Eat That Hedge!
We love the concept of edible hedges and landscapes. There many plants that are both ornamental edible, and also medicinal. The best of both worlds.
For years we’ve only planted for beauty and aesthetics, mainly because we live in the woods where it’s been too shady for a full on vegetable garden. But in the last couple years we finally cut down a few scrub pines to let in more light to make room for a vegetable garden. But beyond that, we’re really getting into planting edible plants whenever possible.
When the plant is beautiful and has food benefit, it’s a win. If that plant is lovely, can be eaten, AND has medicinal benefit, it’s a win-win-win! One of our favorite examples is nasturtiums. The plants are beautiful and the leaves and flowers are edible and add a zesty peppery flavor that spices up salads and sandwiches and compliments omelets beautifully.
When it comes to plants for hedges, there are many shrubs and trees that can be trained and pruned to be effective fences and hedgerows.
The Common Privet Hedge, Not Edible, but...
Okay, while the fast-growing privet hedge may not be edible, privet has benefits far beyond that of a privacy fence. More studies are needed for widespread acceptance in the west, but we believe there’s value in traditions that have stood the test of time, even if science hasn’t yet proven it. I mean… who would fund such a study?
Privet contains ligustrum, an active therapeutic compound and has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years! However, in the US, ingesting privet is advisable only under medical supervision. 1)https://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/herbs/privet.html 2)https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/ligustrum-lucidum
For some creative uses of privet hedges for fencing, and issues around taking care of them, you may enjoy this article from ThisOldHouse.com. 3)https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/privet-hedge
Purpose and Repurpose!
We’re all about leveraging time by planting perennials, when available, and multi-purposing whatever we can. So when we first saw examples of creative fencing using edible plants, trees and shrubs, we were intrigued to learn more and to try some.
Instead of building a fence… plant it and grow it!
When planting a hedge why not make it dual purpose and create an edible hedge? It will mark your boundaries, or block unsightly views plus give tasty treats and beautify. A win win situation!
If you’re tight on space and want to use as much of that space for growing food, all the more reason to plant edible hedges. While you’re at it why not consider putting in an edible ground cover too?!
This lovely English garden offers one example of the edible hedge concept. It’s not entirely an edible hedge or edible fence, but it’s so beautifully arranged where the edibles hug the perimeter walls surrounding the small lawn area blending flowers and staging plants by height from smallest in front to tallest in back. Smart, efficient and lovely!
Vertical gardening is another option for getting the most produce in the least space. We’ve written about “growing up”, in several other articles, so for now, we’ll get on with edible hedges!
Ideas for Growing Edible Hedges
Consider what purpose you need your edible hedges to serve.
- To keep out wildlife and dogs, select hedge plants with sharp thorns such as blackberry, gooseberry, and rugosa rose. Plant these thickly so they fill in quickly, forming an impenetrable wall.
- For an evergreen hedge that won’t lose its leaves. Depending on your area, these might include citrus, natal plum, sweet bay, and rosemary
- For edible berries, consider elderberry, blueberries, mahonia, blackberry or raspberry
- Edible vegetables might include asparagus, corn and sorghum
- Seasonal hedges can include beans, peas, squash and other vining vegetables, growing on attractive trellis fences that should be fine even for picky home owners associations.
- Nut bushes such as hazelnuts (filberts) make an attractive hedgerow
Espalier Fruit Trees for Fencing and Fruit
You can also train fruit trees into fences and hedges that make crossing difficult. Espalier and Belgium fences take apples, cherries, peach, figs, pear, and citrus trees and turn them into an edible fence that provides fruit and blocks a view or entrance. I still fondly remember the edible fences at Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello, Virginia that define the garden beds.
SOURCE: Charlie Nardozzi on Garden.org4)https://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=201110-edible-hedge
- Thick foliage
- Easy to grow
- Not disease prone
- Abundant fragrant blossoms
- Large rosehips packed with vitamin C
- Grows tall and wide – 4-8′ tall and 4-6′ wide
- Leaves and flower buds can be made into tea
- Rosehips can be made into jams and preserves, fruit leather and teas
- Rose petals are edible and favored for desserts, jams, honey fresh in salads
- Very thorny – need gloves to work with bush
- Very Invasive – spreads by rhizomes and runners
WARNING: While the rugosa rose has lovely, fragrant roses with highly beneficial rosehips, it’s a very invasive shrub. A highly determined grower, our rugosa rose bushes would love to take over our blueberry patch. Fiercely hardy and thorny, rugosas can be exceedingly difficult to get rid of, so take care on where you plant them, and consider some sort of barrier to keep rhizomes from spreading.
If you want the benefits with out the invasive concerns, you might try growing rosa rugosa in huge pots, such as are pictured in the image below.
You can find more here on Rosa rugosa.
Rugosa Rose – rose buds, petals, leaves and rosehips are all edible and medicinal.
