I suppose, when it comes to looking after your hedges, the clue really lies in the word “trimming”. If you went to the hairdressers and asked for a trim, you’d be mortified if they started hacking the living daylights out of your hair.
So it stands to reason that if you want to trim your hedge, well that’s exactly what you are looking to do. Trim off the uneven edges, tidy it up and make it look nice. Rushing off to the local DIY store and firing up a hedge trimmer, when you don’t know what you are doing, can definitely lead to disaster and a pretty forlorn looking hedge.
Obviously if your hedge has become completely overgrown, you’re going to need to take it back a fair bit and it might look pretty ugly for a while but in those situations, you’re probably better off calling in a pro. the pro might not make it look amazing because by the time they take it back, there may be no leaves or foliage left on that part of the hedge but it should at least be shaped OK and ready to recover.
The other consideration you need to make before you pull out the power tools, is whether or not your hedging plants are better of pruned than trimmed. In other words, are they better off being trimmed by hand.
These days, people have moved away from the old fashioned privet and box style hedging plants and now prefer the look of evergreen larger leafed shrubs such as laurels, camellias, euonymous and other similar shrubs. One of the reasons is of course the lovely leaf growth and all year coverage they give. Cultivated in the right way, they can look magnificent, especially in early spring when those camellias burst into colour.
However, these are shrubs that lend far better to being trimmed and shaped by hand than by any petrol trimmer. Take a trimmer to one of these and you may find it looks worse for your efforts. Obviously if your hedge is enormous, doing the whole thing from scratch by hand, might not be practical but you’ll still need to hand finish it to get rid of all of the broken leaves and to level off the odd bit that bent backwards, rather than succumbing to the blade of the trimmer.
In fact, even if you’re hedge is a more traditional style of plant, you still need to run your hands along it after you’ve trimmed it as a few bits will “pop out” or “stand up” and again, the best way to deal with these is by hand.
One of the biggest problems with hedges is that people want them to go quickly. So they ignore trimming them in order to get maximum height. The problem with this is that after a little while, they become top heavy. In other words there is very little growth directly above the ground, all the growth is at the top. This is fine if you have a garden wall or they are against a solid fence, but if they are your only form of cover, you might find your hedge starts 4 feet from the ground.
The best tip I can give you in terms of dealing with leafy shrub hedges is to read up on how you would prune the plant, if it was just a stand alone plant. Then, keeping that in mind, shape your hedge but stick as closely to the rules as possible. 6 plants in a row, forming a hedge, are still 6 individual plants in a row, they are not one plant. Remember, they want to grow naturally as a plant, it’s only us that are trying to shape them in an unnatural way.
If you have the time, and you are thinking about having a leafy hedge, try to keep it under control from the start. Trim the multiple plants by hand and it actually won’t take you as long as you think. It’s quite satisfying and you’ll know that by being gentle with it, you’re not going to suddenly wake up one morning to a hedge full of dead leaves and sticks.
Plants are wonderful and will often recover even after some pretty harsh treatment. But this can take time and they may never quite get to be the shape and size you want.
If you’ve got a leafy hedge to trim, think about maybe grabbing the secateurs instead of the power tools. And if you do have to use a power trimmer, make sure you go back over it by hand. That extra bit of work is always worth it.