What happens when the hedge you planted for privacy becomes too large to prune and turns into a maintenance headache? Well, one option is to replace it with a habitat hedgerow!
The basic hedgerow is simply a dense planting of trees and shrubs, often arranged in long rows. While a typical hedge consists of only one type of plant, a hedgerow is much more diverse and includes several types of trees, shrubs, and grasses. Hedgerows are a common sight in the countryside and on farms where they function as windbreaks and protect against soil erosion. Hedgerows also have a place in the city, however, providing an opportunity to replace some of the critical wildlife habitat lost due to years of urban development.
Clackamas United Church of Christ (CUCC) in Oak Grove is now enjoying the benefits of a new habitat hedgerow thanks to an EPICC grant (Engaging Partners in Community Conservation) from Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District (District) and a watershed stewardship grant from Clackamas County Water Environment Services. The District’s EPICC grants support community conservation using volunteer labor from the landowner. On a sunny March morning, 14 members of the CUCC congregation picked up shovels and planted 120 native shrubs including Oregon grape, Pacific ninebark, red-flowering currant, and snowberry. All are native to the Willamette Valley. Landscape contractor ProScape NW, Inc. prepared the planting beds and installed an additional 25 native trees, which include incense cedar, cascara, and vine maple.
The new hedgerow will immediately provide privacy for both the church and neighbors, while also providing food and shelter for native wildlife and beneficial pollinators. As the trees grow, they will eventually provide much needed shade over a portion of the church’s parking lot. Studies have shown that branches of conifer trees can catch up to 20% of the rain that falls on them. Less stormwater runoff means less water pollution in our streams and creeks.
When the church planted their laurel hedge all those years ago, they probably didn’t expect it to grow into a 300-foot long, 12-foot tall giant! For a small congregation, the amount of time and resources required to maintain such a hedge was just too great. While the new hedgerow will never be 100%-maintenance free, it will offer a more manageable and attractive alternative that improves wildlife habitat and still functions as a property line buffer. It’s a project that benefits everyone – from the maintenance staff to the neighbors to the local hummingbirds!
If you are interested in finding out more about habitat hedgerows, contact Erik Carr at [email protected] or call 503-210-6012.