Planning a fruit and nut bearing hedge

I’m probably starting to develop a bit of a reputation around here for being into some odd topics. But - here we go, anyway.

My husband and I own 10 acres that we’re gradually trying to mold into a little independent farmstead. Part of this plan involves the installation of a British-style laid hedge along the North and East boundaries. Toward that end, I have been studying the usual sources. I’d intended to go to a workshop last Spring, which will hopefully be rescheduled when travel is a good option again. (As a small aside, Dr. Jim Jones has relocated from the UK to Ontario and is trying to kickstart a North American Hedgelaying Society).

But laying the hedge will come a while down the road. First will come planting. So, what sorts of native plants would be useful and appropriate in this application?

Some parameters for the hedge:

I would like it to eventually be able to contain at least sheep.

I’d also like it to serve as a source of forage for both us and wildlife.

I would like to NOT have to worry excessively about it housing diseases that would spread to my fruit trees, other plants, or the 700+ black walnut trees.

I would like for this not to cost the Earth, even though I need quite a bit of biologic material to make it go. I’m fine with using small whips and waiting for them to grow large enough to lay the hedge. And I intend to plant a double row, so a little die-off shouldn’t put enormous holes in it, especially if it happens early and I can fill in.

I’m pretty confident that the bird will sit in it and “plant” plenty of wild raspberries, so I wasn’t intending to start with any deliberately place unless there are specific varieties you feel would be a big bonus.

While British hedges tend to be only laid, and those hedges left on the continent are primarily only coppiced, I keep tripping over references to laid and coppiced hedges. I’d like to try to find out more about and possible revive this technique. So, consider also trees that could be incorporated as coppice or pollard specimens within the hedge. I’m already planning pollarded ash trees both as part of a silvopasture system and as tree hay.

Extra bonus points for plants like Holly that can both be useful in a hedge and cut to bring inside for decoration.

No to the idea of Osage Orange. Also no Autumn/Russian olives. They’re an invasive here, and I already have a battle on my hands to reclaim much of the rest of the meadow from them. Plus they’re brittle, which would seem like an advantage to getting rid of them, but not so much.

What species do you recommend? Are there particular concerns? Specific varieties that are disease or pest resistant? Sources for buying them in quantity?


I would go native as much as you possibly can.

In my wooded area, the most prolific trees are the red cedars. They are evergreen, grow rapidly when young, but very strong when mature. The form is graceful and foliage smells good. They are generally deer proof. Birds like them too. Of course they are very aggressive and you’ll have to pull the seedlings if you do not want them. Also they are cheap to get. I believe Eastern Red Cedar is native in US.

I also see wild cherry trees in our woods. But the trees are weak and do not live very long. I can’t ID a lot of other seedlings.

You can do hollies. I just do not know what are native. They are moderate grower and live very long. But they are not cheap.


Bramble berry meadow Nice blog I like the Stove you found
Not sure if this is any good but I looked into Conservation for MI.
not sure of that state but I do not live there so you might find a BETTER one.

Finding Seedlings - MSU Extension

(link listed on the above site)

As far as Holly red sun that is Native On IL. Wild flowers not everything is Native since they show what is growing in the area but not bad to look at to browse tree’s

I think A wood of Value would be good
White Oak,
Black Cherry,
Persimmon. (maybe)
(I thought basswood has been coppiced in Europe as well as things in the polar family it has been years since I read up on it , but I can sure others here can answer you better)
I was also thinking (native) prickly ash (citrus family numbs mouth) would of been a nice thorn bush to block some sheep some places since it is native, but it too is brittle so I wouldn’t know what would be best for you.

I think Osage Orange is dioceous meaning only it is male or female
so if you do find a tree on the property , and want to destroy it if it is not producing fruit it should not spread more seeds that wood can be of value as well.

Speaking of the polar family I know they have those triploid hybrids that are suppose to grow many feet in a year I think that would be expensive to buy, but maybe they can be grafted or even cloned.

Illinois Wild flowers
(sorry I know your in Michigan , but not sure of Michigan native plant sites)
Trees, Shrubs, & Wood Vines in Illinois (


I’m not sure there is a whole lot of difference between what’s native in SW Michigan and what’s native in Norther Illinois, so that’s actually pretty helpful. Persimmons, however, are not something I’ve ever seen up here, so I’m guessing they don’t like it much.

It’s hard to tell which of the conservation districts are going to be even having a sale this year, although I did also find a listing of recommended seedling nurseries.

Medieval UK hedges seem to have been mostly hazel, hawthorne, blackthorn, buckthorn, dogwood, and field maple (an entirely different beast than our hardwood maples) that are further colonized with a variety of berries and shrubs. Standards or pollards could be apple, elm, beech, ash, oak, etc.

The portion of the hedge that is to be laid has to tolerate being cut back and laid on a semi-regular basis, regrowing strongly from the base.

I’m kind of thinking the bulk of it should be American Hazel, hawthorn (there are already some of those on the property, so that’s a good sign), serviceberry, and choke cherry, with some viburnum, winterberry, and dogwood worked in. Just on a first pass. Whether it is a good idea to try to incorporate some of the other hardwoods into the laid portion, I do not know.


