Taking Care of your Hedges

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A regularly maintained hedge will provide a thick full smart boundary to your property. Miss a few trimming sessions however, and you will soon have a hedge that has lost its shape and a more difficult job on your hands. It is much easier to give the hedge a frequent light trim than it is to give it an infrequent heavy prune.

Regular trimming is also much better for the hedge. Some conifers, like leylandii, react badly if you cut into old wood, potential leaving your hedge with bald spots.

When to cut hedges

An informal hedge, one where the natural outline of the plants are preserved, will require a maintenance trim once. A year between spring and summer. A formal hedge should be trimmed two to three times a year during the growing season. Fast growing species may need a more frequent trim to keep the hedge under control.

Guidelines on when to trim specific species of popular hedging plants can be found on the RHS website.

How to trim a hedge

You will need a hand-held hedge shears or a powered hedge trimmer. The latter will make the job of trimming a large hedge much quicker and won’t leave you with tired arms.

When using a powered hedge trimmer, make sure you stay safe. Wear safety goggles and sturdy gloves.  With an electric trimmer use a safety socket, and keep the cable away from the blade. Try draping the cable over one shoulder to avoid it trailing on the ground in front of you. Before starting, clear the work area of any obstacles or potential trip hazards. Using power tool above shoulder height should be avoided so use a stable step ladder when trimming high hedges.

To make the collection of clippings easier, place a 2M wide plastic sheet under the hedge. This is an especially useful top when cutting over gravel. You can then either sweep the sheet or fold it up to collect the clipping for disposal.

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Informal Hedges

With an informal hedge you will only need to remove misplace shoots with secateurs or loppers. 

Formal Hedges

The hallmark of a formal hedge is the crisp straight edge and tight finish. If the hedge is only short then you could probably get away with cutting this by eye, stepping back occasionally to make sure you are on the right track.  

For a longer hedge or an untrustworthy eye, create a cutting guide; place a cane into the ground at both ends of the hedge then stretch a length of string between them.

The sides of the hedge should be tapered in slightly so that the top is narrower than the bottom. This will allow sunlight and rainwater to each the lower foliage and the ground, keeping the hedge thick and bushy across its entire height. As the hedge grows taller the angle of the taper can be decreased.

When using a powered trimmer to cut the side keep the blade parallel to the hedge and use a wide, sweeping motion, walking forwards as you work. You can always use shears to go back and cut and missed sprigs!


Remember to brush off and clean up the trimmings afterwards to prevent the spread off fungal diseases. To keep the hedge in good condition the last task is to water and mulch the plants.   

Get some help

For Hedge maintenance to be effective you need to do it regularly. Leaving it will make the job more difficult net time. If you don’t have time to trim your header, or are not confident in your ability, then you may do more damage than good.

Orchard Tree Surgery offer a hedge trimming service, so you can be confident your hedges are being professionally maintained.

Beautifully maintained hedges can add immense appeal to your property so don’t miss the trim this summer.

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