Tidying up the garden? Learn how to renovate an overgrown hedge, how to get a neat finish when trimming, and the best way to cut the top of a tall hedge, using our expert tips and tricks.
Whether the hedge you're cutting is a formal or informal one, you'll also need the right equipment for the job.
Keep scrolling for more information on cutting techniques, renovation and hedge trimmer safety.
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A formal hedge is one that is clipped regularly. Choose a dense, fine-leaved plant, such as privet or a conifer and make sure you trim it regularly to a squared or wedge shape with the base wider than the top. This allows maximum light to reach the base and makes it look more solid.
Choose a large-leaved deciduous plant, such as forsythia, escallonia or berberis, which have bright flowers and berries, too. Native plants, such as hawthorn, blackthorn or field maple, are great for wildlife, while dog rose and sweet briar rose have attractive flowers and hips.
If you have a lot of tall hedges to cut, invest in a special hedge-cutting platform with a wide base suitable for non-level ground. Ideally, it should be high enough that you can cut the top of the hedge at waist height. These are available from suppliers such as Henchman and Hedgemaster.
Alternatively, you could look for a with telescopic handles that extend by an additional 20-30cm, or have a long fixed shaft. You can angle the blade at right angles to cut the top of a hedge (up to about 3 metres high).
Never lean a ladder against a hedge to cut the top. If you're using an ordinary step ladder, get someone to hold it steady for you.
All conifer hedges except yew should not be cut back beyond the green growth, as they won't regenerate. If your conifer hedge has grown too large, it may be time to replace it.
You will often see claims that hedge trimmers can cut stems up to 33mm, but in practice we would not recommend using a hedge trimmer to cut such thick branches. If your hedge has branches larger than around 1cm, you will achieve a neater finish with loppers.
A hedge trimmer with a teeth width of around 20mm will be fine for twiggy hedges.
If you have to trim hedges during the main nesting season – usually from March to the end of August – check for nesting birds first. Any nest site should be obvious from the frequent comings and goings, so keep an eye out for a few days before you plan to cut the hedge.
Delay trimming until you're sure the nestlings have flown. If in doubt, wait until the autumn.