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Hedge Pruning Times

Box Hedge Pruning

The short answer is: prune back 1/3 of height growth every spring until the hedge gets to your desired size and then as often as it needs it during the summer. This will work well enough for all hedges and you will get a height gain of upto 1ft per year (after pruning) for most types of hedge. Just prune the sides of the hedge once it gets to your desired thickness making sure it is thinner at the top than bottom.

But if you have time for more detail, I have split hedges into groups for the very best care. I'll presume that you have planted the hedge at the ideal time (autumn), or perhaps the spring. You can plant any time of year, but you will just need to water the hedge until established (1-2 months).

Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Fruit Trees, Dogwood and Privet

These trees make great hedges, but need care in the first years to promote bushiness at the bottom. Start by pruning the plants back to 30cm when planting then during the first summer, trim off a couple of centimetres from the sides to promote side-growth: you are really just trying to nip off the buds. Make sure the hedge is thinner at the top than the bottom so that light gets to the bottom of the hedge as side branches will die if they get no light.
In the second year in February/March, give it a really good prune, down to half its height. This will really get the bottom nice and bushy and once those side shoots have grown in then you have achieved your aim of avoiding gaps. Keep lightly pruning the sides to a taper so that lights gets to the bottom, but you can let the hedge grow in height throughout the second summer and then prune the tops in the Autumn. From then on, you need only to prune the hedge to your desired shape and it will gradually fill in and become bushier.

Beech, Hornbeam, Hazel, Field Maple

These trees are naturally far bushier at the base than the hawthorn group so there is less chance of getting it wrong. Cut them back to about 20cm when planting (or just nip the top bud out if they are already small) to get a bit more bushiness at the base and then again during the following winter. After that, just let it grow and trim the hedge to your desired shape in July, keeping that taper shape so light gets to the bottom branches.

Box and Honeysuckle

This one is easy to remember. Cut back by 1/3 for the first two springs and then prune the hedge to your desired size every summer thereafter.

All other Conifers and Evergreens, including Cotoneasters

These hedges can easily get out of control and will not re-grow from old wood (the brown 'dead' bit on the inside of the hedge) so never prune beyond the green. When you plant evergreen hedging, just prune the sides very lightly to a neat taper and let light get to the bottom of the hedge. Don't prune the tops until they have reached your desired height and then trim as often as you need throughout the summer, perhaps 2-3 times. Avoid pruning from August onwards, because then you will get permanent brown patches. The really important thing to remember about evergreen hedging is that you really must know how big you want it to be before you plant. You can reduce evergreen hedges in height easily enough, but you cannot reduce them in width very much because then you will be cutting into old wood which will never re-grow.

Flowers and Berries

If you want flowers and berries on your hedge, then still follow the guidelines above but just prune after the blossom or berries have finished. Lots of people like to put native roses through their hedge (Rosa canina), which can looks great but they flower on last year's growth, so only prune once a year after flowering. A better alternative is Rose rugosa which flowers in the current year's growth and can be pruned as per the rest of the hedge.

15 April 2013 at 13:12 / Comment

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