Pruning, Shaping & Trimming
Whether you choose a formal or informal hedging species, a certain amount of maintenance will be required to keep your hedge from becoming overgrown and less effective. A well maintained hedge makes an attractive and interesting garden feature that will enhance your property and add to the property value. It will however require a certain amount of care and maintenance.
Pruning on most types of hedge plants is vital in the first few years to establish a dense branching structure. Pruning of top growth in the early years encourages lateral branches (bushyness). Establishing a strong well branched base to the plants will ensure your hedge is well covered all the way to the bottom. Once a good branch structure has been established the hedge can be allowed to grow to the desired height, whilst annually trimming at least a third of each subsequent years growth will maintain density.
Shaping A Formal Hedge
An effective formal hedge should be shaped to a profile where the hedge is wider at the base than at the top. This allows the maximum amount of sunlight to reach the branches at the base of the hedge. This avoids the hedge self-shading and the lower braches receiving little to no light creating dead patches in the lower parts of the hedge. The shape of the top of the hedge is variable, but a hedge with a pointed or rounded top will be less vulnerable to snow damage. Snow damage is caused by the weight of accumulated snow forcing to top of the hedge to collapse on itself. If a flat topped hedge is more preferable then simply clearing any accumulated snow during the winter will prevent such damage.
Once your hedge has established it will require frequent trimming to keep it dense and compact. Formal hedges will require a greater frequency of trimming to keep them looking sharp. Informal hedges can be trimmed once a year to keep them healthy and within bounds. Maintenance trimming is usually carried out between Spring and Summer.
Different types of hedge will require different tools for completing the job. Large leaved plants such as Laurel and Holly are best pruned using secateurs as cutting with a hedge trimmer will shred the leaves which will look unsightly until the new leaves push off the old in Spring. Many Hedge plants can be trimmed using hedge trimmers which will undoubtedly save time. If you don’t trust your eyes for getting a straight level top when trimming. Then using a level string line or lines for longer hedges will help as a guide. Templates can be used to help create a shaped top to the hedge.Remember to keep the base of the hedge wider than the top to allow light all the way down the sides of the hedge.