Getting hedges into good shape

A thorough cutting at the planting stage will ensure the subsequent healthy growth of your hedge. When planting, the roots should be shortened by at least a third, or, better still, by two-thirds. Sensible cutting at this stage will prove important in the life of the hedge. Treated properly, the plants will branch vigorously at the bottom – a feature of every good hedge. Hedge shears with forged teeth or corrugations are suitable for the more vigorous hedges, as they prevent branches from sliding through the shears. Experts even cut back young privet, hawthorn and Cornelian hedge plants once more a year later – just as low.

Trapezoidal cuts

Hedges should be cut trapezoidally and not as straight as a ramrod.

Here`s why. The shrubs planted as hedges, such as hornbeam, privet, common maple or barberry, grow broad below and narrow on top as individual plants. We approach this natural growth with a trapezoidal cut – which prevents the balding of lower branches. If hedge shrubs are allowed to grow vertically, the lowest branches die from lack of light.

Loose hedge with flowers

It`s not just hedges cut to a rigid shape which look good as boundaries. A colorful mixture of free growing shrubs of weigela, forsythia, trellis and wild roses can look very attractive too. And what about a charming combination of flowering shrubs and conifers? And cutters also come in handy when dealing with shrubs. Occasionally, corrections will become necessary when branches cross over each other or when bushes grow too large, with limbs sticking out to spoil the overall picture. Low hedges which enclose flowerbeds of front gardens should be cut in the spring before shooting begins. Now and then, especially with small growing spiraea or evergreen dwarf hedge cherries, a more severe cut may be needed.

Summer trimming and birds` nests

Summer trimming keeps your hedge in order. Even out irregularities which you couldn`t spot in the hedge`s leafless state – restraining the growth and leaving the hedge beautiful, smooth and clean.

If birds are nesting in the hedge, don’t trim until the beginning of August – or you run the risk of harming the young brood. 

Cut at the right time

October to Februar is the ideal time to get your hedge into shape. During this period the plants are not growing and can be cut without harming them. With a good shaping cut you can decide how your hedge should grow – higher or lower, wider or narrower. And there`s no need to restrict yourself to cutting back only new young shoots. Wherever necessary, try cutting back low down – bringing new life to underdeveloped branches. They will react quickly with fresh growth.

An occasional rejuvenating cut

When hedges become bald and unsightly, it`s time for a rejuvenating cut. Cut down the stems with branch cutters to 25 cm above the ground, or saw off with a tree saw. This rule applies only to hedge plants of deciduous ornamental tress such as privet and hornbeam – NOT to evergreens such as yews and arborvitae, bay laurels and false cypresses.

Cutting evergreen hedges

Evergreen hedges of broad-leaf trees or conifers should be cut only once a year – preferably at the end of August. Cutting in spring is not recommended, as this eliminates the fresh green new growth in conifers. Many gardeners take up their shears twice a year, to keep the hedge system in precise shape, but often nothing more is needed than a trim to shorten the year`s growth. The trapezoidal cut has also proved best for evergreen hedges.