Hedge rows in zone 4b

I love the looks of English hedges and >really< love the idea of another barrier to deer infiltration.

I’ve been pondering starting some hedgerows and wonder if others have given it a shot in colder climates. If so, what species have you started that are economical and relatively fast growing.

My first two candidates are black locust and poplar. The locust seems like a good idea early, with the thorns, but may get unworkable quickly. Then again, I’ll be lucky to be on the planet for 30 years, so maybe I shouldn’t worry about hedgerow maintenance 15-20 years out?

All thoughts welcome!

I built my wall with green giants. They grow pretty quick and I like the way they look. The skirt goes all the way to the ground and forms a thick wall. For deer it is all about if they can see it and these block all sight. Mine are about five years old and each is between 15-25 feet tall.

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I got into planting a hedgerow on my road frontage a couple years back and put in a number of different species. Are you planning to “lay “ your hedge? Black locust and poplar both send up root suckers that can occur some distance away from the tree, so there may be some maintenance issues with this down the line. Hawthorne seems pretty ideal if it’s thorns you want. I wanted high diversity so I planted out 12 or so dif species


LT I think i’d look at shrubbery rather than trees.
I’m not sure what to recommend for zone 4.

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The joke about Osage Orange as a hedge (if there was anything funny about it) was that proponents claimed it would grow sideways along the fence row without encroaching on cultivated land.


Part of what I like about BL and poplar is that they will sucker. If I try to lay down some trees and fail on the aggressive side, they’ll regrow. As for spreading, I’d expect to have to give the perimeter a solid brush-hogging every year or so to keep it in check.

Shrubs? They will definitely be part of the plan, but with poor soil in a short growing season, they’ll likely only be allowed a small spot in the interior of other, larger, faster growing species.

I’d love to put Osage orange in, but I think they don’t much care for zones this cold. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll give em a shot!

Contradictory info on Osage orange climate zones. Some places say Z5, others Z4. Also, found a seed source that’s really reasonable. I might just throw a few bucks at some and see what happens!

I searched for deer issues. I can find info about deer eating the fruit, but not the trees themselves. Anyone have experience/knowledge on this?

Norway spruce is the fastest growing evergreen i know and you can cut the hell out of them and they will bounce right back. they are used for windbreaks along roads through fields here. i don’t think they have and bug issues either i bet you could get some trees for free through soil conservation office. if not cold stream farm out of M.I has them pretty cheap in all sizes.

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I did my place in Picea omorika (Serbian spruce) and Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis. They both grow at near the same rate with the fir (Canaan) growing slightly quicker. You should space these two species (not on a straight line like someone like myself or Bob would do with Green Giant or other Arb’s typically used for straight lines) - these about 3-5 meters if you want to do it correct. I mean I spaced em’ further but I’m a space it kind of freak when it comes to my true arboretum I plant on. I spaced an oak so it had 60-70 ft. to spread for it’s lifetime before it hits the next thing it’s gonna touch, so, I have my “space” hammer on the table at all times to remind myself that all plants get BIG. I never forget it while I’m out planting. Never.

Picea omorika is the most beautiful of the spruces while Mooseman and I realize that Norway is very beautiful and it IS thee one for fast-ness, for sure. You can overplant Norway spruces (I’ve seen it done) where the person planted them 6-8’ apart and the skirt was still… on the ground.

Canaan fir is for the hottest areas or (cool) where pushing the limit for a fir is done. I live about 60-miles north of where firs begin to struggle in IL.

Picea omorika has needles that show the undersides where the blue line of stomata and silver is present whereas the needle top is completely green. That’s the attraction for Serbian spruce. It also tolerates hot climates very well and it grows naturally in the cool-high elevation mountainous region areas. Humidity is never a problem with Serbian spruce even while its’ natural habitat is more that of the Coastal Redwood’s.

