It’s hedge season here at Green Art and what better time to introduce our resident hedge expert (and my partner in all things green), Tim, and ask him what are his top tips for your hedges at home.
Jenny: So, Tim, how many years have you been taming hedges for?
Tim: It’s about 5 years now.
Jenny: We should share some of your handywork with our readers. Here are a few images from the box hedge at the rose garden at Satwell Old Farm. I have to say as well, as a relative newbie to hedge care, I was astonished at how sharp the edges were when you had finished. How do you get such sharp lines?
Tim: Well, one way us to use a length of wood to cut against, this helps to give you a straight edge to work with.
When I prune a hedge with a hedge trimmer, my top tip for keeping a straight and smooth finish to the top of a hedge, is to ensure you keep the trimmer in a fixed position so you can move your body in a fluid motion from side to side. This should make it easier to keep to the line you have decided on.
Jenny: What I found with hedges we have worked on, especially informal or boundary hedges, is that they can often be made up of many different types of trees and shrubs, this can make getting a smooth finish more difficult, particularly when you have thicker branches that are in the hedge. How do you deal with the difficulties mixed hedges present to getting a good finish?
Tim: My advice for thicker stems and small branches is to tilt the trimmer blade at a slight angle, into the hedge, this makes it easier for the blades to cut through them more easily. I also like to cut any thick branches before I start, with a pair of anvil secateurs or loppers.
Jenny: My big learning curve this season was not to expect a mixed hedge to look like a more formal and manicured hedge when finished. They do look a bit patchy in places due to the coverage of different shrubs and trees, especially if you are working to cut them all to the same depth. The trick is to step back far enough to admire your handy work in its’ totality, as standing nose to leaf with a hedge means you can only really see the patches where the growth is different.
Tim: That brings me on to another top tip, don’t forget to stand back and look at your hedge lines from different angles. Looking at a hedge from a fixed position e.g. where you are currently cutting, means you cant tell if you are cutting a straight line.
I think my final, and most important tip, about hedge trimming is this, always cut less rather than straight in at the height you are hoping to finish at. You can always trim more off if needs be but once you cut into a hedge, you are committed to following that line to get an even finish and you cant put back a hedge once it is cut!.
Jenny: Well Tim, a big thank you for joining us on the blog today, I have one final question for you before you go. When should you prune a hedge?
Tim: As a general rule, hedges should be pruned in the growing season to encourage growth and improve the overall look of the hedge but the specific timing of pruning will depend on the type of hedge you have. I think this is something you were planning to talk more about later on?
Jenny: Your absolutely right Tim, Thanks again for your time, and I hope you will join us in the future to share some more of your gardening know how.
When the time is right…
Evergreen hedges like Box (Buxus Sempivirens), Privet (Ligustrum) and Yew should be pruned in Spring after planting and for the first two years after planting. They should also be given a maintenance prune in the summer.
Deciduous hedges like Beech, Hawthorn and Hornbeam should be pruned in winter just after planting and given a maintenance prune each summer.
Some hedges like Buxus Sempivirens can be trimmed twice to three times during the growing season along with Ligustrum. Hawthorn can be trimmed twice, in Summer and again in Autumn. And where would a piece on hedges be without mentioning the ever-present Leyland Cypress (Cuprocyparis Leylandii). Leylandii should be cut twice, in spring and summer.
Don’t forget that your hedge is also a home…
The timing of your hedge pruning should also take into consideration any nesting birds. Did you know that it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built? For reference, the nesting season for birds spans between March and August, so don’t forget that your hedge is a home to our feathered friends and check it over before you get out the hedge trimmer.
It is estimated that hedges support up to 80% of our woodland birds, 50% of our woodland mammals and 30% of our butterflies.
The humble hedge plays a vital role as a wildlife corridor, allowing mammals, birds and insects to travel between isolated habitats across the country.
I could probably say a lot more here about hedges but I think that’s enough for now, keep a look out for follow-up blogs on hedge laying and planting later on in the year.
Right, I’m off to tame a few more hedges with Tim. Until next time…
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