How to Trim Hedges & Shrubs Like a Pro

A Practical Guide for trimming hedges & shrubs

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Beauty & Style

A great looking hedge not only adds value & privacy to your home, but also gives the feeling of style and opulence whilst adding shade and providing a cooler environment for your family and pets.

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Chore or Artistic Flair?   Your choice.

Trimming a hedge can be a chore.  But you can also use it to energize your creativity and flair.  Either way, to maintain a good looking garden requires trimming of shrubs, bushes and hedges at the most optimal time.  This will ensure that your garden not only looks good, but promotes healthy growth of your shrubs and hedges.

Following this practical guide will have your hedges looking great, give you satisfaction and may even bring out the artist in you. 


Safety Equipment you need

This is an area that is most often neglected, especially by home owners or if the job seems like a small one.  No matter how small or how confident you may be, you should always use safety equipment when using tools.

For starters, you'll need a good pair of gardening gloves.  Try to find a pair that are comfortable to wear and give you maximum feel.

Eye and ear protection are vital when you are using power tools.  A good pair of googles is crucial to ensure you don't get flying debris into your eyes.  Ear protection is equally important when using power equipment and tools as the noise levels generated by even short use can cause long term or permanent hearing loss or damage.  

A comfortable pair of safety boots will protect your feet and toes from falling debris or tools being accidentally dropped.

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The Right Tools for the job

Hand Held Tools

Pruners

Pruners, also known as secateurs, are generally available in two types; Anvil or Bypass.  An anvil pruner works like a knife on a cutting board.  The knife edge is pushed through the plant onto a flat surface, the anvil.  Bypass pruners work like a pair of scissors where two blades pass each other.  One mught think that there is not that much difference however it is quite significant.  Anvil pruners can damage soft plant tissue as they tend to crush the plant surface being cut.  Bypass pruners on the hand, if used correctly, do very little to no damage to your plants.  So bypass pruners are recommended especially for softer plant tissue.

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Loppers

Loppers, also called shears, are used for larger branches.  For branches up to 5cm (2 inches) thick, loppers will be easier to use given the leverage you get thanks to the longer handles.  For larger branches, a small curved branch saw or small chainsaw may be used.  Before using a chainsaw, see our blog about how to use a chainsaw safely

 

Power Tools

Petrol Powered Hedge Trimmer

A powerful and reliable hedge trimmer is a must to get the job done.  For larger jobs, a petrol powered hedge trimmer will leave you free of tangled or stretched power cords.  An added advantage is that the petrol powered trimmers are almost always far more powerful than electric or battery operated versions.  

Some petrol powered trimmers have a rotating handle to give you flexibility to cut in all directions.  Our range of hedge trimmers are powerful and sturdy and ready for work.


Dakota 23cc Clipper Blade Hedge Trimmer - The Perfect Tool for the job

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Hand Held Tool Pruning Technique

Now that you've seen safety equipment and tools needed, let's go over how to do it.


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Cutting branches back to just above a bud will foster growth of the next generation of branches to give thicker and fuller looking shrubs and hedges.  Using a bypass pruner, hold the pruner blades close to but just above the bud and at a slight angle. Orientation of the pruning shears is also important. The diagrams below my be helpful.

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Ensure that the pruning shears are held so that only the blade touches the wood or stem that will be left on the plant. To achieve this, you may need to turn your hand depending on your relative position to the bud. Doing this will ensure you will cause minimal or no plant damage to support healthy growth.


  • Always try to prune branches back to buds that face outwards or to the intersection with another branch.

  • Avoid leaving stubs of branches, which usually just die back and leave dead sticks on your plant.

  • If your shrub is too bushy, or if you want to foster new growth, remove a few of the older branches closer to the ground. 

