Posted: 01 Dec 2013 01:00 AM PST
Early Americans planted hedges, plantings of bushes or woody plants in a
row, to act as defensive fences, decorative garden dividers, or
As colonial British America was just being settled, Francis Bacon
(1561-1626), English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist,
& author, wrote of the more formal garden hedges of the 17th century
in his 1625 Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall in the essay
entitled Of Gardens. "The Garden is best to be square,
encompassed on all the four sides with a stately arched hedge; the arches
to be upon pillars of carpenter's work, of some ten foot high, and six
foot broad, and the spaces between of the same dimension with the breadth
of the arch.
"Over the arches let there be an entire hedge of some four foot
high, framed also upon carpenter's work; and upon the upper hedge, over
every arch, a little turret, with a belly enough to receive a cage of
birds: and over every space between the arches some other little figure,
with broad plates of round coloured glass gilt, for the sun to play upon:
but this hedge I intend to be raised upon a bank, not steep, but gently
slope, of some six foot, set all with flowers.
"Also I understand, that this square of the Garden should not be the
whole breadth of the ground, but to leave on either side ground enough
for diversity of side alleys, unto which the two covert alleys of the
Green may deliver you; but there must be no alleys with hedges at either
end of this great enclosure; not at the hither ends for letting your
prospect upon this fair hedge from the Green; nor at the farther end, for
letting your prospect from the hedge through the arches upon the
In 1705, "An act for prevention of trespasses by unruly
horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats" passed by the General
Assembly of Virginia. It stated that "an hedge two foot
high, upon a ditch of three foot deep and three foot broad" was
"so close that none of the creatures aforesaid can creep
The South Carolina Gazette advertised a garden in a
house-for-sale ad in 1749, "genteely laid out in walks and
alleys, with cassini and other hedges."
At Riversdale in Prince George County, Maryland,
Rosalie Steir Calvert wrote he father in 1805, "We are...going to
surround" the orchard "with a hedge."
New Yorker John Nicholson emphasized the practical use of hedges in
early America as fences in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820,
"For making these, different sorts of trees have been used, and
the hedges have been made in different ways. Some have prefered planting
the hedge on the top of a bank, thrown up for the purpose; while the more
modern method is, to plant it on the surface, without any
"This latter method is the cheapest, and, as is observed by Mr.
Pickering, of Massachusetts, would seem to be the only proper method, in
some hilly situations...
"In level lands, however, a hedge set on a bank, properly made,
would seem to be most formidable to cattle; but the bank we should prefer
would be one raised between two small ditches...
"We have, at the same time, no doubt that a good hedge may
eventually be made, in dry level lands, without the aid of a
"We have seen the Washington-thorn (crataegus cordata) planted in
Maryland, without any bank, on uplands; some of which were sufficiently
dry...the thorn...requires a bed of moderately dry earth...
"Where hedges are to be made of this tree, without being set in a
bank, we should advise to the method pursued by Mr. Quincy, of
Massachusetts, which is, first, to cultivate the ground, intended for
bearing the hedge, with potatoes; having it properly manured, and kept
clear of weeds...
"When the plants of thorn are about 2 feet high, they should be set
out in a single row...at the distance of about eight inches apart, and
beded in good mould.
"Mr. Miller (Philip Miller) directs that, before transplanting, they
should be cut off at the height of about 8 inches from the ground; and
that, after having had a years growth, they should be headed down,
similar to the manner directed by Mr. Forsyth (William Forsyth).
"Which operation will produce a stronger and thicker growth...when
they get to about the height of 6 or 7 feet, or less where they grow on a
bank, the tops are to be cut down to an uniform height, and the trees to
be trimed, and then plashed.
"In the plashed state...the young trees, after having been headed
down, as before mentioned, are supposed to send out at least two sprouts
from each tree, which number, and no more, are to be trained up, the rest
being cut away. Of the shoots thus trained, every 4th one is to be left
standing erect, and the others are to be bent downward...and wove
alternately on each side of the upright shoots, in the manner of weaving
threads in making common cloth...
"The failure of one or two trees in a place produces a chasm in the
fence; and this at first is only to be obviated by some temporary method
of filling up the gap; as it must at least require time to make any
after-growth supply the place of trees which may be missing.
"With all the imperfections, however, to which hedges may be liable,
we consider them a much safer protection to the growing crop, and...less
expensive, than the wooden fences which at present are commonly made in
"Instead of plashing the hedge, a substitute is recommended by Mr.
Main, of Georgetown, which he has found effectual. This is to cut or trim
the top of the hedge down to an even height, of about 3 and a half, or 4
feet, and then to lay thereon light durable poles, tied together at the
ends; and presently the new shoots will start up on each side of the
poles, and thus hold them to their places...the young hedge soon becomes
enabled to withstand the attempt if any creature to push its way
"The Palmetto Royal ( Yucca Aloefolia) is said to make the best
hedge that is known; but it will not endure the severity of the Winters
of the more northerly States. It is well adapted to the more southerly
part of this Country.
"Mr. Kirk, of Pennsylvania, particularly recommends his method of
making hedges. He makes them of the common Locust. He merely makes a
furrow, with the plough run once or twice each way, to serve as the bed
for the young trees. These are to be of 2 years growth when set out in
the furrow; they are to stand at the distance of about 11 inches from
each other, and they are to be set leaning, or slanting, alternately in
opposite directions, in order to be plashed or wove together, and tied in
"In 4 or 5 years, Mr. Kirk says, the young hedge, when thus made,
will form a sufficient fence; and as the shade of locust is not injurious
to the growth of the adjoining grain, and is even beneficial to that of
grass, the hedge may be suffered to grow up as high as it will.
"In about 30 years after planting, it will reach the full meridian
of its growth; when the whole may be cut down, at the height ot about 5
feet from the ground, and then the stumps, thus left, will stand and
serve as an impenetrable fence for as much as 15 years more; giving about
40 years as the length of time which that growth of locust will serve the
purpose of a fence.
"Mr. Kirk says that, on cuting the locust down, a new growth of
sprouts will start up in abundance; from which sufficient may be selected
for training up a new hedge, to supply the place of the stumps when they
shall have failed...
"The culture of locust, for hedges, we should be disposed to place
this tree in the first rank...It forms a timber of the first rate for
every use, where hardness, durability, and strength are required: It is
also rapid in its growth, and excelent for fuel...
"Mr. Taylor, of Caroline, Virginia, makes his hedges of cedar; and
he says that, in 7 years, a hedge made of this tree becomes as close,
from bottom to top, as box, of a breadth not exceeding tour feet; and
that it is more likely to prove effectual against Hogs, than any of the
family of shrubs, as it unites great density...
"The boughs of this tree, being pliant, are easily wove between the
bodies of the trees, without any bending of them, for the purpose of
"Mr. Peters, of Pennsylvania, thinks that, in point of elegance at
least, the common hemlock (Pinua Abies Ccmadenais) is entitled to a
preference to cedar...
"M. De La Bigarre recommends the white-mulberry for hedges,
particularly on account of the value of the leaves of this tree for
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