King Garden Designs, Inc. | 914-907-0246
King Garden Designs, Inc. is a boutique landscape design company located in New York. Charles King Sadler, King Garden Designs founder, enjoys creating and enhancing the beauty and vitality of landscapes through thoughtful design, professional implementation and ongoing care.
Member American Society of Landscape Architects & ISA Certified Arborist TRAQ
How To Expertly Prune Your Hedges: Charles King Sadler of King Garden Designs offers professional expert pruning and property care, we are based in the Hudson Valley. Garden Design Westchester County, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
King Garden Designs ISA Certified Arborists know when and how to prune your hedges, valuable shrubs, cloud pruning and topiary for optimal beauty and plant health. We also assist in residential property oversight; guiding and directing landscape services.
We can restore neglected hedges miraculously with renovation pruning, fertilization, care and attention.
Thin Hedges for Improved Plant Health
Proper pruning brings out a plants intrinsic beauty, fostering plant health while reducing risk of storm damage. We supply all your pruning needs.
Design and horticultural consultations
ISA Certified Arborist Assessment, ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification
Landscaping Services, Landscaping Consultations, Landscaping Property Over Site, Landscape Design, Property Care, Landscape Maintenance.
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How To Expertly Prune Hedges
Expert pruning And Garden Care
King Garden Designs' ISA Certified Arborists know when and how to prune and thin interior of your privacy hedges for optimal beauty and plant health. We also assist in residential property oversight; guiding and directing landscape services. We draw on our network of experts. Our unique hands-on approach and attention to detail create incredible results.
We can restore neglected hedges miraculously with renovation pruning, fertilization, care and attention.
We offer on-going property care to insure that as your gardens develop and change the original design intent is preserved.
- Tree Assessments, Tree Inventory, Tree Care And Pruning
- Periodic Pruning To Retain Plant Shape, Scale And Health
- Periodic Site Visits To Insure Proper Garden Care Is Given
- Written Property Assessments and Oversight
- Annual Maintenance and Garden Care Contracts
Pruning Consultation and Assessment: Beginning at $250
Plus travel expenses beyond our 20 mile radius
(Suggested 1 Hour Meeting)
When to trim hedges
Source: Royal Horticultural Society www.rhs.org.uk
New hedges require formative pruning for their first couple of years after planting. Formative pruning is usually carried out in winter or spring.
After this, maintenance trimming is carried out, usually once a year for informal hedges and twice a year for formal hedges. Some formal hedges may need three cuts a year. Maintenance trimming is generally carried out between spring and summer.
Hand-held hedge shears are fine for smaller hedges, but for large hedges you'll probably find it easier to use an electric or petrol hedge trimmer. No matter what you use always make sure the equipment is sharp and well lubricated.
Always think of your safety when using a powered hedge trimmer. Wear safety goggles and sturdy gloves. Before starting, remove any obstacles on the ground. Avoid using powered tools above shoulder height and use sturdy step ladders or platforms, ensuring they are stable. Electric hedge trimmers are ideally used with a residual current device (RCD) and should not be used in damp conditions. Place the cable over your shoulder to prevent it being accidentally cut. See our advice in electricity in the garden for more safety tips.
There is no need for the width of even vigorous hedges to exceed 60cm (2ft) if they are regularly trimmed. Formal hedges should be slightly tapered on both sides so that the base is wider than the top and light can reach the bottom of the hedge. This is known as cutting the hedge to a batter.
Follow These Tips To Ensure An Even, Symmetrical Hedge
Cutting straight, crisp edges by eye can be difficult. Use a taut horizontal string tied between two stout canes to act as a guide to cut the top of the hedge level. Canes or stakes pushed into the ground help with vertical lines
To shape the top of the hedge (e.g. to an arch), cut a template of the shape required from cardboard or plywood. Place the template on the hedge and cut following the line of the template, moving it along as you proceed
When using shears, ensure that the top of the hedge is cut level and flat by keeping the blades of the shears parallel to the line of the hedge
When using a hedge trimmer, keep the blade parallel to the hedge and use a wide, sweeping action working from the bottom of the hedge upwards, so that the cut foliage falls away
Pruning an informal hedge is much like pruning normal shrubs. In general, when pruning informal hedges, remove misplaced shoots and cut back the hedge to its required size. Use secateurs or loppers where practical, especially if the hedge has large evergreen leaves, to avoid unsightly leaf damage.
