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I'm interested in a living fence for my house and have a great source of straight growing willow normally used for biomass. This is in zone 4/5 of northeast US where we ge ~1m of precip per year and where I believe willow is native. I'm wondering what precautions need to be taken, if any, to avoid living fences getting out of control to a troublesome extent.

Why I ask is that I've heard horror stories of some pioneer plants like bamboo being planted in one area and with only a little bit of neglect (the kind that could easily come with a change in land ownership) they quickly claim huge areas for themselves and their presence keeps humans and other creatures from enjoying that area. Worse yet, once they're there, they are very difficult to get rid of even if someone's willing to invest significant effort in doing so.

I realize bamboo and willow and other living fence candidates are not all equal. So, if needed, please answer specifically for coppicing willows. I am wondering in general though, what precautions need to be taken to avoid a living fence getting out of control as I've heard bamboo has? The two main concerns:

  1. The plants spreads out beyond the area intended for fencing. Of course some maintenance is expected, as any kind of fence occasionally need, but how to avoid a living fence that needs so much maintenance that it could be a turn off for future home buyers? (I realize that's relative, just looking for general things to do / look out for before and while working to establish a living fence.)

  2. The plants become extremely difficult to remove. I'm not sure if this is actually a problem, so answers about this point might bring to my attention that generally this is a non-issue. A high quality conventional fence is not something any potential home buyer is likely to get rid of, and if they did it could be a ton of work (especially if there's concrete anchors for posts), so a living fence might not actually be that much of a turn-off relative to other fences in cases of new owners wanting to change it up. I just can't shake this concern before growing something with fast spreading roots and vegetative reproduction: could it scare of future owners who don't want it but fear they'd never be able to get rid of it? If there's any need to worry about that, what precautions, if any, can be taken to address it?

  • this cannot be answered without the area of the world and the plants that you were thinking of using. An invasive plant in one area is a native in another.. – kevinsky Jun 1 '18 at 10:44
  • @kevinsky good point! Edited – cr0 Jun 1 '18 at 12:03
  • One more factor to bear in mind is that tree roots have a tendency to interact with the built environment in a quite detrimental way. Willow, which naturally grows near water, is reported to cause a lot of damage to drains with its roots, which apparently seek out water and spread far from the plant. – David Liam Clayton Jun 1 '18 at 17:37
  • @DavidLiamClayton fair point. I guess the best that can be done to prevent that is to have local utility co flag where utilities are (which they'll often do for free in my neck of the woods, so to avoid people digging into a pipe) – cr0 Jun 1 '18 at 18:39
  • I can't comment on bamboo, but there is a reason willow was grown for coppicing: it's virtually impossible to kill it by over-pruning it. Any part of a willow tree can (and will!) grow roots if it has access to water - just leave a foot long piece of bare willow tree trunk in a bucket of tap water for a few months, if you don't believe it. Certainly from first hand experience, "consumer grade" brushwood killer, etc, just doesn't work at all on willow - next year it will be back as if nothing had happened. – alephzero Jun 20 '18 at 19:01

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