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How to Trim a Hedge

Learn how to trim a hedge from landscape architect Patrick Weisel in this Howcast video.


A lot of people ask how to prune a hedge and that's a pretty broad topic, but I'll see if I can give you a few pointers in this short video. First of all you have to ask yourself, what kind of hedge are you looking for? Are you looking for something real formal and clipped or are you looking for a naturalist hedge that's a little bit easier to prune? Whichever it is, one of the things you want to remember is that with any hedge the important thing is to make sure that the sun light hits the hedge all the way from the top down to the bottom. A lot of people make the mistake of pruning their hedge either straight up and down or even pruning it in the way that the hedge naturally grows, which is a little wider at the top than the bottom. That's a big mistake because what happens is the top of the hedge ends up shading the bottom and that's how you typically end up with a hedge that you so often see, that has foliage along the top and no foliage on the bottom. So remember, however your pruning it, tightly clipped or naturalistic, you want to make sure that the top is narrower than the bottom so that the sunlight hits all the way down to the ground.

Now if you were to prune a really tightly clipped hedge, you might want to use a certain hand tools. This is a really simple hedge clipper, which is pretty good for the homeowner. You can go in and prune a fairly small hedge in not too much time. If you have a lot of hedge that you need to prune, you might want to go to something a little bit more serious like this gasoline powered pruner. This is a dangerous tool and you real ought to be pretty strong and be certain of what you're going to do with this before you undertake using it on your hedge. That said, you can prune a lot of hedge in a really short amount of time. It also gives you a lot of control so you can sweep up the side of the hedge and really get a nice straight edge or go along the top, but again this is not for the weak of heart and it's not for a weak person. You really want to be familiar with the machine and know what you're doing.

I personally prefer a naturalistic hedge because it takes less maintenance and it looks a little bit more like Mother Nature and it's quite beautiful in itself. For a really naturalistic hedge all you really need are a few simple hand tools. What you'll want is a little hand pruner, very simple like you would use for roses, maybe a Japanese saw for pruning out some of the larger branches. These are fairly inexpensive and they're extremely sharp so be careful when you're using it and make sure you know what you're doing and wear gloves. The last thing you might want is a lopper. This is very helpful for reaching into the bush and pruning out some of the larger branches as well. So with these three tools you can really accomplish a pretty nice naturalistic hedge.

Here we have a beautiful ewe here that's been here for years and we've maintained it minimally just trying to give it a little shape and let it look like it's growing the way it would grow naturally. In most of the cases with these sort of shrubs, I would just go in and any place that's getting a little large and maybe a branch is coming out, just sort of identify that and go in and cut it back to one of the laterals, a lateral being a place that another branch is branching out. What that allows is for the new branches to sort of take over and this hedge or the shrub will be fuller the more you prune it. And don't overdo it because if you do you might end up with a hedge that looks like a poodle. So just be careful, sort of step back and take a look at the branch after each branch you take off. Try to balance the shrub and accomplish the visual effect that you want to get.

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