Across the country, hedges form an intrinsic part of many gardens – and for good reason! Not only is a hedge an excellent way to create a barrier or boundary while introducing more greenery to the garden, they also look attractive and offer practical benefits such as adding privacy and reducing noise, while providing extra shelter and food for wildlife.
Generally, hedges are very low maintenance and only require cutting back two or three times a year, depending on the variety. Trimming has several benefits – not only does it keep hedges looking neat and tidy, it also prevents branches from getting in the way of passers-by and encourages a thicker, fuller shrub and more even growth.
But when it comes to trimming, it’s not as simple as “dig out the shears and start snipping” – there is an art in how to trim like a professional. Here, Tom Kitching, from leading ladder specialist Henchman shares how…
When to Trim
There are a whole host of hedges out there, from floral varieties such as forsythia, viburnum and jasmine, to evergreens such as English yew, privet, beech and box. The type of hedge at hand will decide when it needs to be trimmed. For example, flowering shrubs should be cut back after they bloom, but yew and privet prefer to be pruned in autumn after active growth has ended. This also means there is less chance of disturbing any nests inside the hedge, too, as chicks will have fledged come autumn.
When it comes to the ideal weather conditions to get the shears out, avoid hot or sunny days – if the leaves growing deeper inside the plant are suddenly exposed to direct sunlight, they may become scorched! Likewise, avoid chilly snaps as low temperatures can be equally as stressful to sensitive tissue. Instead, wait for an overcast, cloudy day, as this reduces the risk of shock.
Choosing the Right Tools
As with any gardening task, before beginning it’s important to have the correct tools to set you up for success. Of course, sharp shears are essential for quick and effective cutting, and ensuring they are clean will also reduce the risk of disease to the plant. There is a variety of cutting tools out there to choose from – traditional hedge shears will do the job, but there are also long handled options available such as a long handle pruner or long reach shears to make the job even easier.
If the hedge is well-established, a set of specialist garden ladders will be required to keep you safe when working at height. Henchman’s Fully Adjustable Tripod Ladder, which is available from 5ft up to 16ft, has three independently-adjustable legs and a generous platform so users have enough space to move comfortably and are supported even on uneven terrain.
Always wear a pair of gloves with good grip to make handling tools easier, and consider safety goggles, too. A heavy duty ground sheet will also be useful for making the clear up quick and easy.
How to Trim
When it comes to trimming techniques, the goal is to maintain the hedge and tidy it up. This mainly involves clipping it back so that it tapers in size towards the top of the hedge, as most naturally grow into a V-shape over time.
This is because the top part of the hedge receives more sunlight than the bottom, meaning the top grows and widens faster. In turn, this causes shade which will prevent sunlight from reaching the bottom of the hedge, resulting in the lower section producing less foliage and becoming narrower.
To counteract this, shear the hedge so that the base is wider than the top, at such an angle that the top starts off narrower than the bottom of the hedge. This ensures the bottom foliage gets maximum sunlight and leads to a more even hedge over time.
Always start from the bottom up, and avoid branches that form the skeleton of the tree or shrub. Remember to be careful not to prune back too drastically – some varieties will not put out new growth if they are cut back to the wood, so stick to removing two-thirds of new growth as a general rule. Taking a step back to regularly assess your work will prevent over-trimming!
For more expert advice, and to find the perfect Henchman ladder, visit www.henchman.co.uk.
See also: Adding Value to Your Home With an Inspired Conservatory