Top tips for trimming your hedges

Welcome to our latest feature on the top tips for trimming your hedge. We’ll be showing you the best times to trim your hedge, including beech, cypress, laurel, and privet. We will also cover essential pointers on how to cut hedges, to leave you with a sharp, immaculate finish you’ll be proud of.

How to trim a hedge:

Formal hedges

A formal hedge is one that is trimmed regularly.

  • You should look for a dense, fine-leaved plant, such as privet or a conifer.
  • Trim frequently to a square, or to a wedge shape preferably, allowing for a wider base, tapering the hedge as it progresses to the top. By doing this you are allowing for maximum light to influence the base, while making the structure of the hedge more solid.
  • Attempt to retain the top of the hedge at a width no wider than around 60cm, so you can easily maintain it by cutting from one side.
  • For those who have longer hedges, create a line using some bamboo canes and a string that doesn’t stretch when pulled. Firmly establish the bamboo canes by pushing them into the soil at either end of the hedge, and add shorter canes at 45 degrees to these, pointing away from the hedge. Next you should tie string between the slanting and upright canes in order to stop the upright canes being pulling inwards once the string is tightened along the hedge. Ensure you tie the string above the hedge so as to achieve a straight side, but only about 1cm below the desired final height to cut the top. By doing so you will prevent you from cutting so close to the string that you nick it and have to retie it.
  • When getting to work with the hedge trimmer, begin at the bottom of each side and work your way upwards with smooth, continuous ‘strips’. The top of the hedge should always be cut last.
  • Save yourself some time by spreading a plastic sheet on the floor below the hedge to catch the excess clippings. Take a brush or rake to the top of the hedge to dislodge the clippings or your nicely pruned hedge will appear unsightly.

Informal hedges

  • For those looking for an informal hedge you should opt for a large-leaved deciduous plant, for example berberis, forsythia, escallonia, or hawthorn, which showcase attractive flowers and berries as well.
  • Aim to cut back hard occasionally if the appeal of the berries is what you prefer, alternatively you can give them an annual trim after flowering for a more regular shape.
  • Secateurs and loppers might be the preferable option when it comes to cutting these types of hedges to obtain more of a natural look.

Renovating your hedges

  • Almost all hedge plants react well when hard pruned.
  • All conifer hedges with the exception of yew should never be trimmed back beyond the green growth. This is because they will fail to regenerate.
  • Elect the height or width you want and use canes and string to mark it out.
  • Cut back up to 30cm further than this to permit new growth.
  • Use loppers or a pruning saw on your hedge’s older branches but concentrate on the ones more than around 2cm in diameter.
  • Once you’ve succeeded in trimming back to the desired size, continue to trim often with a hedge trimmer.

Safety pointers

  • You should never cut in wet conditions as you are simply asking for trouble when risking slipping on wet ground.
  • Preferably cut from the ground as opposed to a ladder. By using a long-reach hedge trimmer you will cut the tops of taller hedges thus making the use of a ladder unnecessary.
  • If you are having to make use of a ladder, use a step-ladder or Henchman-type ladder with a steady platform. Take care to ensure the ladder is stable prior to climbing on.

If you are planning on trimming your hedges in preparation for summer why not opt for some garden machinery servicing at Hayes GM before you start so that you can trim in confidence?

Image: Dave Hitchborne under Creative Commons Licence.

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