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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?

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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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