I am wanting to plant tall shrubs or short trees in heavy clay, that can be easily sculpted by methods such as laying, self grafting where they cross, and pruning heavily on one side, with the other side left natural.
So, 15-20' or less than 35-40' tall. Must grow well in heavy clay soil, in the forest/prairie transition zone in an urban yard. Must be both capable of being grown without maintenance and able to handle pruning and capable of self grafting. Edible is a definite plus.
I have access to a hackberry tree and a mulberry tree, and wondered if either or both would grow reliably enough from cuttings to be worth using them. I think hackberry is a fast growing tree, is mulberry fast growing as well? If possible I want this to be free or very low investment.
Other options I am looking at include viburnums, hawthorns, hazelnut, and serviceberry.
I am wondering if anyone has worked with laying hedges from any of these trees and shrubs, and what your experiences were in terms of them growing together into a tightly interwoven hedge?
Fruit trees along the pruned edge of the hedge, shrubs and other plants around the unpruned side.
Up until the invention of barbed wire, Osage Orange (Bowdark, Horse Apple) was the premier hedging plant in the Americas. Googling "Osage Hedge" will turn up a fair amount of info, most of it dating from 1850 or so. And it's native to Oklahoma, growing easily from seeds you can tear out of any big green/yellow ball you pick up along a sidewalk. They are bulking up on the trees right now, though I don't think the seeds will be mature for another month or two.
I have seen accounts of successful laying with Osage Orange, but typically that's not how an Osage hedge is made. They are grown from closely-planted seeds, and made bushy by repeated mowing and trimming. Laying was historically reserved for filling gaps in an existing hedge.
Another viciously-effective hedge plant for Oklahoma is the trifoliate orange (mock orange, bitter orange), a very thorny psuedo-citrus. I'm told that there are extensive hedges of the stuff on the the OSU campus in Edmond (?) but I have not been there to see them for myself. It might be worth a road trip for you if you're serious about hedging.
I am experimenting with something similar on my little acreage. I've toyed with hugel mounds in spots, and just stacked dead tree and brush limbs in wind rows (parallel to fence) in others. My objective for a hedge row include screen/barrier, food production, pollinator food/attractant. What has worked best on my place (eastern Cleveland County) best so far has been the wind rows. The sumac and wild blackberries have made a fairly effective barrier to any sort of casual human foot traffic. I get loads of blackberries in the summer.
I've also been trying to cultivate a trifoliate orange hedge, but it's been slow going. You can go pick up some trifoliate oranges at the OSU at OKC campus from the south side of the greenhouses in their botanical garden. Those little oranges have a SURPRISING amount of seeds in them, and your hands will get covered in a sticky resin if you deseed them. I've grown them in some really sandy/clay in full sun and in shaded sand loam. Obviously, the sandy loam cohort has done better.
I've not tried a Bois D'Arc hedge yet. But I am growing some black locust, and they've done amazingly well. These were intended for firewood and bee forage. I will coppace them when they get to firewood size, and let them grow back without thinning them out (to make a more impenetrable hedge). I've been planting them about 3 or 4 feet apart. Beware goats and saplings though. Goats have a penchant for eating anything you plant, and amazingly somehow managed to kill a lot of my black locusts by constant grazing pressure.