Need inspiration and info for an edible hedge

MichiganJen(z5 Michigan)April 24, 2006

Hi all -- looking for some suggestions and expertise,

We live on 1/4 acre near the historic center of a small town (rural Michigan, zone 5). Our garden consists of many perennial flowers and a 30x30 veggie plot with asparagus, herbs, and a variety of berries (strawberries, raspberries, concord grapes, red and black currants, gooseberries, blueberries and elderberries. We like edibles...

Our yard is open to a relatively busy street, and I'm interested in creating a sense of enclosure to the property. We'd like to plant an edible hedge along the front of our yard (to be set back around 6-8 feet from the front sidewalk, with herbs and perennial flowers planted between the sidewalk and the hedge). This line of shrubs would be about 100 feet long, with conditions ranging from full sun to partial shade. We're thinking of using either just one type of shrub or a repeating pattern of two types for the whole length so that we have a uniform design element behind our cottage garden mishmash of random herbs and flowers. Something that will look nice and somewhat tailored, but not overly formal when pruned. 3-5 feet in height seems reasonable (not a privacy wall).

We have a second edge of the propery that is in partial shade (under the canopy of one medium-large maple), where we would like a line of shrubs that will grow 6-8 feet high. This shrub line will be right next to the neighbor's driveway, and I'd like to minimize the view of cars coming and going with something a little denser and higher than what is used for the front border.

Any thoughts on using the following plants (or others) for our hedges?

Red Lake red currant

Consort black currant

Captivator gooseberry



Issues that I am considering are longevity, disease issues, yumminess of fruit, attractiveness of plant, mature width and height, and ability to grow well in our range of full sun to partial shade. Also need it to grow well near pH 7 with minimal amendments.

If we start with 2 or 3 year plants, how far apart should we plant them? Is a hedge appropriate, or is there a strong benefit to using an espalier technique?

We have sandy soil that has been very well enriched with composted maple leaves. Excellent drainage, pH 7.

Thanks and sorry for the long post :)


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How about goji berries? I've heard that pineapple guava (feijoa sellowiana) can be grown as a hedge as well.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 6:29PM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

Pineapple guavas make a very nice hedge, but not in Michigan.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 9:07PM
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antarestar(z8 SC)

What about blue berries? My parents grow them up in MA so I would assume that they would grow in Michigan. There are varietes that have beautiful fall foliage, you get an ornamental and edible all in one. You will have to keep them pruned if you want the 3-5 foot hedge. Oh, I just noticed that you have an high pH, blueberries like acidic soil. But then you could mulch them with something acidic, like pine needles, and overtime the soil will change. As long as you keep adding organic material I think they would do just fine. From what I understand blueberries are pretty tough and will thrive in a variety of soils.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2007 at 11:46AM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

You might consider Aronia for the taller hedge. They are deciduous but dense. An advantage is few diseases or pests, and they yield very well. The fruit is not very edible raw but cooked tastes similar to berries, I strain out the seeds and skins and make gelatin or sauce with them. They are very high in antioxidants and therefore very healthful. They have berries that grow in nice clusters that all ripen at the same time so they are a dream to harvest and I put them in ziplock bags and freeze them. I think they are developing some different varieties and there may be a dwarf one. I have Viking which is 7-8' tall after a few years.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 7:42AM
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Check out and for ideas.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 1:04PM
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In MI too with sandy loam and maybe a 6.8 soil. I've used blueberries and planted with peat mixed in and some sulfur. They have grown and yield well, but had rabbit issues until they grew tall enough so the rabbits didn't nibble them to stubs. The blueberries' scale is nice and they don't seem to grow out of bounds. Bare root starts could be economical as well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 5:20PM
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ofpill(5a - Ottawa)

The ribes species (currents, gooseberries) will only just reach that height at maturity, but will do pretty good in a range of sun exposure with varying amounts of fruiting. The latter is true for rubus (blackberry, raspberry) as well, but they mostly have a trailing/vining habit, are a bit high maintenance if you prune and many cultivars are invasive. However, they are tasty!

Have you thought about a hedge of semi-dwarf disease resistant fruit trees? Or maybe a mixed hedge of gooseberry, current, rugosa (rose hips), sour cherry etc...

I have a gooseberry, current, rugosa hedge but it's early days.

Looking forward to seeing how it goes.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2007 at 9:36PM
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I would recommend this site to anyone, but particularly for those interested in edible landscapes check out Oikos Treecrops. Ken Asmus runs this business over near Paw Paw Michigan and it's truly a wonderful source for all manner of native species from oaks, chestnuts, and persimmons to american beach plums and other understory plants. It's a company with a mission and a heart.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 3:06PM
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How about Nanking Cherry? It is listed as very hardy and tolerant, and being able to be used as a hedge, and I just ordered some myself - other people who I know in Spokane that have them love them. It's a cherry tree without the need of a ladder!! I think the fruits are delicious. Big pit, but kind of on the sour cherry end of the cherry spectrum.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 5:17PM
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Have your soil tested for lead!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 10:45AM
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Currants would make a lovely hedge across the front of your yard; be sure to check out which fruit you prefer. Red currants are very popular, but the flavor of black currants is not so widely appreciated. Blackberries and raspberries require much more care to keep them looking civilized. For your driveway hedge, consider American Viburnum, aka highbush cranberry. They are lovely ornamental plants and make a beautiful red jelly, my favorite of all the wild berries that grow here. Any you don't pick will hang on the trees through the winter, a beautiful translucent red, that brings birds to your winter garden. This link will give you more detailed information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardenline

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 1:28AM
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Have you thought of Goumi? They're supposed to get only 10' tall. The small fruit is prized by many, tho they have large seeds. No pests but birds! I wouldn't use gooseberries -- mine became invasive. I didn't like Nanking cherries, either, as the fruit was attacked by some pest, making them inedible. Of course, raspberries will sucker, and blackberries will root from canes that touch the ground. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 12:40PM
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Gooseberries can be invasive if ignored, but if you prune them occasionally for fruit they should not cause too many problems. They do sucker at the tips of branches--posibly that would be more problematic with your sandy soil--we have clay in my area. They also like some soil acidity, but don't seem too demanding about that.

My Pixwell gooseberry bushes form an arching mound about chest high. They are easy to propagate, so you would find it simple to expand your hedge. You could just prune the inner side facing your garden and use the old outer branches as your hedge. Their branches are thorny, but stronger and more flexible than the canes of raspberries and blackberries. They make a fairly attractive, impenetrable shrub. Additionally, they are very flexible regarding lighting.

I agree that rugosa roses, with attractive hips, would also be very nice. Hansa grows rather large and is quite vigorous, but could be kept pruned; or you could choose one of the smaller, less vigorous ones. Rugosas are supposed to like sandy soil, and even grow on beaches. There are some older varieties, such as Frau Dagmar Hartopp (possibly mispelled by me) which have been popular for ages.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 4:47AM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

We have gooseberries called Achilles that have been planted about 8 years. They have upright branches and have never arched over and rooted at the tips. It's a delicious red variety.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 8:53PM
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I would try choke cherries or plums. We have a variety of plums here in SD that only get about and the size of a quarter or a silver dollar. They handle chilly weather wonderfully, and you can do so much with them-Hack em back, or forget about them. They don't usually get mor than 6 feet tall here. Plus you get some great birdwatching experiences. You'll have wrens doves and thrushes all spring and summer! I had a pair of orioles in mine this summer.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 11:48PM
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