Do blueberries make good hedges?

Just for giggles I planted a couple of Elliot highbush blueberry bushes to see how they did here in the NW Georgia mountains. While I planted them too late to see if they bear good fruit here, I was amazed by the brilliant fall color. Do these make good hedges? I Googled on it and found some mention, but no pictures.
billo
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On Sat, 25 Dec 2004 19:11:06 -0000, snipped-for-privacy@radix.net (Bill Oliver) wrote:

There are many varieties and to have a good production a few different varieties are recommended for good cross pollination. They grow best when planted 8 feet apart. It takes a few years before you will get a decent yield, and then you have to use bird netting if there is any hope to bake a pie. There are better choices for a hedge. I've seen several wild varieties (low bush) growing in the E. Tennessee mountains.
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Oliver) wrote:

They don't hedge well if you mean hedges cut square, but deciduous shrubs of this sort can be pleasing "natural" hedges. Blueberries are not the best year-round hedges because of looking merely twiggy in winter & for needing periodic cutting back, so I'd prefer them in a mixed hedge which includes things with better winter appearance. Highbush cranberries would look more exciting in winter as they have an interesting woody structure even after leaf-fall. But a blueberry hedge could be very pleasing three seasons out of four, beautiful in flower, then large fruits, then those amazing fall colors. To get the best fruit, by the way, takes at least two cultivars; even the allegedly self-fertile blueberries fruit better with a second cultivar nearby. I think the minimum ideal is five to seven bushes encompassing three varieties.
-paghat the ratgirl
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I would prefer a natural hedge -- I have heard they are more wildlife friendly. I would be using this to separate a more formal part of the garden near the house from a semi-wild woody area, and mostly using it as a sight barrier. As it stands right now, our house has a good amount of privacy because the land between us and most of our neighbors is in woods and brush. It's the brush and vines rather than the tall pines that provide the sight barrier, though.
I like the brush but...
It is completely impassable. Even the game trails are too small for a human. I don't know how the deer do it. It is so thick with vines, briars, these wacky half-vine-half tree things I haven't identified yet, poison ivy, oak and sumac that I am denied most of my yard (it's about 5 acres). And my wife can't come within 30 feet of poison ivy without breaking out, so she's afraid to take a walk through the woods. My neighbor, who is slowly renovating an antebellum victorian on the next knoll over has the same problem. We don't even have a path between our houses (and in this part of the south, it seems that not having a direct path to your neighbors is almost as offputting as expecting them to come to your front door).
The vines, etc. are strangling some of the trees I really like that are growing there. There are a number of magnolia, dogwood, redbud, and other very pretty trees that are losing the fight for sunlight. Some of the undergrowth I really like -- ferns, worts, passion flowers, wild iris, wild rose -- are strangled.
So, I have begun slowly pulling the vines from the trees, cutting the briars, getting rid of whatever the hell it is not-quite-tree that seems to cover 90 percent of the forest edge and vacant lots around here.
That makes the ground more passable and I've saved a nice magnolia and some kind of broad leaved holly I've never seen before.
This is removing the sight barrier, though, and I suspect I'm making the place much less habitable for the wild turkey and deer in the area. So I figured that a series of strategically placed natural hedges would help in both respects. It wouldn't be too hard. The houses here are placed on little bumps and knolls here in town, so the roads mostly look up to the houses, and it should be easy to create a privacy shield.
Since the hedges will thus be in the woods and at the edge of the more formal yard, they will not be squared off. A height of 6-7 feet, which is what I read for blueberries is good. I'm happy for the fruit to be eaten by birds, et. al. (I have another plot in the backyard for our personal harvesting).
So, with all that, what would you mix with the blueberries in such a hedge?
billo
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Oliver) wrote:

