Q We have some property in an area of sand dunes in Michigan. We would like to have a living fence between our land and our neighbors'. Would Rosa multiflora and barberry be suitable for this purpose? B.H.B. Jr.
Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) will do fine in sandy soil. We suggest, instead of Rosa multiflora, you use Rosa rugosa or shrub rose, which is ideal for hedges or living fences, and does well in sand. It would be advisable to add some peat moss, compost, or any kind of humus to the bottom of the hole before setting each shrub into it. Make the hole six to eight inches deeper and wider than you need, then mix humus with the removed soil, half and half. Put about six inches of this mix back in the hole, set the shrub down in, and fill in with the rest, tamping it down with each layer. Water thoroughly when half full, and again after the hole is filled. Leave the final layer with a slight saucer effect to catch rain.
Reader comment: You had a letter sometime back from a person who was thrilled to hear about hedge rose (Rosa multiflora). You tried to set him straight but you weren't strong enough. I have been writing letters to my municipal and county representatives, enclosing copies of this article and picture, proving the damage done by this pernicious pest.
Thank you for your letter and the photo showing how aggressive Rosa multiflora can be. The term ``hedge rose'' should not be confused with ``living fence'' or Rosa multiflora. There are good nonaggressive shrub roses (Rosa rugosa) for tall hedges and several types of low-growing roses that are suitable for hedges. Rosa multiflora is a rank, single-flowered, aggressive wild rose that was recommended during the 1930s, and several years thereafter, for use as living fences. It has escaped and taken over fields, pastureland, and even backyards where it was planted or has sprung up from seeds. As per the article, many states now prohibit any planting of this insidious pest.