Old Growth vs New Growth

A general rule of thumb is that shrubs that bloom on old wood (last season’s growth) should be pruned right after they have flowered. Shrubs that bloom on new growth (current season’s growth) should be pruned in winter or early spring before this season's growth starts. Pruning cuts made in spring heal quickly and form a callus, preventing moisture loss and dieback. However, since there are so many shrub species which cannot be covered in this blog article, the best times for pruning individual species can be found online or by asking at your local nursery.

Hedges

What are they really?

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Informal Hedge

If shrubs are left in their natural state without any real shaping, they form an informal hedge.  They still need to be trimmed to stimulate growth and keep them healthy.  How often will depend on their species.  A rule of thumb is to trim them after flowering then again as needed.

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Formal Hedge

A formal hedge is formed by trimming plants in a structured manner to make them appear as a single plant.  They work best when the plants have a dense structure and when their leaves are small.  Although formal hedges require more maintenance and regular trimming to keep that appearance, when done right, they look spectacular.


For Formal or Informal Hedges alike, the perfect trimmer for the job is either the Dakota Clipper Blade Double Sided Hedge Trimmer or the Dakota Single Sided Blade Hedge Trimmer.  For tall hedges, the powerful 52cc Dakota Multi Pole tool is the perfect companion.

Power Hedge Trimmer Technique

To make sure your hedge grows evenly and stays healthy, you have to make sure that the inner and the bottom parts receive sunlight.  

Clear out dead wood: Start by using a pair of hand pruners to remove dead wood and thin the top part of the bush.  Each year, aim to remove about a quarter of the old growth branches right down near ground level. 

Narrow top, wide bottom: When you trim a hedge, it is crucial that the bottom gets sufficient sunlight.  To make sure this happens, you should make the bottom wider than the top.  As an example, a 5 foot tall hedge that is two and a half foot wide at the bottom needs to be about 1 foot wide at the top.  Overhanging top branches will shade the bottom of the plant which will eventually die out. 

The Shape I'm In: Shaping your hedge can be made easier by using a horizontal string line.  Use stakes in the ground to get the height you want with string lines between them and use s spirit level to ensure they look level and horizontal.  If your are on a slope and wish to follow the shape of the ground, you will need to adjust accordingly. Take only about a maximum of one year's growth away unless you are rejuvenating an old neglected hedge.  Please, don't forget to use the safety equipment discussed earlier.  When trimming the top, try to hold the hedge trimmer as horizontal as possible and follow the string line.  When shaping the sides, holding the trimmer at a 45° angle and don't take too much off at a time or you risk making the plant bare and patchy.

Create a Spiral Topiary

Show off your Artistic Flair

We have all seen and admired a spiral topiary at a flash home we have seen or at your local nursery and wondered "how on earth did they do that"?  

If you have ever wanted to make a flash statement of your plant, just follow the steps here to make your artistic juices flow and your garden to stand out.

First choose a shrub like a Juniper, Privet or Boxwood as they work best for shaping.  You will need to start with a conically shaped plant that is thicker at the bottom than it is at the top.  So if your plant is not already shaped that way, then use the techniques discussed earlier to make it so.

Next attach 25mm wide ribbon or masking tape starting at the top and spiraling downwards dividing the plant into larger sections as you descend. Observe the plant from all sides to make sure you have made the spiral ribbon even.  Make any necessary adjustments before you start trimming.  

Now starting at the top, use pruners or clippers to cut back the branches below the ribbon or tape.  Trim the branches all the way to the trunk.  Next, remove the ribbon or tape and trim to the desired shape and voila.  Depending on the size of the plant and your skill level, you may be able to do this part with a power hedge trimmer if you are very careful.  Otherwise, use manual hand held tools to ensure you don't take too much off any area.

And Voila; you now have a spiral topiary that will make any area look spectacular.



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All information in this article is purely for information only and Healey Green Pty Ltd, its employees or agents accept no liability for any injury, death, damage or other loss howsoever caused by person or persons following the information in this or any or any of our guides.  Always seek a professional if unsure.

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