans on creating wildlife attracting hedgerows that serve as habitats and corridors while preventing erosion and improving soil conditions.

“Hedgerows certainly will have a natural, informal look, but it’s still important to keep aesthetics in mind,” according to the American Horticultural Society. “Year-round landscape interest can be achieved by selecting plants with attributes that span the seasons. Plants that flower and fruit at different times of the year not only help sustain wildlife, they add pops of seasonal color. Many wildlife-friendly plants contribute textural contrasts to the landscape, while others offer colorful fall foliage or attractive bark for winter interest. Repetition—repeating plants or colors within the hedgerow, or using hedgerow plants in other parts of the landscape—helps create visual flow and harmony within the landscape. Mass plantings or large drifts of color also help unify the space.”

While there are no regional styles of hedgerows that require you to arrange your collection of plants in a particular manner, there are available suggestions. “The most common planting plan is the double line. It is important to offset the 2 rows to give the necessary even distribution of plants along the mature hedge line,” according to Pierce Conservation District. “There are no hard and fast rules for determining the planting space for hedgerows; this depends on the plant selection. For a tight stock-proof hedge, spacing can be as close as 8 -12 inches apart. A good “backbone” plant, which will constitute 60 – 70% of the hedgerow should be among your initial selections. Choose a plant with a good growth rate, resilience to severe pruning, and thorny growth for good stock-proofing capabilities. Once a backbone plant is selected, adding 4-6 additional shrubs or small trees will add value as wildlife habitat as well as reduce any gaps resulting from a particular species dying out.”

Many of the hedgerows around us may have been created by accident within informal gardens as layers of plantings that provide habitat and food for pollinators, birds, amphibians, reptiles and a mammal or two. If interested in creating or adding to your own wildlife attracting hedgerows book a consult with an Earth Works Landscape Designer. Visit our garden center and a garden guide will assist you with a mix of plants for hedgerows in Northeast Florida.

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden and landscaping need contact Earth Works of Jacksonville online and at 904-996-0712.
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