Wardner
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:03 pm
Location: Tewksbury, MA

Antique hedge plants

This hedge is about 150 years old.. I have a photograph taken around 1890 and it is fully grown.

This shurb is native to this area (MA). It can be found growing wild in the woods and fencerows. It has blue berries in the fall. They are similar to wild blueberries. It also has thorns.

It has been neglected for several years and needs to be cut back. In 1954, it was cut back to five feet and sustained no permanent damage. It was largely defoliated down to stumps.

I need an identification and pruning advice.

[img]https://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r16/Wardner/hedge004.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r16/Wardner/hedge014.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r16/Wardner/hedge016.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r16/Wardner/hedge008.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r16/Wardner/hedge007.jpg[/img]

MaineDesigner
Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

I'm hoping I'm wrong but it looks like Rhamnus cathartica or the Common Buckthorn to me. See this link: [url]https://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/rhca1.htm[/url]
If that is what it is it is an invasive exotic from Europe and Asia that has naturalized in much of northeastern and north central North America. Birds spread the seeds in their droppings. It disrupts native ecosystems.
It is not what you are asking and I'm sure it is not what you want to hear but if it is confirmed to be buckthorn I would have it removed. There are number of shrubs that would make a more handsome hedge without the negative ecological issues.

Wardner
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:03 pm
Location: Tewksbury, MA

Thanks for the reply. I think you nailed it.

I followed your link and subsequent links. The photos and descriptions were perfect matches.

While I have seen this plant growing elsewhere, it does seem that this hedge has contributed to a higher population locally than one might see elsewhere.

When I was a boy in the '50s, I extended the hedge 100' along another property line. The new plants were found at the edge of a pasture/hayfield. The term "invasive" surprised me. I can't think of any place where the buckthorn is the dominate flora. I have never seen old specimens except for the hedge and the plants that I transplanted.

You suggested that the hedge be replaced with a different shrub. Would you care to offer suggestions? Thanks

MaineDesigner
Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

Although it is overused I still like yews, especially Taxus x media 'Tautonii'. The maximum height of this cultivar is about four feet and it is relatively slow growing. It is vulnerable to deer browsing if that is a concern in your vicinity but otherwise largely problem free. Since hemlocks are no longer a viable choice I can't really recommend any other conifers.
Among deciduous hedge plants the list is dwindling as many plants have either been declared invasive (honeysuckle, barberry, euonymous, buckthorn, etc.) or have issues with new pests (many viburnums). I have seen Syringa meyeri 'Palibin' used effectively although I haven't had a chance to monitor it over a long period. Ninebark (Physocarpus), Spirea x vanhouttei, and currants (Ribes) are all used but I'm personally not fond of any of these as hedge plants. There are a few broadleaf evergreens that might be options including some rhododendrons, some hollies (Ilex), and box (probably the hybrids like 'Green Mountain' in your area) but I have some reservations about all of these.

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