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Hedges and Hedging This Spring

Hedges and Hedging in the Spring

How to Care for You Hedge and Hedging This Spring

If you have managed to wade out into your garden and towards your newly-planted hedge this month, you might have noticed small leaves starting to emerge from the buds and the first signs of spring! Long, brown native hedges (beech, hawthorn etc) will now be spotted with little green flecks and your hedge is letting you know that it has had enough of winter and wants to get growing again!

Hedges

But that's not all. Your native hedge is also telling you it wants its first haircut of the season. Like all broadleaved trees, hedges protect themselves from winter cold by setting protective buds and as soon as winter is over, they want to stretch away towards the sun. Beech hedging actually often keeps its russet leaves over the summer. Conifer or evergreen hedges don't fully go dormant, but they do mostly shut down and stop growing. Of course, as gardeners we want to harness nature, not just watch it and a hedge stretching towards the heavens is not in our design at all. We want hedging to grow outwards so it is nice and thick, not just upwards. The terminal (end) bud of each branch releases hormones down the stem telling the tree to send all its energy to the end of the branch, promoting height gain. Each side bid is also sending out hormones asking for growth, but these signals are pretty weak and get overshadowed by the messages from the hedge's terminal bud. This is where us gardeners come in! If we trim off those terminal buds, we stop the hormone signals and the messages from the side buds can be heard, promoting lateral (side) growth.

Native Hedging

Each hedging species has a different relationship with its growth hormones and so at this time of year needs different pruning treatment. For Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Fruit Trees, Dogwood and Privet, prune to 30cm in the first year (if you have just planted them). If you planted last winter, prune it down to half height about now and then just trim the sides lightly during the summer to create a nice taper.

If you have Beech, Hornbeam, Hazel and Field Maple hedges, then you should cut back to about 20cm in the first year (i.e. if you have planted this winter). Leave it to grow to the desired size after that.

Conifer Hedging

For conifer hedging, do nothing now. Just leave the thing to grow until it is tall enough, then trim the tops a couple of times during the summer until it thickens up, then trim the sides to a taper.

Good luck and let's look forward to a bright, dry (!) spring!

05 March 2014 at 16:49 / Comment

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