There are so many things that could be mixed in, but if you're also after harvestable fruit, I would add at least one serviceberry bush, & a couple highbush cranberries.
Serviceberries (aka Juneberry) are really tasty & low-maintenance with autumn color as great as Blueberry shrubs. They don't need to cross-pollinate so one is often enough but if there's room enough more than one species would look nice, though if there's only room for one, Amalchier canadensis is probably the nicest. They'll out grow the blueberries in height, ten feet or so reliably, & really old specimens in the wild get bigger still. They flower gorgeously early spring before leafing.
Highbush cranberries are only tasty after cooked, sieved, spiced & sweetened, & are improved mixed with apples or sweeter berries. They're among the most beautiful native shrubs, three species stand out: Viburnum trilobum (the cultivated form 'Wentworth' has larger showier berries), V. sargentiana ('Onandaga' has super-duper autumn color) & V. edule (the Northwest native not as widely distributed in nurseries). The European equivalent V. opulus is not as nice & the fruit tastes bitter even when it is well prepared (& in Russia & Sweden where highbush cranberries are major harvested fruits, the European species has been completely displaced by North American varieties for fruit production).
Some other native shrubs great for a mixed hedges include Black Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata var involucrata), not great on autumn color, but reblooms throughout the year (small yellow dangling tubes in pairs) & produces almost continuous pairs of large black berries set in big bright purple bracts, so just a beautiful interesting shrub. Theoretically edible but not tasty enough to be worth harvesting. Winter Honeysuckle is semi-evergreen in temperate gardens, white extremely fragrant winter flowers, followed by glassy salmon-pink berries, not edible.
Chokeberry is another bitter late-in-year fruit that makes good eating after it is cooked, sieved, sweetened. The shrub stays to around 5 feet high, very colorful in autumn, & the striking black fruits if not harvested don't turn to raisens & drop until winter (birds leave them for last; they're not quite so bitter after they've frozen a couple times). Its spring flowers look like hawthorne flowers.
Indian plum aka Osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis) can reach ten or fifteen feet, a splendid native shrub with dangly white flowers & half-inch crayon-blue fruits shaped like miniature Italian plums. I'm kind of shocked it is not a common offering, but it's a native shrub specialty item worth tracking down. The fruits are edible but not all that tasty, & if eaten while still green would be toxic so would have to be absolutely certain they're ripe before trying them. They're mainly for show, the tiny too-blue plums are a real shock of beauty.
Since its a woodland edge maybe you'd have room for ALL of 'em. They're all deciduous, except winter honeysuckle which is only deciduous at the colder edge of its tolerances; they all have beautiful fruits most of them edible (serviceberry the only one extremely tasty straight from the bush though); they all have good autumn color except the twinberry & winter honeysuckle. If there's something inside the woods that adapts, that can add a nice element. I'm developing a garden for a client (I'll be helping design a website for that garden next year, Shin Lur Garden which is importing Chinese granite statuary), & the blueberry patch blends into a natural stand of evergreen huckleberries. The woods behind the garden are dominated by huckleberries, salal, & wild Rhododendron macrophyllums, some of which we're leaving in the main gardens because these things can't be improved upon. There are also some less dominant shrubs that have been crowded out by the aggressive salal, so we're digging out the struggling mahonias to give better locations where they can thrive without salal displacing them. Most parts of the country have one or another vaccininium growing wild, & even if the dominant shrubs aren't exciting, if you look closer you may find some fruiting vaccininium worth encouraging by getting the weedier aggressive stuff away from it.
For something extremely sweet & wonderful earlier in the year, a thornless hybrid loganberry is hard to beat, they're like rasberries on steroids for the fruits, & the canes are not as unmananageable as most rubus spieces though they do need managing. Even just one bush can produce like mad, then needs to be pruned back.
If you wanted something fully evergreen standing nice & erect amidst all the deciduous things, most of the mahonias (oregon grapes) are worth considering, & the Japanese mahonia cultivar lately available called "Charity" stands straight up tall & erect so would not be so easily lost amidst an array of bushier bushes. They have bright-bright-bright-yellow extremely showy winter flowers; edible blue berries; & 'Charity' in colder winters turns bright red & orange then back to green in spring without dropping the leaves (this trait does not show everwhere, as without a good hard chill it just stays green). The native Mahonia aquifolium is also a striking shrub with bright-bright yellow winter flowers & very tasty fruits & entirely evergreen; it'll tolerate the worst spots such as in dry shade but only very fruitful if cared for a bit.
A semi-wild mixed hedge of this sort is really one of the finest things imaginable & as a bonus most of these need little maintenance. The blueberries will be the highest maintenance since to produce good fruit they need regular watering & annual pruning, & even they're easy. If fruit weren't an essential feature there's much else that could be grown for flowers; abelia & escalonia for examples look rather like deciduous shrubs but are flowering evergreens. But you're quite right that the fruiting deciduous shrubs attract wildlife (which, if you wanted the blueberries & serviceberries for yourself, can be a little annoying. We will be placing a large net over the blueberries just long enough to harvest the fruits ourselves. Otherwise the birds will wait until the premium fruits -- blueberry, seriviceberry, or oregon grape -- have reached their peak of perfection, then clean the bushes of them one hour before you show up with bucket in hand. They'll be less on top of getting all the chokeberries & highbush cranberries).
-paggers
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"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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Great information. Thanks!
billo
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I haven't grown any yet, but I place a lot of trust in the writing of the late Henry Mitchell. He said two things: First, you can be sure that if someone doesn't like blueberries, they're crazy. And more important, he said there was nothing to NOT like about the bushes themselves. Very handsome leaves. I'll be planting a several, or maybe a thousand of them this spring.

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A thousand? That's a lot of cobbler.
billo
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wrote:

I figure the birds & deer will get most of it, and I'll end up with what I normally buy at the store each year: about 15 pints. :-)
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