World of Hedges

Hedges are a staple in the classic landscape design. People love the flexibility of this foliage given that it can be shaped, trimmed and sculpted to fit almost any space. The resulting structures also offer an incredible amount of privacy and a considerable amount of shade. Surprisingly, they have also been used throughout the years in efforts to define property boundaries. Following is everything you’ve every wanted to know about the history of hedges.

Throughout the lowlands of England, hedges have been used as boundaries. As such, they serve both an aesthetic purpose and a very functional one. They also eliminate the need to do any underground trenching, such as what is typically performed during the construction and installation of a boundary fence. For centuries, large-size properties that had their own grassy knolls were essentially fenced in with shrubbery.

Given that larger tracts of land have always been equated with wealth, it is not uncommon for most estates to have gardeners, even if they have few other professionals on staff. In fact, hedges have been so important in this respect throughout history that most large-sized homes or manor were almost always built with gardeners’ quarters on-site. In terms of property maintenance, gardening was actually among the most critical roles.

Hedges or hedgerows have additionally served another purpose. More than being just a visible barrier, these also provide a surprising amount of protection, particularly when prickly species are planted. Hedges filled with thorns make a very formidable obstacle for trespassers and thus, beyond merely alerting people where boundary lines begin and end, a hedge can actually keep unwanted parties out.

This foliage was not systemically planted in England until the 13th century. The second of two major enclosure movements prompted these plantings to become a common practice, both for the purpose of defining properties and essentially barricading them in. In terms of systemic planting, hedgerows have been a key part of property preservation for more than 800 years and continue to this day to serve both protective, informative and functional purposes to this day.

One of the most surprising thing about the history of these plants is the fact that hedgerows dating several hundred years old are still alive and present this day. Given that these barricades are such an important part of English history, scientists have been looking for effective ways to date them. Unlike trees, it is not possible to simply hew them open and count the rings.

The current and most commonly used formula for dating old hedgerows is to determine the approximate number of plant species within them. Greater diversity is associated with lengthier histories and then comparisons are made between dated foliage and foliage that has a recorded or otherwise well-known lifespan. While apparently quite accurate in many instances, this method of dating hedgerows loses efficacy as gardeners become more adept in strategically integrating plant species to attain specific qualities.

The hedge has been used all throughout the world to create a sense of privacy on both large and small properties alike. What most people don’t know is that the thorny nature of this bush has made it a formidable wall of defense for many centuries. More surprisingly, some of these vast green walls are still present today and have histories that span numerous centuries.