What research (if any) exists on living fences?

Asked October 29, 2015, 10:21 AM EDT

I am having trouble finding science-based research on living fences. Does any exist? If so, where do I find it?

Oldham County Kentucky trees and shrubs

3 Responses

I had this question come up and I am passing along what the UK Arboriculture Extension Specialist said:

The hedges that I have seen in England are things like current, gooseberry, filbert, and hawthorn. Many of them are sheered, an activity that is more time consuming than any of us have the time for. These are also suitable for an unsheered hedge. He just needs to realize that these plants produce fruits and will potentially attract in flocks of starlings, etc. Almost any shrub that is hardy can be used in mass. However, as with any monoculture he is highly likely to experience disease and insect problems.

Trees, left branched to the ground can also be used to make very large hedges. Osage orange and eastern redcedar have been used for this purpose for several centuries.

My recommendation is to go with a diversity of species and to not use any of the poplar or rose species that are advertised as “living fences.”


Remember, England does not have the same climate as we do so you have to keep that in mind as well. Hope this helps.

From my internet research, I've found three species that might do well around here: red mulberry, American hornbeam, and willow. Osage orange is another that interests me but not my partner. I hadn't thought about using more than one species in the fence. Thank you for that idea!

I like your species as well. I love osage orange but if you don't like 'em, you don't like 'em. Willows need a wet/moist site to do well. I've seen willows dead (or wish they were dead) when planted in a 'normal' site. Another I thought about after I hit send is hedge maple, Acer campestre. They can be sheared (thus hedge in the name) and are a tough, tough plant.

Mulberry is fine but birds will spread them quite a bit. It's very normal to see mulberries as weedy seedlings in disturbed soil in KY.