Planting and managing European-style hedgerows ('living fences') with a North American twist
What are European-style hedgerows?
Its thought these hedgerows have arisen from the use by early humans of thorny plants for corralling livestock using ‘dead hedges’. With the advent of agriculture, clearance of woodland created fields with tree & shrub boundaries that were managed to create livestock-proof ‘living fences'. Since the days of the Roman Empire in Europe hedgerows have been planted, reaching their peak in England during the enclosure acts of the 1700-1800s. They differ from most North American hedgerows because of the management required to keep them dense and relatively low (1.2-3m approx.)
Typical Lifecycle of a Hedgerow
The hedgerow management cycle is explained in more detail in this video from the People Trust for Endangered Species
As well as being used for livestock protection, they have many other beneficial uses: protecting soil from wind erosion; homes for insect predators of crop pests; water regulation and natural flood management; wood fuel; and foraging. They are massively important for over 2000 species of plants and animals especially in agricultural areas.
Hedgerows can be single species but are best with a diversity of plants. Planting is usually very dense in a double line spaced 40cm (16in) apart with plants in a staggered pattern at 30cm (12in), giving 5 plants per metre.
Hedgerows are composed of living shrubs which will grow and need management. There is a balance which needs to be found between allowing shrubs to grow and keeping the hedge from becoming a line of trees , developing gaps and eventually becoming useless.
Hedges can be cut to slow their growth but annual cutting can limit flower production and limit the development of fruits, berries & seeds. Annual cutting also stresses and can kill plants eventually. Cutting every 2/3 years, increasing the cut height by a few inches every time has been shown to maintain the health of the hedge
As a hedgerow grows, the shrubs will thicken and become gappy at the base. At some point it will be necessary to rejuvenate the hedge which can be achieved by coppicing-cutting the hedge down and allowing them to regrow., however during this time it cannot function as a hedge. The practice of Hedgelaying has evolved to rejuvenate a hedge while still maintaining a stock-proof structure.
Hedgelaying is a catch-all term used to describe the rejuvenation of a hedge from the base by cutting and 'laying-over’ of the shrub. There are many different styles of hedgelaying throughout the world. In some styles wooden stakes are positioned at intervals along the hedge and long ‘binders’ are woven in across the top to give the hedge strength
Case Study 4: Albion Hills Hedgerow Planting (as HOL* Project with TRCA)
Case Study 5: Morris-Hannah Hedgerow Planting, Caledon (HOL* Project with CVC)
*The Hedgelaying in the Ontario Landscape Project at the University of Waterloo
Our services include:
Hedgerow survey and management planning
Hedgerow design and planting from garden sites to whole landscapes
Hedgerow management- cutting, hedgelaying and coppicing
Talks and other educational projects
Please contact us to discuss your needs:
The Hedgerow Co. is owned and managed by Jim Jones and Sarah Dolamore and is based at Mount Wolfe Farm in Caledon, Ontario. It is a business venture that has emerged from the Hedgelaying in the Ontario Landscape Project
Jim Jones is an ecologist with 20 years experience in the UK conservation sector where he specialised in landscape conservation and citizen science. His first professional experience of hedgerows was with the Hedgerows for Dormice Project which created and managed hedgerows for the endangered hazel dormouse. He began hedgelaying first with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and later with the South of England Hedgelaying Society. he has been a member of Hedgelink, the UK Technical Advisory Group on hedgerows since 2019. In 2016 he was was invited by the University of Waterloo, along with two professional hedgelayers- Nigel Adams and Jef Gielen-from the UK and Netherlands, to give a series of presentations on the benefits of hedgerows and give practical hedgelaying demonstrations, including at Mount Wolfe Farm where Jim and Sarah first met. In 2018 he returned to manage the Hedgelaying in the Ontario Landscape Project for the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR).
Sarah Dolamore is the Farm Manager at the family-run Mount Wolfe Farm. Originally trained as a visual artist (University of Guelph). Sarah decided to become the first of the three generations of her family living at Mount Wolfe to farm. As well as managing an all-year Community-Supported Agriculture service she also runs Mount Wolfe Branch Supply, delivering plant material to The Local Flower Collective in Toronto. Sarah learned hedgelaying from professional Nigel Adams whilst on a trip to England in 2017