Plant a Hedge Row, Not a Hedge

(Plant lists at bottom of page)

Hedges, in one form or another, have existed since our ancestors gave up their foraging life style and settled down in permanent residences. Over the centuries loosely piled brush, stacked rocks, iron railings and rows of shrubs have been used to keep livestock safe and to clearly mark the boundaries of personal property. Most modern hedges consist of dense rows of uniform shrubs, shaped and sheared into a smooth, uninterrupted form. High maintenance, susceptible to disease and damage and sometimes dark and foreboding, they don’t contribute much more to the garden than would a green painted fence.

If visions of butterflies drifting, bees humming, and songbirds bursting forth with notes of joy are guiding your garden plans, a mixed hedgerow will deliver all this and more, all the while freeing you from the rigid pruning schedules required to keep those conifer soldiers in perfect formation.

A mixed hedgerow is simply an assortment of shrubs or small trees planted relatively close together to form a row, which may be straight or curved, and, like an evergreen hedge, may provide privacy, wind protection, delineation of the property boundary, or even separation of one’s garden into “rooms”.

Ideally, a hedgerow is a mix of deciduous and evergreen natives and non-natives of various sizes that, combined, will contribute texture, shape, contrast and colour to the overall garden scheme. It will provide food, protection from predators, nesting sites and shelter from the elements for birds, bees, frogs and other creatures, which will in turn feast on damaging insects, slugs and weed seeds.

Native shrubs are especially welcoming to wildlife and are, by definition, well suited to our local conditions, being exceptionally insect and disease resistant. As well, native varieties require minimal pruning, fertilizer and water. Deciduous members will share their decaying leaves with the earth, and allow sunlight and breezes to pass through, while moderating the cold blasts of winter. If diseases or pests do attack one plant, the likelihood is that its neighbour, belonging to another species, will not be affected. Hedgerows need minimal pruning – the occasional thinning cut, the removal of wayward or dead branches and maybe a little cutting back and you’re done.

For a hedgerow to be successful, “right plant, right place” must apply to all plants chosen, and the plants must be able to live in peace and harmony with each other, enjoying the same soil, light and water conditions. As many or as few different plants as desired may be included. Choose a mixture of native and non-native, deciduous and evergreen shrubs that naturally grow to the desired height. Plants that have berries, fruits or seeds are particularly desirable. Even a vine or two, such as honeysuckle and clematis, may be included to amble along the row. Don’t put all evergreen shrubs together, but space them randomly as anchors and repeat each variety of shrub throughout the row in a non-predictable manner.

The plants should be placed 3 or 4 feet apart. The idea is to have them grow into each other, branches intermingling. If you have the space, a width of six feet or more is ideal for wildlife habitat. A row of smaller plants can supplement the principal row. The beauty of hedgerows is that they merge with additional plantings in garden beds, with no clear line between what is the hedge and what is the border.

Traditionally, hedgerows include such things as hawthorn, wild roses, mock orange, raspberries, hazelnuts and many more. Non-traditional shrubs like berberis, buddleia, camellias, Mexican orange, flowering currant, blueberries, laurels, lilacs – really almost any multistem shrubs, can combine to create a dynamic, living fence that changes with the seasons and adds immeasurably to the overall garden.

Below are two lists, non-native and native plant suggestions for hedgerows.


Deer = generally considered to be deer resistant
Evergreen = generally evergreen in our climate

Not categorized by size as many have smaller or larger varieties

Arbutus Unedo Compacta, Evergreen – sun, drought tolerant 6-8’, white flowers and 1/2”-1” orange/red fruit.

Barberry (Berberis) Deer – oval red berries in winter. Most are under 5’. Sun to light shade, graceful habit.

Beauty Bush (Kolkwitzia) Deer – sun to part shade. 10-12’ tall and wide, attractive bark in winter

Beautyberry (Callicarpa) Deer – violet to purple berries that persist into winter. Sun to part shade.

Box Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) Deer, Evergreen – tolerates salt spray. Baggeson’s Gold has golden leaves in sun.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia) Deer – candy for butterflies and hummingbirds, cut back yearly. Sun to light shade.

California Lilac (Ceanothus) Deer, Evergreen – drought tolerant, sun. Blue flowers loved by bees, nesting birds.

Camellia Deer, Evergreen – part sun to shade. Protect from bright sun and drying winds.

