Thursday December 3, 2020
Winter is Your Ideal Time for Hedge Trimming
Rows of thickly planted shrubs can be a handsome way to define borders and boundary lines, keep children and pets in (or out), but like all shrubs, hedges need regular watering and pruning to look their best. Here are some expert tips that will ease your success in hedge trimming and maintenance.
Hand-pruning is a must in conjunction with shearing
Using shears—whether hand-held pruners with long scissor-like blades or a power trimmer—to take off branch tips, keeps hedges neat and tidy, and also stimulates bud production near the plants' edges.
But as buds multiply, a shrub can get so thick that sunlight can't penetrate it, preventing interior growth. The result: a hedge that gets larger each year and looks lifeless inside. Proper hedge trimming allows some sunlight to get in and enables you to cut back shrubs so they don't get too big.
So at each shearing, be sure to use bypass hand pruners to create some spaces in the hedge for light and air. Every few feet, reach inside and clip a branch or two at a 45-degree angle, just above a nub or leaflet that's growing in a direction you want to encourage.
If a hedge is old and seriously overgrown, you'll need to do some rejuvenation pruning and hedge trimming using the three-year rule. Remove up to one-third of the thickest stems down at the base of the plant, stimulating new growth; repeat the next year, and the year after. This will leave you with a healthier shrub that's reduced in size.
Prune in the winter
Ideally, hedges should be pruned in late winter, when plants are dormant and haven't produced buds—particularly if you're cutting back drastically. You don't want them to break bud before you prune because you want the plant's energy to go toward producing new growth where you want it. If you take off a plant's buds, you're cutting off spent energy, and it will take longer for the hedge to fill out. Keep this in mind when hedge trimming.
Evergreens, in particular, require pruning early in the season; because they're generally slower-growing, they're likely to be bare (where interior cuts have been made), and off-color at the tips (too yellow) as new growth starts to show, well into the summer.
With flowering shrubs, the golden rule of pruning is to wait for hedge trimming until the day after blooms turn brown—that way the plant will have time to set buds for next year, whether it blooms on the current season's wood or the nexts.
Hedges should be narrower at the top, wider at the bottom
Left alone, most hedges will start to widen at the top, where they receive the most sunlight. This results in a V shape that shades out lower branches so they produce less and less foliage. You want to turn that V upside down with your hedge trimming. A sheared hedge should always be wider at the bottom and narrower at the top, whether that top is flat, pointed, or rounded.
When hedge trimming, start at the bottom and work your way up toward the top. For absolute precision cutting, you can also run a string line between stakes to ensure an even line along the top, or rely on your eye for a more natural look when you’re hedge trimming.