Hedges are a great way to add some colour and sophistication to your garden, whether you go for the formal, box-like precision of stately gardens or the softer, more relaxed appearance of an unruly shrub.
However, for those of us just beginning to exercise our green fingers, the continual maintenance of a hedge can be quite difficult to get right, which often results in a hedge that doesn’t flower or one that grows too bushy to manage.
With different shrubs requiring different maintenance and the age of the hedge determining how much pruning is required, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to begin.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at one of the most important parts of hedge maintenance, pruning, in order to bring you the low-down.
The different types of hedges
To understand when you need to first prune your hedge this year, it’s important to identify what sort of hedge you have to begin with.
Formal hedges are those often associated with stately homes and are characterised by sharp edges, box-like shapes and high levels of maintenance. They come in the form of deciduous or evergreen shrubs.
Informal hedges are those that have a more relaxed appearance, with bushy leaves and a less sharp appearance and can be made up of all manner of different shrubs.
For more differences between the different type of hedges, check out this post by Flower Power.
The age of the hedge
When it comes to the amount of pruning required by each hedge, it’s important to take into account the age of the shrub.
New hedges require formative pruning for the first couple of years after planting, which is usually carried out in winter or spring, depending on the type of shrub being used. This formative pruning will be done alongside maintenance trimming.
After the first couple of years, only annual maintenance trimming is required.
The different shrub
The type of shrub used in the hedge will also determine when pruning should occur, with differences between evergreens and deciduous hedges.
For deciduous hedges, formative pruning should be done in winter, just after planting, with maintenance pruning undertaken in the summer. Most deciduous plants will require pruning in late-summer, although some require pruning earlier.
Evergreen hedges, on the other hand, require formative pruning in the spring after planting and maintenance pruning in the summer, with timings largely occurring in late summer. However, some evergreen plants require pruning immediately after flowering.
For detailed information on the exact timing for popular hedging plants, check out this post by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Differences between informal and formal hedges
Although the pruning timings are largely similar between these two different types of hedges, there are some minor differences to be aware of.
Formal hedges require pruning two to three times during their growing season, starting in late spring and finishing in late summer, with pruning occurring roughly four to six weeks apart.
Informal hedges only require pruning once, usually after flowering (typically spring or summer).
The maintenance techniques will also vary according to each type of hedge, with specific hedge trimming tools required to achieve the best results.
For more detailed guidance on how to prune your hedges effectively, this post is a great read.