How To Trim Hedges
Hedges can be divided into three groups:
Group 1 - Upright plants
For example: deciduous (hawthorn, privet); evergreen (box, Escallonia, Lonicera nitida)
- Cut back plants to 15-30cm (6in-1ft) on planting
- In summer, trim side branches lightly to encourage bushing out
- In the second year (February to March) cut back growth by half
- Throughout the second summer, trim side branches to maintain sides that taper towards the top
- In the second autumn, cut the topmost branch (‘leading shoot’) to the desired hedge height
- Cut back all stems by one-third after planting
- Repeat this at the same time next year
- Maintenance trimming
- Annually, during May to September, trim back the top and sides every four to six weeks to maintain the desired shape.
Group 2 – Stocky deciduous plants, naturally bushy at the base
For example: beech, hornbeam, hazel, Forsythia and Ribes sanguineum
- On planting, cut back leading shoots and side shoots by one-third, cutting to a well-placed bud
- Repeat this in the second winter to prevent straggly growth and thicken up the hedge base
- Maintenance trimming
- Trim annually in June (or after flowering) and again in August; clip to a shape that tapers at the top.
Group 3 - Conifers and most evergreens
For example: Lawson cypress, Leyland cypress, yew, bay, cherry laurel, cotoneaster and pyracantha
- On planting, leave the leading shoot unpruned, lightly cutting back any straggly side shoots
- In summer, trim sideshoots and tie in the leader to a supporting cane as it grows
- Use secateurs for broad-leaved evergreens (e.g. laurel and bay)
- Maintenance trimming
Clip to the desired shape one to three times during summer, until late August (yew can be clipped into September), when trimming should cease to reduce the risk of bare patches (see problems below). Use secateurs or hand shears for broad-leaved evergreens (e.g. laurel and bay). Stop the leading shoot at the desired height. Most conifers will not re-grow from old wood, so avoid hard pruning.
Informal and flowering hedges
Prune informal hedges where flowers are desired only once at the correct time of year to encourage flowering the following year. Pruning at the wrong time of year could remove the growth that will flower next year.
Prune those plants that flower on the current season's growth (e.g. Fuchsia) once in spring, as they will still be able to produce flowers that year.
Reduce the current season's growth by half in summer for plants that flower on one-year-old growth (e.g. Pittosporum).
In the case of shrubs that produce berries, such as Cotoneaster and Pyracantha, delay trimming until the berries disappear.
When undertaking work on garden hedges check that there are no birds nesting, as it is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
With conifer hedges, make sure you do not trim them after August, as this can encourage bare patches to develop in the hedge. Yew can be safely pruned into early autumn (Sep).
Boundary hedges can quickly grow to overhang the street or pavement. These should be trimmed to ensure they do not impede access by pedestrians. Even regularly trimmed hedges can gradually get bigger over the years; most deciduous and broadleaved evergreen hedges can be successfully renovated but some (including many conifer hedges) are best replaced when overgrown. See our page on nuisance and overgrown hedges.
Source: Royal Horticultural Society www.rhs.org.uk
Trimming a Hedge
by John Sosnowski
Source: Fine Gardening www.finegardening.com
For straight sides and a flat top, use stakes and string as a guide.
I am the only one who prunes the boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Koreana’) hedge at the Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois. The hedge is the only formal garden at the arboretum, and I enjoy the rigid, neat, and precise trimming it requires. Maybe it’s my background in art that allows me to appreciate its design purity. Or maybe it’s that my shearing system seems to work right every time.
You certainly don’t need a degree in art to want a nice, smooth hedge, and this system, which I’ve used in my nine years of pruning the boxwood, is one anyone can use to achieve the same clean, formal look our hedges have.
The straight edge that is the hallmark of the formal hedge depends most on what you do before you cut. Accurate measurements and well-placed stakes are the key. I recommend shearing the hedge in an inverted keystone shape, narrower on the top and wider at the bottom. At the arboretum, we shear our boxwood hedge to 24 inches wide across the top and 36 inches wide at the bottom. This slight 6-inch slope is both attractive and healthy, as it allows all branches to get maximum sunlight. The shade that’s created beneath it is an added benefit, because it cuts down on weeding and watering.
It’s better to take off too little than too much. Boxwood have only a few inches of green foliage to work with, so a gouge will expose the brown branches underneath.