I have a row of Green Giant’s spaced 12 to 15 ft. apart that I didn’t use a tape for. At 11-years of growth from a short bareroot tree 2-3’ are now huge. They are all touching and their beauty has been enhanced 10-fold because I spaced them further apart than is recommended. They will grow to show enormity vs “a wall” throughout their life.

If you need 8’ width and GIANT speed, grow ‘Hetz Wintergreen’ thuja’s/Arborvitae. Space them at 8’ apart if you have the guts. Mine are at 8’ and now touching at 11-years from a 5" cutting with the same in-length root.



Have you tried white fir, Dax? (Concolor fir.). Hard to find anyone growing, but they have always lived and somewhat resemble a Blue Spruce but are prettier. Hemlocks are probably my preferred screening tree…but I don’t like the idea of constant shearing to keep it into a ‘hedge’ shape.

Green Giants were deer candy on my old place

My fence line wind breaker is combination of blue/Norway spruce, pine, sweet gum and tulip trees.

The two tulip trees did not survive because of the huge deer pressure. I also lose a couple trees due to hurricanes. I think all these just thin the trees and other fill in rather quickly. Sweet gum sent a lot of suckers/ seedlings. I’m going to dig up some and fill in the single empty area. Then put on some deer protection.

White fir is excellent. Canaan fit the plan better and grows more quickly. I’d have to say that White fir is one of the most beautiful trees/firs there are. Firs are the royalty of conifers.


balsam fir are a nice fir as well but slower growing. they are planted for x ams trees by the thousands here. hazelnuts make a great summer hedge and grow pretty quickly and tolerate some shade from bigger trees. my uncle has a strip between 2 fields in his back 40 that he planted white birch underplanted with hazels. it looks real nice and he gets lots of nuts when he controls the squirrel/ chipmunk populations.


I transplanted some small black locusts from the woods two years ago and they grew well. The suckers are easy to mow off. I tried digging around some to transplant later, as I’ve done with AmeriPlums, and they all died. Assume living off the mother tree and no roots of their own yet. A root cutting done spring of last year also grew well but, of course, slower - about 1 1/2 ft now. This are in my orchard rows and I’ll keep them down to 12 ft like my trees.

I started a windbreak slast year after we cut down a large white pine leaving a big opening to NE winds. Trees/bushes from the local Soil Conservation Service were quite inexpensive. I didn’t want a solid wall which I assume you don’t either given your choice of Black Locust and Poplar. The Mountain Ash is growing fastest (they were all small seedlings), transplanted local juneberries doing well, Winterberry slowest. American Cranberry in between. Autumn Olive is good, making large wide thorny bushes if they don’t get winterkilled. Maybe between your trees if you already have them in your area. We have lots; I just transplant where I want them (and prune out lots that are where I don’t!). Lilacs are easy to transplant and readily available if you or someone has an older patch. Pea shrubs are real nice once they get larger but quite slow to grow. Aronia grows fast.

Seedling crabs are good, too. They can make a dense barrier (and are a bear to thin out!!) though they aren’t real fast growers. But I’ve transplanted some fairly good sized ones (4 ft) with success. If you have some around or can get from your SCD they’re inexpensive. You’ll probably find all sorts of things to plant between your trees once it’s on your mind. And it’s fun! Sue


my pea shrubs grown from seed grew 3ft. in one summer in crappy gravel mix here. i grew 3 and all are about the same size. was amazed how fast they grew. do they slow down as they get bigger? i have them growing around the chicken run which is on loose gravel.

We call them caragana up here on the Canadian prairie. They thrive best in poor, dry soil. Three feet in a year is the best they will do. They never get over 20 feet tall(they start to fall over) and 15 feet tall is more common in our climate. They have fallen out of favour a little bit over the years, but in our dry windy environment I would always plant them as the outside row of a windbreak. They will drown in moist soil, so your gravel is perfect. Every 30 plus years they need to be rejuvenated, which means hacking everything down close to ground level. Strategically all of my caraganas will be rejuvenated before my last child moves out. I’m told that in areas with lighter soil, but adequate/timely moisture caragana can be invasive.