I probably can’t add anything constructive, but I’m fascinated by this and would like to learn from the discussion. Can you tell me what it means to “lay a hedge”, and how that differs from just planting stuff?

Also, I have seen “coppiced” used as a way to produce fire wood – basically, growing trees that resprout from their roots, and cutting them down to the ground regularly. That doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of hedges, though.

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Sure can, Ginda.

“Laying a hedge” refers to partially cutting the stems of the trees and shrubs that make up the hedge so that they can be “laid over” into a fence. The laid stems then begin to grow in the new direction, in addition to sending up fresh sprouts from the cut portion to further fill in the hedge. There are quite a number of regional styles in Britain that differ in angles, staking, and the braiding of usually hazel rods across the top. This is a freshly laid hedge.

This is another example, again, pretty recently laid:

A hedge like this has to be regularly trimmed, and will need to be relaid to fill in gaps every 25-50 years. Some hedges in Britain are thought to be hundreds of years old.

This is a coppice hedge. It’s trees were cut off and encourage to regrow into shapes that would fill in the space between them, instead of laying to one side.

Coppice hedges tend to be more prone to holes low in the hedge than laid hedges.

This is a laid hedge with “standards” - full trees left in place every so often. This is sort of what I’m going for.
Those standards are pretty young, so they’ll either be let grow as full trees, or pruned further into pollards later.

Now, sometimes when a hedge has been neglected, there are trees in it too big to lay, and for whatever reason undesired as standards. So they’re cut off. And it wouldn’t surprise me if this one sent up fresh sprouts to help fill in, that will be laid into the hedge in the future. In fact, that might have started as an attempt to lay that one and it just broke off, but it’ll be ok.

If you really want the full rabbit hole, I do have a pile of research. Much of Britain’s original woodland was managed as coppice woodland. Quite a bit more as pollard forests. Unfortunately, much of the knowledge of how to do that (And why!) has been lost. However, I can recommend a book or two and some articles if you are interested.

Youtube has some videos, too, if you want to watch hedgelayers at work:

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That all sounds like a good plan to me. I’d add black willow to the list. I have a Cornus alternifolia (PA native) and black willow in my yard. Both of those could work as a shrub/hedge. I believe the willow I have is a male tree and it makes abundant early springtime flowers (good for pollinators) and keeps a lot of its foliage later than most other deciduous trees in the area. Another benefit to the willow is that you can take the cuttings and put them straight into the ground to clone them and make a thicker patch, and they grow a couple feet per year. I personally just ordered serviceberry and aronia berries for a hedge type setup along my house. I had also considered northern wild raisin (a Viburnum) which tolerates wetter shade conditions. Have you considered a massive quantity of high bush northern blueberries? They can also be propagated by cuttings down the road to fill in gaps.

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After you posted, and before I saw it I relooked at the link IL. wild flowers , and thought Viburnum as well (nanny berry/ & black Haw) as well as Dogwood I figured you’d have Hawthorn in mind.

Anyways I cannot find the Link, but was very interested in coppicing years back I cannot find the link right now looking online (for the last Coppiced forest in Europe) but always liked the odd shaped tree’s.

(I guess I should look at my things saved in my emails instead)

(this is a random link I copied the picture from)
(picture copied from here)

EuroCoppice_WG2_Guidelines.indd (


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HAD to separate posts trying to show picture above.

Oh, and you said you didn’t see persimmons I know they grow up that way or at least could (we have a 100 year old one at Morton Arboretum, also Michigan has a Micro climate since the lake holds in the warmth along with the west to East winds.)

By the way I like Bald cypress tree’s Black Tupelo (genus Nyssa )

Viburnum is decorative but I suppose out of view if at the edge of property Nine bark has a similar Flower of it. (in apple family but dry fruit)

As a Interesting tree also native Franklinia Alathama (spelling) the lost Camelia in the tea family – (your chock cherry or aronia berry is a good choice as well )

Wafer ash Ptelea trifoliata is in the citrus family, and also the dry fruits were used as a hop substitute .

Are you going to have any wild plums growing along the boarder

not sure if that would harbor any disease but they do smell strongly , and are good tasting but have thick bitter skin.

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That is amazing!

I just watched a new Raintree Nursery video on YouTube that seems quite related to your project.

If you watch from 9:09min to 14:40min , a permaculture-oriented grower has planted a fast-growing succession of 3 species to serve as a windbreak along his swale line. There’s annual Jerusalem artichoke, willow whips, and American bush hazel. The willow are pollarded after 1 year of growth. Although not as beautiful as your fence photos, somewhat the same principle.

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Sounds to me like you’ve already got more figured out on this topic than most anyone!

Native serviceberries and hazels should be good. But, you have far fewer choices near Black Walnut trees. Maybe some cherries/sand cherries/etc. Some viburnum, including arrowwood viburnum. (If hardy in your area, and that’s easy to check up on.) Cranberry bush viburnum, currant bushes are possibilities too I would think.