English Holly (Ilex aquifolium) Deer, Evergreen – sun to part sun, need M and F for berries. Attractive to wildlife.

Escallonia Deer, Evergreen – wind tolerant, drought ok but looks best if watered. Attractive to hummingbirds and bees.

Firethorn (Pyracantha) Deer, Evergreen – fast growing, vigorous, thorny. Berries loved by birds. Sun to part shade.

Flowering Currant (Ribes) Deer – both native and non-native. Loved by hummingbirds and native bees.

Forsythia Deer – Fast growing, yellow flowers in spring

Himalayan Honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa) semi evergreen, sun to part shade. Berries for birds.

Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera sp.) – Some evergreen, or semi-evergreen, fragrant flowers, sun or part shade

Japanese Pepper Bush (Zanthoxylum) Deer – handsome plant, sharp thorns and fragrant foliage. Sun.

Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Convexa’) Deer, Evergreen – small shiny rounded leaves like boxwood. Very hardy.

Lily of the Valley Shrub (Pieris japonica) Deer, Evergreen – part sun to shade. Good, 4-season stalwart of the garden.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’ Deer, Evergreen – fragrant yellow flowers in winter. Sun or shade.

Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata) Deer, Evergreen – fast growing, sun or shade, drought ok. Loved by bees.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus) – sun to part shade, good drainage. Lovely fragrant flowers.

Ninebark (Physocarpus) both native and non-native varieties, sun or shade. Curling bark in winter.

Osmanthus burkwoodii Deer, Evergreen slow growing 6-10’, tolerates clay and some drought, sun to part shade.

Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) Deer, Evergreen – sun. Provides cover for wildlife. Very tough.

Privet (Ligustrum) Evergreen – dense, compact shiny dark green leaves. Flowers attract bees. Sun to part shade.

Silk Tassel (Garrya elliptica) Deer, Evergreen – sun to part shade. Dry shade and coastal sites ok.

Tree Mallow (Lavatera) Deer, sun. Cut back in spring. Pink flowers all summer.


Smaller Growing Plants: 2-6 feet high

Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) – Dry conditions, sun, evergreen, yellow flowers, berries

Dull Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa) – Dry conditions, part shade to shade, evergreen, yellow flowers, berries,

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) – Dry conditions, sun to part shade, will take periods of winter wet, tiny pink flowers, white berries. THUG

Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) – Dry to moist soil, sun or shade, red berries

Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) – Average to moist soils, evergreen, berries, seaside

Salal (Gaultheria shallon) – Dry to moist soil, sun or shade, evergreen, small pink flowers, purple berries, seaside

Bald Hip Rose (Rosa gymnocarpa) – Dry to moist soil, sun to part shade or part shade to shade, small pink flowers, red hips

Medium Height Plants: 5- 10 feet

Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) – Dry to moist soil, sun to part shade, fragrant white flowers

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) – Dry to moist soil, sun or part shade, berries, seaside THUG

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) – Moist to wet soil, sun or part shade, white flowers, berries THUG

Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) – Dry to moist soil, sun or part shade, fragrant pink flowers, hips, seaside THUG

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) – Dry or wet soils, sun or part shade, attractive fall colour, red bark

Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) – Dry conditions, sun or part shade, bright pink flowers, berries

Western Spiraea (aka Hardhack) (Spiraea douglasii) – Moist to wet soils, sun or part shade, dark pink flowers in summer

Larger Growing Plants: 10 feet or higher

Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)

Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) – Moist to wet conditions, sun or part shade, big leaves, red berries

Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) – Dry to moist soil, sun or part shade, delicate white flowers, berries

Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) – Dry to moist soil, sun to part shade, creamy flower spikes in summer, seaside

Saskatoonberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) – Dry to moist soil, sun or part shade, small white flowers, berries, seaside

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) – Dry to moist soil, sun or part shade, white flowers, berries, fall colour

Black Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) – Dry to moist soil, sun or part shade, black berries, fall colour, seaside

Pacific Crabapple (Malus fusca) – Moist to wet soils, sun or part shade, flowers, fruit

Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) – Soils from wet to dry, sun to part shade, creamy white flowers, attractive peeling bark

Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) – Moist well drained soil, sun or part shade, catkins, nuts

California Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica) – Average to moist soils, sun to part shade, evergreen, seaside