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Hedge pruning and maintenance

Date posted: 19 December 2013

Hedges provide an attractive and cost-effective 'living wall' for your garden when they are well looked-after – but if they are not properly maintained they can soon grow out of shape, casting unwanted shadows across large parts of your garden or home.

Hedges need formative pruning when you first plant them, and an ongoing maintenance schedule to keep them neat while they are actively growing.

The garden tools required for hedge trimming depends on the type of hedge you are trimming, as do pruning times.

Hedge trimming tools

A pair of hand sears may be all you need to trim an everyday garden hedge, although you may want to hire a hedge trimmer for larger hedges to complete the job more quickly and easily. If you do use an electric hedge trimmer you will also need protective gear including goggles and gloves, which are often also available to rent from your local tool hire centre when you hire a hedge trimmer.

Choosing a hedge plant

Many hedge plants are relatively cheap, straightforward to plant, and create an attractive garden boundary more quickly than one might expect. They also offer a haven for birds and other wildlife.

There are many plants that can be used to create hedges – including those suitable for formal hedges, such as clipped Buxus (box), Fagus (beech) and Taxus (yew), and those suitable for more informal settings, providing colourful foliage or flowers, such as Viburnum or Crataegus (hawthorn).

Conifers are also popular choices, particularly fast-growing Leyland cypress which, if kept under control, makes a very effective hedge suitable in a range of growing conditions, including windy locations.

Evergreen hedges (including conifers) offer shelter and privacy all year round, but generally demand more maintenance and may need to be pruned a couple of times a year.

Deciduous plants (such as beech) can also make great hedges, particularly if privacy is less of a concern. These filter the wind during the winter, avoiding the turbulence seen with more dense, evergreen species, and they usually require less pruning.

When to prune hedges

You will soon establish a pruning schedule that suits your particular hedge, enabling you to keep it in good shape without too much effort. As a general guide, however, the following schedule often works well in the UK:

Evergreen, formal hedges

While they're actively growing, most evergreen hedges such as conifers need to be trimmed two to three times each year so that they do not get out of hand. If they are neglected for too long, it will not be possible to restore the hedge. If you have a tall hedge, you may want to avoid working up a ladder by contacting your local tool hire centre to hire a pair of long-reach or extendable hedge trimmers.

Informal hedges

If you have a more informal hedge that flowers on the current year's wood (such as lavender, fuchsia or rose), it is best pruned in early to mid-spring. Those that flower on old wood (such as deutzia, forsythia and berberis), need to be pruned when the blooms are fading.


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