The first step to trimming is getting the template in place. Starting at one end of the hedge, I measure the desired width of the top. Since the outer new leaves tend to grow more vigorously on the southern or sunlit side, I note the location of the shrub’s main trunks before finalizing this measurement, to keep the hedge centered. When I’m sure of the measurement, I mark it with stakes, which are easy to see and to move if adjustment becomes necessary. Metal stakes are preferable, but beware: Most metal stakes fit into a hedge trimmer’s teeth, so work carefully around them to avoid tool damage. Wood, stiff bamboo, or plastic will also work.
I use the inner stakes as guides for placing the outer stakes. I first divide the difference between the top and bottom widths in half. This amount is how far the stake marking the bottom should be from the stake marking the top. For instance, our hedges measure 24 inches across the top and 36 inches at the bottom, which is a difference of 12 inches. So the stakes marking the top and bottom widths of the hedge should be 6 inches apart.
It's better to take off too little than too much. Boxwood only have a few inches of green foliage to work with, so a gouge will expose the brown branches underneath.
I use the same method to measure and stake the opposite end of the hedge. With my eight stakes in place, I stretch the twine and tie it to the two sets of inner stakes at 24 inches high, the intended height of the hedge. I then tie twine between the two external sets of stakes right above ground level to mark the outer sides of the keystone. I drive the stakes deep into the ground, as the twine needs to be stretched taut to be perfectly straight. More stakes inserted in the middle makes it easier to keep the string stable and the cut even. I use a 3-inch line level strung on the twine to ensure that my cuts stay even.
A Few Cuts Make Smooth Sides And A Flat Top
More stakes help keep your string, and your cut, straight. Putting stakes and strings in place takes a bit of time but goes a long way to ensuring a smooth and even cut.
When it’s time to start trimming, I don’t try to do it all in one bite. I shave off a layer of side foliage, using the top twine line and the bottom twine line as a guide. It may make two or three passes to create a smooth surface. I use a light touch when hearing foliage because a year’s growth may only be 3 or 4 inches, giving a total of only 6 inches to work with before bare wood is exposed. But if a cut is made too deep, take heart: Dormant buds will replace the green in a year or two.
To cut a flat top, I use the lines formed by the twine strung between the stakes along the top of the hedge. I never measure from the ground up, since the ground can be uneven. Once I have my guide in place, I just hold the tool firmly, lock my arms at the desired height, and go for a walk. If the hedge top is flat and dense, I rest the tool on top and glide the cut along. Itake a break before the tool gets heavy to avoid a cut that droops. I also watch out for dips in the ground, which can cause dips in my cut. Before putting the finishing touches on the top cut, I evaluate my work from a distance, viewing it from where most see it: a walkway, the street, the entrance, or a window. Then I finish the top cut, keeping these points of reference in mind.
The last thing I do is finish the edges. The hard, sharp edges have less leaf material and, in my opinion, tend to look sparse and ragged. A 45-degree bevel cut rounds this shaggy corner, finishing the hedge with a tighter yet softer appearance. The beveled edge also reduces winter damage by allowing the hedge to shed ice and snow.
High spots in the hedge can be easily trimmed off, but a gouge can be difficult to fix. To repair a gouge, the whole hedge length can be cut deeper to match the lowest area, or the branch arrangement can be rewoven to fluff up and fill the gouged area. But the best practice is to err on the side of leaving too much on rather than taking too much off.
Time Your Pruning To Match The Shrub's Needs
It would be great if you had to prune a hedge only once a year, but to maintain a clean look, the best practice is to cut often. Early in the growing season, cuts should be light, just to keep the hedge from looking shaggy. This light shearing can be done monthly, beginning in May or June, which is after the burst of vigorous spring growth. Only one accurately measured cut is required per year—in late summer, when new growth is complete. Cutting more often is necessary only if a tighter appearance is desired. Never prune boxwoods in winter, because it can cause freeze-back of foliage and additional stem loss at the cut stubs.
Certain other evergreen hedges can be pruned following these guidelines (see the list). Still others have their own particular pruning needs. For instance, eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) must have its candles cut in half in spring to remain a tight, multibranched bush. Arborvitae (Thuja spp.) needs its flattened branchlets removed to reduce its size. If just parts of the compressed fanlike foliage are sheared it will leave them looking unnatural and deformed. Be sure you know your hedge’s pruning needs before you start to cut.