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Hedges are great for privacy and a smart way to border your garden. However, nature doesn’t have a habit of growing in straight lines! If you want to neaten your hedges or even shape them into something precise, here’s our guide to creating a hedge to be proud of. The best time to give your borders a good trim is around late spring and early summer, just before the big growing season.
- If you’ve just planted your hedges, you’ll need to let them grow for a couple of years before shaping them properly. You can roughly trim them into a general size and shape using pruning shears, but harsh pruning early on will damage the plant - let them establish themselves first.
- The usual pruning rules apply if you want a more informal look for your hedge. However, a more formal hedge requires precision and will take more looking after. Trimming a formal hedge a few times a year isn’t unusual to help keep it tidy.
- Trimming large hedges will be much easier with an electric trimmer; just make sure the cord hangs over your shoulder to avoid getting cut. Smaller hedges will be fine with pruning shears.
- Don’t rely on the naked eye to achieve perfect horizontal lines. A taut string stretched between two canes is most often used as a guide to avoiding wonky tops. Also, ensure your trimmer or shears are parallel to the ground to prevent sloping.
- Large hedges should taper inwards towards the top, allowing light to reach the leaves at the bottom of the hedge. This is referred to as a batter cut.
- If you want to add a unique or particular shape to your hedges, such as an arch or a soft wave, cardboard templates are the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to get the form you want. Cut out the shape onto cardboard, place it on the hedge and cut around it.
- If you want to impress the neighbours, you could try the art of topiary. This involves tightly clipping your hedges into precise figures or shapes, but it only works well with particular bushes. However, you can buy frames and supports to help train the plant.
- Always check for bird’s nests when trimming your hedge. Not only do you not want to disturb the homes of our feathered friends and possibly endanger any eggs or chicks living there, but it’s illegal to damage the nest of a wild bird that’s in use under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
Interested in learning more about how you can bring stylistic, sculptured aesthetics to your garden? Check out our article on Landscaping, the broader art of garden architecture. Make sure to look through our Gardens Department for more inspiration for your outside space and all the tools you'll need for your green-fingered projects.