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A Native Hawthorn Hedge

January 11th, 2012

“The beautiful Hawthorn, that has now put on
Its summer luxury of snowy wreaths,
Bending its branches in exuberant bloom,
While to the light enamour’d gale it breathes,
Rife as its loveliness, its rare perfume.
Glory of England’s landscape! Favourite tree
Of bard or lover! It flings far and free
Its grateful incense.”

William Howitt (from The Forest Minstrel)

(note – this is not a hawthorne hedge, but I didn’t have a photo)

I’ve mentioned my love of fences before. This past spring I was trying to figure out how to protect my garden from the deer that love my peas, beets, and other delicious homegrown organic vegetables. I would love to have a beautiful cedar fence surrounding the new garden, but I’d have to make it 8-10 ft tall to keep out the deer. Our homeowner’s association doesn’t allow fences over 3 ft tall and they have all kinds of other rules about them. Not to mention fences can be expensive!

After spending a lot of time last winter reading on permaculture, I decided a hedge would be a better option (my favorite book about it is: Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture). Permaculture focuses on using natural, native and beneficial ways to deal with the problems you have. For fencing, hedges are the best option since they can provide habitat for wildlife, food for birds, they help mitigate pollution and are much cheaper than fencing. Not to mention, there are hedging options that can provide you with food too!

After much deliberation, I settled on hawthorne as my hedge plant of choice. Why did I choose this particular plant over other options? The main reason was because it’s native to our area, and whenever possible I like to choose a native because I know they will thrive. Second, it provides lots of habitat and food for the wild birds, which is another one of the things I try to focus on when I choose plants. Thirdly, it’s an edible and medicinal shrub for humans. Here’s a great article at Way of the Wild Heart about the Hawthorne where you’ll find a lot of information about the uses of the hawthorne.

Last summer I planted about 200 hawthorne plants 2 feet apart around part of the new lower garden (my goal is to plant a few hundred more still). This coming spring, I’ll prune them low to the ground so they grow up nice and thick to provide a good fence alternative. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of these plants this past fall. They’re only 2-3 foot tall now and they turned a beautiful shade of orange/red.  A few of them still have a few leaves clinging to their branches. They will be stunning in fall when they’re 8 feet tall in 5 years or so.

Do you have any hedges in your garden? Have you ever considered installing one?

14 Comments to “A Native Hawthorn Hedge”
  1. daisy on January 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I would like to add a hedge rather than a fence as well, for all of the reasons you named. Our HOA allows fences or hedges up to 6 feet tall.
    Looking forward to seeing yours go skyward!

    Reply to daisy's comment

  2. K.B. on January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am

    The backyard will be fenced in, probably this spring (hedges may keep the deer out, but they do not keep the dogs in :) ), but I planted a lilac hedge (twice, don’t ask) in the front yard last year along one side, and will plant something else this year along the other.

    My house is on one side of the lot, so the “unplanted” side is waiting until I finish my plans for the garden in front of the house. But it will be something with great flowers, and hopefully something I can get food from – I’m thinking roses for rosehips for tea!

    Reply to K.B.'s comment

  3. Texan on January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

    That will be a wonderful fence for you. Going native good plan.

    Reply to Texan's comment

  4. Annette on January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

    From where did you purchase the Hawthorne? Your review helped us decided on what ‘tree’ to use for our perimeter ‘fence’ and when searching online, there are numerous places in the U.K.; did you find a U.S. source?

    Reply to Annette's comment

  5. DebbieB on January 11, 2012 at 11:58 am

    So I’m guessing that an 8 foot hedge (rather than fence) is ok with the homeowner association policies? I love the look of a tall thick hedge – it makes me think of beloved childhood books and hiding in the bushes behind my mother’s house to get away from my younger siblings. I used to read for hours in complete privacy (except for the sweet little birds who shared my haven).

    Reply to DebbieB's comment

    • Susy on January 11, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      Yes, they don’t care about hedges (ironic right). There are people out here with 30 ft hedges around their property!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. MAYBELLINE on January 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Hedges = boxwood
    I would like to start a hedge of Iceberg roses but will probably plant berries instead.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  7. goatpod2 on January 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    We have a lot of pines along our fence but no hedges in our gardens though.


    Reply to goatpod2's comment

  8. Sincerely, Emily on January 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    ah, fences. We have 5′ fence around back yard (yup – deer can still hop it) then the main garden is fenced and that works. The fence was here when we moved in so that was nice. Deer are a problem here (and they are beautiful to watch also) As I plant native things (Esperanza & flame acanthus) inside the fence it will be hard for deer to jump. Your hedges and fences will be naturally beautiful very soon.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  9. Jennifer Krieger on January 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Satisfaction multiplied: beauty, usefulness, and you outsmarted your HOA! I don’t know which would please me more.

    Reply to Jennifer Krieger's comment

  10. KimH on January 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    And that is the reason I would never live anywhere with a HOA. I know the pros, since both my sister & dad are/were the prez of their respective HOAs, but Im a totally different kind of bird. ;) I guess I’ve also been a little bit of a rebel and dont like to be told what I can or cant do.. ;)

    No real garden here, and no room either, so no hedge.. but where I grew up, we had a long beautiful hedge of bougainvillea. It grows thick and dense in the sub-tropics and is just beautiful. After my parents sold the house, the new owners ripped them all out along with many of the shade and fruit trees..

    I always dreamed of having a hedge of gardenia.. my favorite bush.. Yeah, I know.. not in Ohio.. but who knows.. I may find myself in the Valley again some day and its definitely doable there.

    Reply to KimH's comment

  11. judy meade on January 12, 2012 at 2:53 am

    Richard & I have been talking about fences for our garden. We got absolutely no corn last year. And the critters ate down some plants – plants came back but weren’t as good. Hawthorne hedges we never thought of. That may be a real good possibility for around part of the property and garden. Great Idea!

    Reply to judy meade's comment

  12. Secateurs on February 24, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Hawthornes are a member of the rose family, which is notoriously delicious to deer. Did you have any problems with browsing? They are also quite slow growing, so i would be conservative with your pruning until they have a couple of seasons on them…

    Reply to Secateurs's comment

    • Susy on February 24, 2013 at 9:23 am

      Actually I think the tenacious thorns keep the deer away. I have not trouble with them munching on the hawthorne. I have also not had trouble with them being slow growing. Mine have grown about a foot each year. I want to make to prune properly right off, that’s very important when you’re trying to use a hedge as a fence, otherwise you risk long main trunks without as much protection.

      Reply to Susy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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