They are considered invasive in MN and cannot be legally bought or planted here.

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Uh, whatever you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you. IMNSHO, Osage Orange is severely invasive in the lower Midwest. I’m going to quote a few stanzas from the Wikipedia Article.

Due to its latex secretions and woody pulp, the fruit is typically not eaten by humans and rarely by foraging animals…

That is to say, even though the large fruit are attractive to look at, they are disgusting to handle and have no economic value as a crop.

The distinctive fruit, from a multiple fruit family, is roughly spherical, bumpy, 8 to 15 centimetres (3–6 in) in diameter, and turns bright yellow-green in the fall.

Nuh, uh. They get a lot bigger than that!

Story Time: My Dad’s father worked for the state of Indiana as an insurance inspector. He was in Texas, auditing the books of an insurance company there that did business in Indiana, when he called us on the phone. We didn’t have a phone at the time, but the Bell Operator in our West Central Indiana town forwarded us his message. We were to find the hugest, heaviest, grossest hedge apple in the county and mail it to him at such and such an address in Texas, which we duly did. Apparently the Texas firm had denied a claim for double indemnity for accidental death due to a hedge apple. A group of Hoosier thugs hurled a hedge apple at an elderly woman sitting on her front porch. The impact crushed her chest and killed her. I guess the perpetrators for whatever reason couldn’t be found or prosecuted. There was no judicial ruling, and the Texas firm didn’t feel they ought to have to abide by the coroner’s report. They didn’t believe you could die from getting hit with an apple. They were wrong of course.

Osage Orange was brought back from the brink of extinction by westward European settlement, which demanded cheap fencing.

By providing a barrier that was “horse-high, bull-strong, and pig-tight,” Osage orange hedges provided the “crucial stop-gap measure for westward expansion until the introduction of barbed wire a few decades later.”

The reason barbed wire is so much preferable to Osage Orange, which is after all endlessly renewable, is that the barbs don’t go as deep as hedge thorns. A hedge thorn will puncture a tractor tire. This is an all too common repair for farmers who tolerate Osage Orange in their fence rows. Most others will consider the expense of bulldozing it out worthwhile.

I should mention that bulldozing doesn’t kill it but spreads it. This is, however, the only practical way to begin getting rid of it because the wood is hard and practically unworkable and trunks of any size can barely be cut down. Successful eradication depends on years of diligent follow up with chain saws and chemical stump killers.

The plant has significant potential to invade unmanaged habitats.

This is an understatement!

Meriwether Lewis was told that the people of the Osage Nation, “So much … esteem the wood of this tree for the purpose of making their bows, that they travel many hundreds of miles in quest of it.”

… not that it doesn’t grow abundantly, but specimens that grow straight enough to be useful are exceedingly rare.

[Hedge] was one of the primary trees used in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Great Plains ShelterbeltWPA project, which was launched in 1934 as an ambitious plan to modify weather and prevent soil erosion in the Great Plains states, and by 1942 resulted in the planting of 30,233 shelterbelts containing 220 million trees that stretched for 18,600 miles (29,900 km).

My Dad blamed FDR for many things. Propagating hedge was not the least of them.

Unlike many woods, Osage orange wood is durable, making good fence posts. They are generally set up green because the dried wood is too hard to reliably accept the staples used to attach the fencing to the posts.

Here I invite you to read between the lines. What exactly do you do with it when you’re done with it? The wood is effectively non-biodegradable and, contrary to the impression left by the text of the article, will hardly catch fire at all.

In sum, my recommendation to you about planting Osage Orange is, “Don’t do it…” unless you get one of the thornless cultivars, and even then I’d want the first-hand advice of someone who had.

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I have communicated with a guy in KS who only burns Hedge for firepit wood as well as in his fireplace/wood burner. It burns very well for him.

This article would seem to back up that notion Osage Orange Firewood - Burning Hedge Trees.