The hedge is the best fence you can dream of. It not only protects you from curious people, but also from dust, fumes and wind, while giving shelter to birds. That’s why it’s good to know how to prune hedges. In addition, the green walls can be an original decoration, provide a background for flowering bushes and perennials, divide the garden into interiors, emphasize paths and passages, surround herbal gardens, create mazes.
Even before planting the hedge you have to decide what role it should play: whether it should be high or low, whether it can be wide or rather narrow, and whether you want it to be green all year round or blooming from spring to autumn.
Finally, ask yourself the fundamental question whether you are ready to systematically prune your hedges, or whether you prefer it to grow freely and not to require special supervision. Only then choose the right plants.
Formal hedges are those that form evenly trimmed, higher or lower green walls. Coniferous and deciduous trees and shrubs, both with seasonal and evergreen leaves, are suitable for them. They require systematic shearing at times appropriate for the species or variety from which the hedge is formed. Coniferous hedges are best suited for yews, which can tolerate cutting perfectly and can grow both in the sun and in the shade. However, the most popular here are northern white cedar (thuyas).
Hedges made of Eastern hemlock and Norway spruce are relatively unpopular. With proper care of these plants you can get very nice green walls, especially attractive for those who do not like thuja. For seasonal leaf hedges the best are hornbeams, beeches, wild privets, hawthorns, barberries. From evergreen deciduous shrubs, however, boxwood is the best, which is suitable for creating lower hedges and borders.
Prune Hedges systematically
If you want to have a dense formed hedge, you will have to cut it systematically in order to produce as many shoots as possible, which, by thickening, will form a perfectly even, green wall.
It is very important to start cutting the hedge immediately after planting, when the bushes are small. Many people have resistance against pruning small shrubs because they want their hedge to grow upwards as soon as possible. This is a big mistake. If you want it to be thick from the bottom, cut it from a young age. If you don’t do this, your hedge will be thicker higher and will remain rare at the bottom, with large clearances. In the first years after planting, only trim the sides of the hedge, start cutting the top when the hedge reaches the planned height.
To prevent the hedge from shaving at the base, cut it so that it has a trapezoid or truncated cone shape. The bottom must be wider, the top must be narrower. Then the whole surface of the green wall will be equally illuminated by sunlight. For the health and safety of the hedge it is better to form the top so that it is not flat but rounded or resembles a slightly sloping roof. This top formation will protect the hedge from heavy snow, which could get inside and break up the bushes.
When to prune Hedges
Coniferous hedges are cut for the first time in the season in early spring before the start of vegetation. The second cut is made in mid-August. If you do not have enough time and strength, you can cut the coniferous hedges once a season, in June.
Deciduous hedges (with seasonal leaves) are cut at similar times as coniferous ones. The exception are beeches, which we don’t cut in early spring, but only in June and late July.
In the second half of August you should finish trimming both deciduous and coniferous hedges. The point is that the cutting not only reduces this year’s growth, but also stimulates the bushes to release new twigs. These new twigs must become sufficiently woody and strong enough to survive the frosts before the arrival of winter. From August they will have enough time to harden themselves. If we delay the last prune of the hedges, we can expose them to freezing.
The cold-greens are sensitive
Do not rush with spring pruning of deciduous evergreen shrubs, such as cherry laurel, boxwood or spindle tree, because these shrubs are more sensitive to the cold. If after pruning there are even not too strong frosts, the ends of twigs will be exposed to freezing, because every pruning is a wound. Too early pruned evergreen shrubs will become ugly, their twigs at the ends will turn yellow or brown.To give them a nice look, you will have to wait a few weeks and then, when the threat of spring frosts is sure to pass, you should cut the frozen ends again, which means extra work. That’s why it’s better to hold off with the cutting of evergreen shrubs until April.
Especially susceptible to damage by the spring frost are the evergreen shrubs with golden and two-colored leaves: white-green, cream-green, yellow-green and spotted.
How to Prune Hedges in the summer
In summer, in June and at the end of July, we cut hedges made of beech and hornbeam. We do it with combustion or electric shears. Care must be taken when cutting. To keep the walls of the hedge even, always lead the shears from the bottom to the top. Cutting at this time is to level the sides and shorten this year’s growth.
Circuits and garden ,,first floors”
The low hedges forming the border of the bed add a lot of charm to any garden. They can be planted along paths, driveways, they will be a nice finishing touch to a bed with roses or annual plants, or they can be used for quarters in a vegetable garden. Their creation and care is time consuming, but the effect is worth the effort. Low sheared hedges can also be part of the so-called garden first floors, creating geometric patterns. If you are very ambitious, you can try to create a nodal garden, where hedge lines from different species intertwine. The common feature of the circuits, first floors and nodal garden is that in order to get a decorative effect, the plants need to be planted quite densely and from a very young age they need to be cut firmly to thicken from the very bottom. Boxwood, barberry and lavender are best suited for low hedges.
If you plant a free range hedge (natural, uncut) from different shrubs such as forsythia, Weigela, barberry, guelder rose or Hibiscus syriacus, you will be able to enjoy a colorful flowering wall from spring to autumn. In such hedges birds like to weave a nest and they are our allies in pest control.
To make the shrubs dense, after planting the seedlings in a row (1-1.5 meters apart), cut their twigs in spring by half. Repeat this cut in the next 2 years, shortening by half the shoots that grew in the previous year. This cut serves to thicken the bushes. If you want them to have a lot of flowers, every 2-3 years after flowering shorten the shoots that bloomed by half or at least 1/3. Also cut off the twigs that go outside the hedge, spoiling its shape. Every few years cut off the oldest 1-2 branches of the shrubs right next to the ground so that they don’t get old and you don’t have to radically rejuvenate the plants.