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How to Trim & Shape Your Hedges

Hedges are great for privacy as well as being 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 hedges 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.

  • If you want a more informal look for your hedge, then the usual pruning rules apply. However, a more formal hedge requires precision and will take more looking after. It isn’t unusual to trim a formal hedge a few times a year to keep it neat and tidy.

  • Trimming large hedges will be much easier with an electric trimmer, just make sure the cord hangs over your shoulder to avoid it 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 avoid wonky tops. Also, make sure your trimmer or shears are parallel to the ground to prevent any 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, then cardboard templates are the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to get the shape you want. Simply cut out the shape onto cardboard, place it on the hedge and cut around it.

  • If you really want to impress the neighbours, you could try the art of topiary. This involves tightly clipping your hedges into precise figures or shapes. This only works well with particular bushes, but frames and supports can be bought to help train the plant.

Always check for bird’s nests when trimming your hedge – it’s illegal to damage the nest of a wild bird that’s in use under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

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