The why, when, what and how of hedge-trimming

Forsythia informal hedgeWhat kind of hedge are you after – a neat, formal boundary or a more relaxed, natural skirting?  Why even bother trimming?  When’s the best time? How do I start?  Well, start with our hedge-trimming guide!

Why should I trim my hedge?

Hedges are usually established boundaries, so it’s best to keep them in shape to maintain their bounds.  It encourages healthy growth and flowers and berries for those less formal hedges.  And – they’ll look great!

When should I trim my hedge?

Your established hedge (+2 years old) will need a once-a-year trim for an informal look or 2 or 3 cuts to keep a formal hedge tamed.  These “maintenance trims” are best started in the Summer.   For more species-specific hedge trimming guidelines, the RHS website has some more guidance for you.

What type of hedge do I want?Formal Hedge

The Formal Hedge:  If you’ve chosen a dense, fine-leaved plant like a privet (like one of these) or conifer, chances are you’ll want a neat formal hedge – and that means one you’ll need to clip regularly.

  • Save time tidying:  Tidying up after you’ve finished often takes longer than the trimming itself so why not put down a plastic sheet first so you can simply scoop up the sheet when finished.
  • Square or wedge: Keep it square or preferably in a wedge-shape – wider at the bottom than the top.  That way, your hedge will allow the maximum of sunlight to reach its base and will look more solid.
  • Think about “reach”:  You have to be able to cut and manage your hedge from one side (unless you want to manage your neighbour’s side, too?!) so try to keep the top no wider than about 60cm.
  • Bottom to top: If you’re using a trimmer, start at the bottom of each side, working upwards in smooth strokes, moving continuously.  Leave the top till last.
  • Finishing touches:  Don’t forget to brush off the clippings from the top of the hedge – that’s never a good look.

The Informal Hedge: With larger-leaved deciduous plants such as forsythia, escallonia, berberis and hawthorn, with flowers and berries, a more natural flowing hedge looks stunning in its prime.

  • Be harsh: Cut back hard in the Summer, if you like the berries.
  • Annual haircut:  Give them an annual trim after flowering for a more regular shape
  • Look out for birds:  Check that you don’t have any birds nesting within your hedge – you can trim to heart’s content once the chicks have flown.

What next?

Plan and plant your next hedge!  Pre-order your bare root plants, ready for the Winter – and save 15%.

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