Containing livestock…that won’t happen for some years if plants are what is solely doing the containing.

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Oh, wow! I see how you might be able to contain livestock in one of those. Now I want to brow my own laid fence… I mean hedge. I don’t have the space to do it, though.

Thanks very much. I will continue to watch this thread for inspiration.

I have some hazel, serviceberry, choke cherry, winterberry, and dogwood on my property. They are all attractive, and I think they would all hedge nicely. But they also all grow really slowly. Admittedly, they are all in the shade. But… how many years do you want to spend growing the hedge before you can rely on it to protect itself from animals?

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for fast growing black/ honey locust, red/ russian mulberry. any polars or willows. not native but siberian peashrub. can get hundreds of seeds from ebay for $5. grew some last summer. were easy to grow. started them indoors in april and they were 3ft tall by aug. when i planted them out. they have nice blooms bees love . fix nitrogen. grow in poor, dry soils. their leaves and seeds are edible. during ww2 russian peasants over wintered their chickens on pea shrub seeds. i have 2 planted near my chicken run. seeds can be ground into a flour in meager times. theyre 30% protein.

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What an interesting topic!
Is rosa canina an option in your region?They grow up to two meters in a year and are quite thorny so thats a plus for containing livestock…on the downside is their thin, weedy growth habit. I don’t know how well you can lay them down?
Where I’m from we sadly don’t know this interesting kind of hedge. But hazel with something thorny in between should be able to contain livestock…Maybe you can braid the weedy rosa canina between sturdier bushes without thorns?
Edit: Rosa canina makes edible fruit with high vitamin C content.

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The Raintree video is quite interesting, although their project has different goals and I suspect quite a different climate. While I’m snuggled up to the lakeshore, and that does help mediate things, there are still some occasional truly arctic snaps. That, or soil pH, might explain the lack of persimmons, too. This is blueberry country. I could think about sneaking some of those in, but they might be better in their own bed, somewhere. The better to keep an eye out for pests like spotted wing drosophila.

I would expect that a livestock-proof fence is probably a 10-15 year goal. Ditto a fully developed pollard silvopasture system. And the sort of grazing management we have planned will make use of electric netting. With the hedge as sort of a secondary boundary system.

Perhaps I’ll document it via podcast/youtube channel. :slight_smile:

I suppose some of my questions are things like - do I need to worry about serviceberry harboring fireblight? Anything that a chokecherry or wild plum could harbor that would be an issue for peach or cherry trees?

I had thought about adding some sort of sloe, but I’m not THAT fond of sloe gin. Would it be cheating to throw in some damsons, instead?

I’d be hesitant about the Siberian Peashrub. The last thing I need is more invasive shrubs. And I’m less concerned with speed of growth than purpose and longevity.

The first stretch of hedge is going in far enough from the walnuts that it should be OK. The second stretch I want to put in is right by them BUT I am unlikely to want or need to hedge that part until the walnuts start to come down for timber. I should probably look into how long it takes for the jungalone to leech out of the soil.

As to the roses - that’s also a thought. There are already lots of wild roses on the property. I’ll have to see if I can find some photos from this summer. And I suspect the birds will happily plant them into the hedgerow for me!

pawpaw is said to grow by walnut Some guy showed a photo some place on his property.

I think it is best to save money, and plant seed, but see In MI. Okios has persimmon.

I do agree with the above good work
it looks like you really research your stuff.
Also can tell looking at your blog
About your stove I sure would like to read more about your projects ever go to habitat for humanity for building materials?

Products – OIKOS Tree Crops

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I was just about to suggest pawpaws as well to compliment the walnut grove you’re working on. It is another low maintenance fruit with few pests and additionally the tree contains chemicals which will keep your livestock from munching on it. They may test a leaf or two but if you plan to plant the trees years ahead of getting the livestock, you should be in great shape.

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I’m not sure about Pawpaws, having no experience with them. Would they be likely to tolerate being cut and laid?

About your stove I sure would like to read more about your projects ever go to habitat for humanity for building materials?

The stove is currently in the hands of the installer, who has a ceramics arts working on restoring some of the chipped pieces. That’s hampered a little bit by trying to figure out how to reglaze some of the pieces without melting off the real gold accents. Heh.

Meanwhile, the house itself is being re-engineered for a timber frame/SIP hybrid construction. We’ll see how THAT goes. Then I’ll get the quote with current raging lumber prices and cry.

I occasionally visit the Habitat Restore, although the local one doesn’t seem to usually have much of interest. The next town south down the highway is typically better stocked. Either way, they are both more likely to have torn out Fisher and Paykel drawer dishwashers or pianos than the more interesting bits. Possibly because Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo both have architectural salvage businesses that are more likely to have the really cool stuff.

And yes, I am a bit of a research wonk. I even keep a limited subscription to JSTOR and make regular use of a statewide interlibrary loan program. Although the book on coppice and pollard agroforestry I requested a month ago has not shown up yet.