By Kim Toscano
A formal hedge adds order and structure to the landscape with clean lines and crisp symmetry. Hedges of various sizes can be used to frame a garden or property, create a windscreen, divide a landscape into functional spaces, or create a soft, green backdrop to flower beds and borders.
Maintaining a formal hedge requires regular pruning to maintain the desired shape. Knowing how and when to trim is important, so is using the right tool. WORX selection of hedge trimmers helps you tackle the job with ease.
Shaping a Formal Hedge
A hedge is essentially a living wall (though they can be very short walls) made up of closely spaced shrubs planted in a line. To maintain a healthy, dense, and even hedge it is important to trim in the proper shape. To allow enough sunlight to reach lower branches, strive to shape hedges to be slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom. These slope sides prevent lower branches from being thin and scraggly. Many gardeners use stakes and strings as guide to simplify pruning and achieve straight lines, especially during the first trim of the season.
The top of a hedge can be rounded, sloped, or flat. Boxwood hedges lining garden beds are often pruned with a flat top to accentuate the line work. Gardeners in snowy climates prefer pruning in rounded or sloped forms to help hedges shed snow in winter.
When to Prune Hedges
Plant species and local climate play a big role in determining when and how often a hedge needs pruning. Evergreen shrubs are typically pruned in late spring, just before new growth begins, and again in mid- to late-summer to cut back new growth. Pruning begins for most deciduous hedges during the dormant season in late winter, with additional summer trimming to maintain size and shape. Exceptions to this are spring-flowering hedges like lilac or forsythia, as winter pruning would remove flower buds. Begin pruning spring-flowering shrubs immediately after flowering.
After the initial spring shaping, hedges require additional trimming two to four times during the growing season to maintain a tidy appearance. For both deciduous and evergreen hedges, stop pruning in early August to allow any new growth to harden off before winter. Trimming too late in the season leaves new stems vulnerable to winter damage.
Electric hedge trimmers make seasonal shearing a breeze. Worx line of corded and cordless hedge trimmers have blades ranging from 22- to 24-inches. The long cutting surface provides an even cut along large hedges, perfect for maintaining smooth lines and flat tops. For small jobs, the 20V Power Share Cordless 4″ Shear and 8″ Shrubber Trimmer comes in handy. All models boast dual-action cutting blades to slice through hedges with ease for a clean, professional finish.
Use Worx hedge trimmers to maintain a level cut when shearing. Cut the tops of shrubs using a long swinging motion from left to right. Step back occasionally to make sure you are following a straight line. Check your line against an object in the background, such as a window line or roof edge, to help ensure straight lines. Rake out cut material from the top of a hedge to remove debris.
When shearing the sides of a shrub, it is helpful to work your way from the ground upward, again using sweeping motions up and down the side of the hedge. Remember to cut the hedge narrower at the top than the bottom. With a rotating head and a full wrap front handle, the Worx 40V Power Share™ Cordless Hedge Trimmer makes it easy to shape shrubs. The handle has 5 different positions: 0°, 45°, 90°, 135°, and 180° allowing you to trim the tops and sides of hedges comfortably.
Which Plants Make Good Hedges?
When selecting plants for use as hedges look for species with small leaves that are spaced close together along the stem. Slow-growing varieties are also ideal, as they may require less frequent trimming.
- Boxwood, Buxus species
- Yew, Taxus species
- Holly, Ilex species
- Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis
- Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii
- Ninebark, Physocarpus species
- Privet, Ligustrum species
- Lilac, Syringa vulgaris