Thickly planted shrub rows can be a stylish way of defining boundaries and borderlines, keep kids and pets in or out and provide sanctuary and even food for birds. But like all shrubs, hedges need routine watering, feeding, and pruning to look their best. While people may forget to give roots a good drink in warm weather or fertilize with the right formula in spring, the last area is where most of us really lose it.

Pruning intimidates a lot of people, but it’s a science that anybody can master. You just have a handful of fundamentals to understand. Here are a few recommendations that will enable you to maintain hedge plantings.

Start trimming as soon as the hedge has been planted

Hedge pruning should start with flowering shrubs and robust non-flowering ones as soon as the hedge has been planted. Reduce the height of the plants by one third or so. This might seem drastic for new plants, but if you don’t, your hedge at the base will always be thin and weedy.

Evergreen and slow-growing deciduous plants should not be cut back after planting. It would be best if you cut side shoots by a third but allow the leading shoots to expand. The hedge is going to look thin, but you need to keep your patience. Clip when the plants reach a few inches above the height that you want the hedge to be. This will encourage a lot of side shoots, and the hedge will quickly fill up.

Hand-pruning in combination with shearing is a must

Using shears to cut off branch tops keeps hedges nice and organized and encourages bud development near the plants’ edges.

But as buds multiply, a shrub may become so dense that it can not be penetrated by sunlight, restricting inside growth. As a result, a hedge grows bigger every year and appears dead inside. Proper pruning makes it possible to bring in some sunlight and scale back shrubs, so they don’t get too high.

Be sure to use bypass hand pruners at every shearing to create some spaces for light and air in the hedge. Every few feet, strike inside and clip a branch or two at an angle of 45 degrees, just above a nub or leaflet that is growing in a position you want to promote.

You’ll have to do some rejuvenation pruning using the three-year rule if a hedge is old and badly overgrown. At the plant’s base, cut up to one-third of the thickest stems, stimulating new growth. Repeat next year and the year after; this will leave you with a better, size-reduced shrub.

Pruning should be done during the winter

Preferably, when plants are dormant and have not developed buds, hedges should be pruned in late winter, especially if you’re scaling back significantly. Before you prune, you don’t want them to break buds as you want the plant’s energy to go where you want it to create new growth. If you cut off a plant’s buds, you’re taking off spent energy, and it will take more time for the hedge to grow back.

In particular, evergreens need pruning early in the season since they usually are slower-growing. They are probable to be bare (where interior cuttings were made) and off-colour at the tips (quite yellow) when new growth begins to show in the summers.

Faster-growing deciduous hedges such as privet, spirea, and viburnum are more accommodating. For flowering shrubs, the basic principle of pruning is to hold until the day after the blossoms turn brown, so the plant will have time to set buds for the next year, whether it blossoms in the current season wood or the next.

Hedges are to be narrower in the top, broader in the base

Left alone at the top, most hedges will begin to widen, where they will absorb the most sunshine. This ends in a V shape that shades the lower branches so that less and less foliage is produced downside. You want the V to be turned upside down. A trimmed hedge at the bottom should always be broader and narrower at the top, whether it is smooth, pointy, or rounded.

While shearing, start from the bottom and move to the top. To guarantee an even line along the top, you can also run a string line between stakes for absolute precision cutting.

Note that it is more vulnerable to snow damage (broken branches) once you buzz-cut the top of a plant so that it won’t shed snow as efficiently. For winter, tall hedges profit from being tied up. Just make sure to use a rope or chain lock instead of a hose-covered wire that can girdle trunks if left too long.

Before planting, decide how high and wide you want your hedge

If you are starting fresh, select plants that adapt themselves to creating a hedge, meaning that they grow upright and strong usually. The words ‘columnar’ or ‘fastigiate’ in the name suggests this kind of growth pattern.

In the case of formal hedges, those shrubs, such as yew, privet, and boxwood, would also have to withstand shearing and regular pruning. Broadly speaking, a hedge requires at least 3 feet in width. When it comes to height, maintaining your hedge at eye level will make maintenance easier; otherwise, be prepared to climb the ladder to the upper reaches.

The best tactic is to find out how tall and broad you want your hedge to be before you plant it. Study the pattern of any plant you’d like to hedge, and then choose a variety that won’t overgrow your space. Otherwise, you’re going to fight an uphill battle trying to cut the hedge down to size.

Good options for larger, more naturally formed evergreen hedges requiring minimal thinning include eastern red cedar, western arborvitae, juniper, hemlock, cypress, fastigiate white pine, and some holly varieties. Where four-season foliage is not required, you may suggest informal hedges of flowering shrubs, such as lilac, forsythia, hydrangea, Sharon rose, crape myrtle, or rugosa roses.

Understand the difference between a hedge and privacy plants

Don’t anticipate a hedge to give you a lot of privacy or obscure an unwanted sight. Hedges are usually maintained at the height of 6 to 8 feet; the privacy planting may rise 30 feet. aIn particular, screen plantings are also much more extensive, made up of a mixture of staggered evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, and perennials for a classic look.

Let a hedge be a hedge—an elegant shrub boundary that encircles your backyard and unifies the garden. If privacy is what you’re searching for, start looking at the large trees.

Dos and don’ts of hedge trimming

Do take care of breeding birds. If you are hedge clipping early in the year, confirm that there are no birds nesting in your bush. If they do, and your hedge trimming will interrupt them, stay until the chicks have migrated before beginning work.

Don’t clip evergreen hedges when they’re dry, so water the hedge the evening before a trim during the summer.

Do make sure you’re wearing the right gear. Avoid trying to cut a hedge in flip-flops. Make sure you wear durable, flat shoes, close-fitting clothing, and strong, solid gardening gloves.

Don’t use a mains operated trimmer when the grass or hedge is wet. You don’t want any water on your wires.

Do wear goggles. You might not think it is significant, but if a rogue twig hits you in the eye, you’ll realize it.

Don’t use hedge trimmers that you haven’t tested for. The blades should be smooth, clean, well-lubricated, and in good condition. Blunted blades are going to be challenging to deal with and can do long-term harm to the hedge.

Do check for obstacles like branches or children’s toys in the grass before you start. You don’t want to have a trip hazard incident.

Don’t forget to hold the cable over your shoulder if you’re using a mains powered hedge trimmer. You don’t want to cut through it.

Do make sure you’re not too tired to do trimming. Seriously, exhaustion is another factor adding to the lists at your local accident and emergency. Be vigilant and alert while you’re holding your hedges.

Don’t bother using your standard hedge trimmer to hit the top of a tall hedge. Your regular driven hedge cutter should never be elevated above your head.

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