Highbush Cranberry – Viburnum trilobum, crampbark
This native North American plant is self fruiting, disease and pest resistant and grows to 8–15 feet tall and 8–10 feet wide. Annual pruning is needed to maintain the desire size and shape. For a solid hedge, plant bushes in full sun to partial shade in rich and loamy soil, 2 to 3 feet apart.
A favorite for birds, the antioxidant-rich fruit, high in vitamin C is very tart. Reminiscent of cranberries in look and taste, this lovely red berry, is ready for an easy harvest in August, and is often sweetened and used in jams and sauces to be palatable. The viburnum bark contains a bitter compound called viburnine, and is an antispasmodic, used for centuries for relief of menstrual and stomach cramps and also asthma. 5)https://blog.emergencyoutdoors.com/edible-wild-plants-highbush-cranberry-viburnum-trilobum/
Another North American native, it thrives in acidic soil. Blueberries can tolerate soggy soils, but prefer well-drained sandy soils and full sun. For best results, plant at least 2 types of blueberries in the vicinity.
Blueberries grow to heights of 6 to 12 feet, making excellent windbreaks and privacy screen, when planted 2.5 to 3 feet apart.
Use finely ground sulfur if your soils are above the desired pH of 4.5 to 5.2. The plants need at least 1 inch of water weekly during the growing season, especially for the first couple years. Use peat moss or pine needles to help retain moisture and prune plants in late winter or early spring.6)https://gardensall.com/how-to-grow-blueberries/7)https://gardensall.com/3-easy-steps-to-healthier-blueberries-and-increased-production/
See more from Earth911.com.8)https://www.earth911.com/home-garden/make-your-urban-yard-the-envy-of-all-creatures-with-these-5-edible-hedges/
From the WaldenEffect.org
Nanking Cherries are shrubs or small trees growing 9-15 in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant 15 feet apart for trees, or 4 feet apart for hedges. You’ll need to plant more than one Nanking Cherry for cross-pollination. Place them in an area with full sun and well-drained soil.9)https://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Nanking_Cherry:_Prunus_tomentosa/
More Edible Hedges
from Charlie Nardozzi, of Garden.org
Asparagus is a perennial that takes 3 years to produce food, but continues producing 20 years or more thereafter.
For a seasonal edible hedge, the wispy ferns of the asparagus plant make a beautiful landscape feature when the ferns are allowed to grow after harvest. However the asparagus frond must be propped up with some kind of fencing or other support and they will turn brown and need to be cut back winter.
A perennial, asparagus should be planted with care since it will take three years in the landscape to start producing edible spears. While you have to be patient, after the first three year wait, asparagus can produce for 20 more years or more as a permanent planting.
After harvesting the asparagus spears, the ferns continue to grow tall and wispy throughout the season, but will need a little fencing support to prop them upright.
As an edible hedge, asparagus needs support and will die back in winter.
Hardy to USDA zone 7, in warm areas rosemary makes a great low growing, 3-5-foot tall hedge. The rosemary bush grows densely, produces beautiful blue flowers, wispy foliage and a memorable scent.
Nut bushes, such as filberts and hazelnuts, make an attractive hedgerow while providing edible nuts for people and wildlife.10)https://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=201110-edible-hedge
You can try espaliering any fruit or nut tree onto a fence or wall for your edible hedge. For more on espalier, you may enjoy perusing EspalierTrees.com.11)https://www.espaliertrees.com/
In closing, back to the Willow Whip Fence—while the inner bark is edible after boiling, that isn’t the best feature of this plant.
Willow whip is a very popular fencing topic when we share it on the Gardens All Facebook Page, and has the added benefit of being used for energy in the UK.12)https://www.energysavingcommunity.co.uk/coppiced-willow-for-energy.html Here’s a site with loads of info and images of all kinds of willow whip fences. 13)https://www.inspirationgreen.com/living-willow-hedges.html
Willow for Biomass and Medicine
But there’s more potential benefits to growing willow. Willow is a fast growing tree crop that can be harvested multiple times before replanting, and can be used medicinally for the aspirin component, salicin, as well as for biomass. So if you’re looking for a crop to grow that has multiple benefits and purposes, you might look into willow trees! 14)https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201301598437
And… if you want more on how to create these fences, you may enjoy this espalier video.
The Art of Espalier
Cover photo source via Flickr hapsnaps15)https://www.flickr.com/photos/hapsnaps/
Enjoy growing edible hedges and landscape!
I’m LeAura Alderson, entrepreneur, ideator, media publisher, writer and editor of GardensAll.com. Pursuits in recent years have been more planting seeds of ideas for business growth more than gardening. However, I’ve always kept plants, been interested in medicinal herbs and nutrition and healing from food over pharmacy. I assist in our family gardening projects primarily (at present) through the sharing of information through our websites and newsletters.
As a family we’re steadily expanding our gardening, experimentation and knowledge around all things gardening, edible landscaping, fresh organic foods and self sustainability and hopefully, farming in our future. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the creative ingenuity of the GardensAll community. I also own and manage theiCreateDaily.com.
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