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Should I buy a long-reach hedge trimmer?

By Adele Dyer

Long-reach hedge trimmers let you cut the tops of tall hedges from the safety of the ground. Find out if they are the right choice for you. 

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If you want to trim a tall hedge, a long-reach or telescopic hedge trimmer could be the answer. 

Some hedges are so tall that you can't cut the top easily with a conventional hedge trimmer, and we wouldn't recommend balancing on a ladder while using one.

Long-reach or extendable-pole hedge trimmers have fixed or extendable shafts which let you cut the side of a hedge above head height. The blade can also be set at various angles up to 90 degrees to the shaft, so you can cut the top while standing on the ground.

If you already know you need a long-reach hedge trimmer, go straight to our hedge trimmer reviews.  

Do you need a long-reach hedge trimmer?

Long-reach hedge trimmers aren’t always the best option. They can be hard to control when cutting very high hedges, as the blades are a long way from your body. The blades can also be too short to cut a wide hedge.

In this case it’s easier to work with a conventional hedge trimmer, but please use a platform or a ladder designed for the purpose. Step ladders aren’t designed to be used on uneven ground and have small platforms, making it more likely you could fall and injure yourself.

The two main companies which offer ladders and platforms designed to be used in the garden are Henchman and Niwaki.

Henchman ladders and platforms

Henchman are best known for their Hi-step platform ladders. These have a large platform at the top, surrounded by a guard rail, which allows you stand securely to cut your hedges. The legs are wide and can be adjusted easily, meaning the platform can be kept completely level and stable. In fact you can lean out from the top without toppling over, which feels disconcerting at first, but does allow you to reach a good way before the ladder has to be moved. The ladders come in a range of heights and have a wheeled base to make them easier to move.

If you need something larger, Henchman also have wheeled garden platforms. The large platform allows you to cut a longer stretch of hedge before you have to move it. This helps particularly to level the top of the long hedge from one end to the other.

The platforms can be assembled to whatever height you need, so can be adjusted to work with more than one hedge. The ends of the scaffold slot into the base and bars then click into place to form sides, guard rails and cross-beams to hold the whole thing together. You should be able to assemble them in around ten minutes with practice. The wheels make them easy to move along the hedge or around your garden. They are versatile, allowing you to use them for a variety of tasks in the garden.

Niwaki ladders

Both Niwaki and Henchman sell tripod ladders, which have a single leg at the rear to create a stable , steady position from which to cut.

The base of the ladder is very wide, and it tapers towards the top. The length of all three legs can be adjusted to cope with uneven ground. You can push the supporting leg into thick hedges, or position it around topiary shapes. This means you’re closer to the hedge and don’t have to stretch to cut it. The ladders come in a variety of sizes, but their lightweight aluminium frame means they can be easily moved. They feel remarkably stable and comfortable to use.

If your hedge is taller than about 2.5m high, consider calling in a professional. If you are a Which? member you can find gardeners and landscapers in your area with Which? Trusted Traders.

Long-reach hedge trimmers for tall hedges

There are three major points to consider with all long-reach hedge trimmers:

  • Most have a blade length of between 40 and 50cm. Unless your hedge top is 1m or less across, you will miss a bit in the middle. And that assumes you have access to both sides.
  • You can’t actually see what is going on, so you may snag the blade on a thicker branch. You may then struggle to free the trimmer.
  • The electric and petrol trimmers are heavy and it’s hard work keeping a straight line.

Although electric and petrol machines do a reasonable job on the side of a hedge, they are hard work to balance and manoeuvre. The cordless ones are easier to use, but they can be slow and leave a less-than-perfect finish.

Petrol, electric or cordless hedge trimmer?

You can choose between cordless (battery-powered), corded electric or petrol long-reach hedge trimmers. 

The cordless long-reach hedge trimmers we have tested are light and the telescopic shafts extend your reach by over a metre.

Corded electric pole trimmers can be heavy and awkward to use when fully extended. The petrol long-reach hedge trimmers are even heavier and many have fixed-length poles. To balance the weight many petrol models are supplied with carrying straps to support the weight.

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