At the surface, “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost seems to attack the neighborliness of wall-building. Yet the interplay of Frost’s opinion, his narrator’s opinion, and his neighbor’s opinion results in a poem that is shot-through with ambiguity: Walls are both a good and a bad thing.
Outside the manuscript in Frost’s own experience, however, the need for a legal protection of private property became real. For at least seven years, Frost was engaged in an international legal battle to determine the ownership rights of his earliest publications, including “Mending Wall.” So he never intended his intellectual property to be kept un-fenced.
As a municipal arborist, I recognize that one of the benefits of plants is to provide beautiful separation. Even in tight, downtown locations, street trees visually and psychologically separate the public of the street from the private of the building. Hedges are a beautiful way to provide physical separation of one property from another.
But even after good hedges are cultivated, problems can develop. Here, in contrast to a wood fence or a brick wall, most hedges can heal. But it will take time and patient care.
The most obvious problem with hedges is broken branches. These are usually a signal that the hedge is properly placed. In other words, it was by stopping some unwanted type of traffic that the hedge was damaged.
Repairing broken branches is not difficult. First, cut away all of the broken or damaged wood using appropriate pruning techniques. Next, find some close undamaged branches or leaves and prune them.
Yes, it is necessary to cut the plant to encourage more growth. The more cuts you make, the faster the hole can be filled.
A different problem that develops is with the shape of the hedge. Suddenly it seems when you need to trim a certain part, there is a thick branch that is growing just a little bit too far out, and it is in the way. This is a problem with success: Your hedge is growing well. Although the branch has always been there, just like the rest of the hedge, it gets a little thicker each year. To dial this hedge back, you are going to have to bite your lip and cut the troublesome stem out. Then treat the hole as if you removed a broken branch.
Weeds may introduce themselves into the hedge. If the hedge is merely functional, weeds can be considered simply part of the fence. But weed shrubs, trees or vines that intermingle certainly disrupt the uniformity of a formal hedge. These “volunteers” should be cut or pulled at the base.
If the hedge overgrows its space, it can likely be renovated, which essentially means starting over. But unlike a new hedge, an old hedge has an established root system that can support rapid regrowth.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.