Hedge trimming is as much a part of the summer gardening routine as mowing the lawn. A well-trained and rigorously pruned formal hedge can be a structural asset, defining boundaries or supplying a disciplined framework to the garden. Many deciduous and evergreen plants that are tolerant of frequent pruning are ideal.
Hedges do not have to be uniform and precise in outline. A number of ornamental shrubs make dense, shapely growth that can be exploited for creating more relaxed and informal hedges, sometimes with a display of flowers as a bonus. These need a different pruning regime, often in a specific season, but success relies on choosing the best approach and the right time of year.
The timing and frequency of pruning depends on the plant species used, as well as the type of finish you require. Fast-growing species like privet, lonicera and some conifers, Leyland and Lawson's cypress for example, may need trimming three or four times in summer to maintain a dense, formal effect.
Most conifers can be pruned just before mid-summer. A late summer trim suffices for hemlock, Tsuga and other less vigorous types. This is also suitable for slow-growing evergreens such as holly and yew. More vigorous evergreens like box benefit from a trim in late spring. Deciduous species are usually pruned twice annually, first in winter while dormant and again in mid-summer.
Hedge pruning principles
The use of a mechanical trimmer for hedge pruning can be less tiring for large or frequently trimmed hedges and may leave a smoother finish, especially on conifers.