A Deeply Rooted History

The use of hedgerows in farming dates back thousands of years, when walls of stone and plants were built to divide fields for cultivation. Some of the oldest surviving hedgerows are found in Cornwall, England, where some 30,000 miles of “hedge” (they expressly avoid the term “hedgerow” for their regional version of the structure) line the countryside, and many of these hedges are of ancient origin. Over time, land parceling and animal raising spawned numerous varieties of hedgerow designs throughout Britain, Ireland and much of Europe.

 

Hedge laying is a centuries-old art of manipulating hedgerow plants to mesh together by trimming and thinning branches and redirecting their growth to follow the course of the living wall. The result is an effectively continuous structure that can hold back the largest farm animals while at the same time providing a home for birds and beneficial insect populations. Hedgerows have also been used traditionally to line roadways and enclose private yards and residential properties. In formal gardens of the past, hedgerows were important design elements used to direct traffic and delineate space, as well as to create topiary and other decorative features.