General Care of Hedging Plants and Trimming Hedges
General Care of Hedging Plants
Keep the bottom of the hedge free of weeds, and do not allow any other plants to grow within 30cm (1ft) on either side of a new hedge.
Regular applications of fertilizer are unnecessary, but all young hedges benefit from a dressing of complete fertilizer in late winter, one year after spring planting or 18 months after an Autumn planting. Apply a small handful per m/yd run on each side of the hedge. Repeat every year if growth is poor.
Staking is usually not required, but on exposed sites a new hedge may need the shelter of a temporary fence or screen until established. Alternatively, support each plant individually, or erect a line of stakes with wires or strings stretched between, tying in as required with garden string.
For allplants as hedges, early training is important. To promote a thick, bushy habit from the base to the top, side branching must be encouraged. Never allow a hedge to reach the desired height before — it will become thin and straggly at the base.
Informal, flowering hedges may be left to grow freely after the initial tipping at planting time, but if branching is poor sacrifice the second year’sin favour of a second pruning. Allow formal hedges to reach the desired height only in stages. Prune the leading shoots regularly when they are 23-30cm (9-12in) long.
Aim to make the hedge widest at the bottom, with a rounded or broadly sloping top. This promotes better growth of the low branches and gives the best wind shelter.
Allneed regular trimming to promote a dense, impenetrable screen and to maintain their shape and beauty.
The first few years of a hedge’s life are very important. Most hedging plants will develop into a bushy or upright shape without any assistance, but these characteristics alone do not ensure a good hedge. What is needed of each plant is a dense, uniform growth habit with a shape to suit the desired height and width of hedge. Regular and careful pruning and trimming from the year of planting onwards is the only way to achieve this — a neglected hedge is very difficult to restore. In general, formal hedging plants should be trimmed two or three times during the growing season, and informal ones after flowering.
Decorative Hedge Trimming
Many free-standing hedging plants can be trimmed into decorative shapes when they are mature or they can be trained to shape from young plants. The former method is suitable for simple topiary designs, such as cones, globes and pyramids Make use of a shrub’s natural growth shape — for example, a naturally conical shrub is much easier to train into a cone than a spreading species. Privet, yew and the accommodating box, lend themselves to topiary designs.
Ensure that the hedging plants are well-staked and securely tied so that wind action cannot separate and disfigure the branches. Bind the branches with string or thin rope over winter to prevent snow loads from breaking them.
Specimen topiary shrubs can look effective in large tubs. Choose a container to complement the shape of the topiary, ensuring that it is large enough to accommodate a large root ball — the shrub will be growing for many years, ideally without disturbance.
Making a Spiral Cone
- To make a spiral from a mature cone-shaped bush or small tree, begin by marking out the spiral with strings, attaching them to branch tips at regular intervals. Step back to check the pattern.
- Using shears or secateurs, cut into the plant following the string lines. Remove all stems and leaves back to the main stem or trunk. With time, foliage will grow in to hide the bare surfaces.