How to shape your hedges and bushes

The beginning of the year is often a good time to trim your hedges and bushes before the summer sun and warmer weather encourages them to grow. Often hedges and bushes are key visual features of your garden and make a real impact on how your garden looks.

Shaping a hedge or bush is generally only limited by the hedge type, size and your imagination. This is commonly called topiary. It is relatively easy to do and just requires a little hard work. Depending on what shape you want your hedge to be you will need;

• Hedge trimmer
• Hand shears or saw
• Wooden stakes
• Piece of bamboo
• String
• Wire meshing 

It is recommended that you wear appropriate clothing and safety equipment when cutting your hedges. If using an electric hedge trimmer with mains electricity, you should plug it into RCD adaptor so that it cuts out if there is a power surge. 

Giving your hedge a straight edge
In the UK most people with domestic homes prefer to have their hedges with straight edges. This is often called a formal hedge as they are commonly used to define property boundaries etc. 

Giving your hedge a simple ‘top, back and sides’ is relatively simple. Smaller hedges can be cut by eye using an electric hedge trimmer with the user periodically stopping, standing back and checking that the hedge is straight. 

For larger hedges, it is recommended that you hammer two stakes into the ground at either end of hedge. Thread a piece of string through a bamboo shoot, and tie each end of the string to one of the stakes securely. This can then be used as a cutting guide to ensure that the hedge is evenly cut. 

Giving your hedge a slope 

Before attempting to give your hedge a slope, you should map out how you want it to look. Make sure that all areas of your hedge will be able to get sunlight. If not these areas will turn brown and die, and you will lose the shape of the hedge you wished to achieve. 

Using the same principle mentioned in the ‘giving your hedge a straight edge’ section, use pieces of string and wooden stakes to tell you where to cut. If cutting older bushes your electric hedge trimmer may not be able to cut through every branch. Make sure you have a good, sharp pair of manual hedge cutters or a saw to help you get through thicker branches. 

Obtaining an irregular shaped hedges 

We have all seen them, hedges shaped as animals or fancy shapes. They look impressive, but as you guess they aren’t the easiest of shape types to get. 

The best way to achieve an irregular shaped hedge design is to create a metal mesh that fits nicely around your hedge or bush. Sit the frame on top of your hedge and then neatly cut around the mesh using your electric hedge trimmer or hand shears. By trimming regularly is will slowly train your hedge or bush to grow in the shape you want. 

Hedge care tips 

Trimming is a stressful time for your hedge or bush, and we should limit the effect we have on the plant as much as possible. When cutting you should ensure that the equipment you use is sharp, to ensure a clean cut to the leaves and branches. A rough cut not only makes your hedge look untidy, but it stresses out the hedge further.

After cutting the hedge you should ensure that it receives all the nutrients that it needs to grow. Give the hedge or bush a good watering and enough mulch to keep them in a good condition. 

Try and avoid trimming your hedges in the autumn. If you cut too close to winter the new leaves will not have enough time to toughen and will be damaged by frosts.

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