Hedge , a fence of living plants, designed for protection or for ornament. Hedges are seldom over 5 or 6 ft. high, and are kept low and compact by annual trimming; where trees are set near together and allowed to grow tall, to protect buildings or crops from prevailing winds, they are called screens and wind breaks. In the early attempts in this country at hedging, English examples were followed in forming the hedge and in selecting the plants; these resulted so generally in failure that this method of fencing fell into disrepute, and for many years was almost entirely abandoned. With the settlement of the woodless prairies the practice of hedging was revived, and it is at present receiving much attention, many miles being set annually in some of the western states; and it is becoming extensively adopted in some of the older states. In certain parts of Delaware and Maryland one may travel all day over the country roads and see but few fences. The hawthorn, so generally used for hedges in England, is entirely worthless in this country; its foliage appears late, becomes injured by the hot sun, and falls early, and the plant is badly infested by various insects; our several native thorns are but little better.
For a protecting hedge there are but two plants employed to much extent in the northern and two others in the southern states. The Osage orange is more used than any other plant. This, the Maclura aurantiaca, also called bo-dock or bois d'arc in the southwest, where it is native, is a handsome tree, with glossy leaves and a fruit in structure like a dry mulberry, of the size and shape of an orange. The seed, obtained by rotting the balls and washing away the pulp, is scalded and kept warm and moist until it sprouts; it is then sown in rows and kept well cultivated during the season; at the north the plants are taken up in the autumn, assorted, and buried in a dry place. The hedge row being well prepared, the plants are set the following spring six inches to a foot apart, first shortening both top and root. It is impossible to make a good hedge unless the plants are carefully cultivated and kept free from weeds until the hedge is formed. The after treatment varies. Some form the hedge by a systematic cutting made each year to induce a dense growth at the base; this course requires five years to form the hedge.
The other method is to allow the plants to grow without pruning for three or four years, when they are laid down or lopped; the stem of each is cut half way through close to the base, and the top laid down on the ground, each plant being bent down upon the preceding one; this is done in spring, and by autumn an abundance of new shoots will have formed an impenetrable thicket, which is brought into proper shape by trimming. - The Osage orange is hardy in the climate of New York city, but in much colder localities the most serviceable hedge plant is the honey locust, Gleditschia triacanthos, also called three-thorned acacia, a well known tree of the leguminosoe. (See Honey Locust.) The seeds, if scalded before sowing, germinate readily; they are sown in a seed bed, and the following spring the plants are set in the hedge rows; they are brought into shape by annual cutting back. Several years ago there was much discussion as to the use of white willow as a hedge plant, but it is better fitted to form a windbreak. At the south one of the best hedge plants is the py-racanth or evergreen thorn, cratoegus pyra-cantha, from southern Europe; it has dense, dark-green foliage, white blossoms, and brilliant scarlet fruit; it is propagated by cuttings and by seeds, which germinate slowly.
This variety is not hardy at the north, but one with light-colored fruit, lately introduced, survives the winter near New York. The Macartney rose, rosa bracteata, is a favorite at the south, as it forms an impenetrable barrier to animals, and is almost constantly in bloom. The buckthorn, rhamnus catharticus, and the common barberry, berberis vulgaris, are used for hedges to a limited extent. For ornamental hedges, in which great powers of resistance are not required, a large number of plants may be used; almost any shrub or tree which grows tall enough may by proper pruning be made to serve. Among evergreens, the most elegant hedge plant is the hemlock spruce, abies Canadensis. The Norway spruce, A. excelsa, and the arbor vitae, thuja occidentalis, are also frequently employed. At the south the holly, English and Portugal laurels, and many other broad-leaved evergreens, including the camellia, are set in hedge rows. Of the deciduous plants, the privet, ligustrum vulgare, the Japan quince, cydonia Japonica, and even the beech and other forest trees, and the pear and other fruit trees, are sometimes used.