Hedging your bets


2nd August 2019

I can’t quite believe we’re already in late summer, but before we start thinking about the spring bulb planting season (we’ll leave that till next month), August marks the beginning of the hedge cutting season.  If you have a Leylandii or privet hedge, this task may have already been completed once already, but for the rest, it’s a great time to start trimming back.


Cutting hedges isn’t at the top of many peoples’ favourite ‘to do’ list, and I can’t say that I miss my old garden at this time of the year, surrounded by hedges on all sides, back and front! But whether you’re the kind of person who spreads the task out over a few sessions, or hits it all in one go, you can’t deny that the results of a neatly trimmed hedge really do give the garden a sense of order.


Trimming fluffy Yew topiary with sharp hand sheers, clipping Box hedges with traditional style sheep sheers, and returning unruly boundary lines with an electric hedge trimmer returns definition to the garden, a level of ‘control’ we humans (in the main) enjoy – after all, us Brits do love a well-defined boundary!


I have to say, I really don’t mind the act of trimming the hedge (the thought of the task is much worse), its picking up all the ‘bits’ I really dislike, and it turns out we’re not the only ones who are not keen on the task.  Nesting birds can be disturbed during the process, so to minimise the risk, the RSBP recommend NOT trimming hedges between the beginning of March and the end of July, and although some birds do nest outside of this period, it’s a good idea to leave the trimming till now.


According to the RSPB “It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built, or to intentionally kill, injure or take chicks or adults, or intentionally take or destroy any eggs”.


If you want to reduce the hedge severely in height or width, or even change the shape completely, most hedges (except conifer) will respond to hard pruning very well, but that job is best left until winter for deciduous hedges, and late March for those which do not lose their leaves.


If the annual hedge prune fills you with dread, consider hiring a professional (do make sure they are insured) and spare a thought for the gardeners around the country who work in stately homes such as David Kesteven at Renishaw Hall, who for the next 3 months will be trimming the gardens hedges for our viewing delight!

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Lee Bestall

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