Documents: Special Interest: Wildlife Gardening:

Hedgerows: Bringing the Countryside to the City
by Maria MacRae
by Maria MacRae

Maria began work with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in 1995. At the end of her first year, she took a three-year leave of absence to work on a conservation project in Papua New Guinea. She returned in 1999 and now works as the Manager of CWF’s Backyard Habitat Programs. Maria looks after the Golden Gardens funding program, Backyard Habitat Certification Program, CWF demonstration gardens, and Wild About Gardening website. She also writes for Canadian Wildlife and creates a series of Wild About education materials that includes posters, handouts and other education materials.

Maria received her biology degree from McMaster University and then went on to specialize in wildlife management at McGill University. This was complemented with an MBA from McGill and Erasmus University in The Netherlands. She has been working in the conservation field since 1990, starting with the publication of her research in Canadian Field Naturalist. Her career in conservation education began when she started doing freelance writing for various newspapers and magazines and then went on to create the Ladybug Survey. From these experiences she discovered the joy of sharing her fascination in all types of wildlife, from beetles and bats to birds, with the public.

October 14, 2007

Hedgerows have been part of the landscape for hundreds of years. Traditionally used in agricultural areas, hedgerows offer many advantages for smaller, more urban properties as well. They also provide an invaluable natural service, offering food and shelter to precious wildlife.

A hedgerow is a long row of shrubs, often with some trees, that separates one piece of land from another. Hedgerows were first used to mark property boundaries and to create a barrier to the movement of livestock. However, they’ve proved useful in many other ways as well: They protect livestock and buildings from winter winds, add colour and beauty to the landscape, act as a barrier to soil erosion, and filter noise from neighbouring properties and roads. A properly constructed hedgerow will also offer privacy from neighbours and help to conserve the energy you use in your home. So although hedgerows are an old tradition, they have become an increasingly important part of modern, altered landscapes.

One of the most valuable benefits of hedgerows, however, is the support they provide to wildlife. Hedgerows not only give wildlife food and shelter directly, but also create corridors that allow birds and animals to travel safely between islands of habitat isolated by urbanization and development. And as we continue to encroach on remaining habitat, wildlife are becoming more dependent on hedgerows to offer them safe passage between these areas to access the resources they need to survive.

So if you’d like to help the wildlife in your area, remember that diversity is the key to creating a truly valuable hedgerow. Planting a row of cedars, while beneficial, is not as worthwhile as creating a hedgerow that is a mix of shrub and tree species. Put a bit of effort into creating a hedge that provides a diversity of food and shelter for wildlife, and you will be more than rewarded for your efforts.

Tips for creating a wildlife-friendly hedgerow and information on other wildlife friendly tree and shrub species can be found by visiting

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row