A row of closely spaced shrubs, bushes and tree plants can be a real blessing in your garden. Why? Because hedge is an all-rounder – it protects against sun, wind, noise and provides habitat for various species. If properly manicured, it can also be a decorative fence protecting you from unbidden looks. Hedges can be formal requiring regular trimming or informal requiring little or no human intervention. Formal hedges with symmetrical shapes and sharp edges can serve as a boundary and path or driveway edging. Informal hedges with their irregular shapes should be allowed to grow naturally to soften the landscape of the garden or to block an unwanted view. They are perfect for informal garden, holiday or rental home, or a farm windbreak.
e.g. holly, hornbeam, hawthorn, privet, laurel, cypress
Maintaining a hedge with geometric lines is a time-consuming and a matter-of-technique task. Here are some useful tips which will help you keep your hedge neat and attractive.
- You should be aware of the natural growth habit and height of the shrub species. Some plants grow so quickly that constant trimming can be too frustrating for you.
- Formal hedges should resemble a pyramid – the bottom is wider than the top so that the sunlight can reach the base of the hedge. This is known as a ‘batter’ and ensures a dense, full hedge from top to bottom.
- Start trimming from the base of the hedge upwards, using the lower part of the shears instead of the tip, which could provoke pockmarks or dig-in. The tip is used later on during the trimming.
- As it is all about symmetry, cutting straight by eye can be difficult. Use a sturdy string tied between two canes to act as a cutting guide. You can also use a measure laser instead. Then cut the top and sides of the hedge above the line.
- If you use shears, cut the top of the hedge flat by keeping the blades of shears parallel to the line of the hedge.When shaping the top of the hedge to an arch, prepare the template of the shape from cardboard. Place it on the hedge and proceed along its lines.
- Use a sweeping movement from the bottom to the top so that all the clippings are removed. Otherwise, fungal diseases can spread.
- If you trim the hedge for re-growth, you can concentrate on long branches in the middle, whereas if you do the ”fine-tuning” you can focus on shape, evenness and thinning out.
- In general, informal hedges need little pruning but some of it is required to restrict their spread and height. If not trimmed, the can grow beyond their allotted space.
- To ensure their good shape, remove misplaced shoots and old stems with secateurs or loppers. Also cut stems and branches to the required size.
e.g. barberry, firethorn, rose, honeysuckle, escallonia, spiraea
The plants present on the flowering hedge should not exceed 3m in height at maturity and should match the climate and the soil where the hedge is located. Drawing up a plan of the flowering hedge may be helpful: the flowers and the colours should be placed with respect to the time of year and space available. Remember that the deciduous and evergreen plants must alternate.
The flowering hedge is usually between 1.50m and 3m in height.
Frequent shearing encourages lots of surface branching, possibly resulting in an unhealthy structure and reduced flowering. If you want a tightly sheared look in your garden, pick a plant that is suited to it, such as boxwood.
- They flourish best when allowed to grow in their natural form or habit.
- Frequent shearing gives way to lots of surface branching, possibly leading to reduced flowering. If you like the idea of tightly sheared hedge in your garden, select a plant that is best for this, such as boxwood.
- Postpone the trimming of shrubs producing berries until they disappear.
e.g. barberry, box, lavender, rosemary, crimson dwarf, lavender cotton
- The low growing hedges, which are used for parterres, knot gardens or as borders around vegetable beds, can be trimmed twice a year.
- Box, rosemary, lonicera, lavender and germander should be cut in spring and then in mid-summer.
When to trim?
- Proper timing is crucial when trimming hedges The best time to do it is spring as new cuts poorly react to low temperatures. In the summer you can fine-trim as much as you wish. If required, do two major trims – one in the middle of summer and the other towards the end.
- Spring-flowering shrubs need to be trimmed soon after the flowers wither. Shrubs blossoming in summer and autumn are best pruned in late winter or early spring.
- Most deciduous hedges require pruning during early season of growth and again when they have grown about 6 inches. Generally speaking, evergreen hedges need less pruning than deciduous hedges.
Rules of thumb
- Do not forget about watering, mulching and fertilising the hedges to ensure their good condition.
- It may happen that a hedge plant dies or becomes damaged due to disease – if you can’t save the plant, replace it in autumn.