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Pruning Foliage Hedges

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By David Squire | Mar 12, 2018

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To encourage bushiness in hedges in Group One (some are evergreen, others deciduous), initially prune severely.
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During the second year, prune less severely. Even so, this encourages the development of fresh, young branches.
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From year three onwards, less radical pruning is needed to ensure that the hedge is clothed in leaves.
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Trim straight across the top for a flat top hedge.
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Trim the top of the hedge with rounding motion for a round top.
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Prune the top of a hedge at an angle to create a pointed top hedge.
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“Pruning” by David Squire teaches readers basic pruning techniques for trees, shrubs hedges and more.

    Home Gardener’s Pruning: The Essential Guide to Caring for Shrubs, Trees, Climbers, Hedges, Conifers, Roses and Fruit Trees. (Home Gardener’s Specialist Guide) (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2016), by David Squire, will guide any gardener through the pruning process for any yard. Squire gives step-by-step picture instructions to readers. It’s easy to follow and understand. This excerpt is located in “Hedges and Conifers.”

    Hedges are vital components of gardens, creating privacy from neighbors, dulling the raucous and often continuous note of road traffic, and helping to prevent animal access. Additionally, they have an aesthetic quality, with many revealing either beautiful flowers or colorful foliage that can create very attractive backgrounds. There are even some hedges, such as the Dwarf Box (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’), that form essential parts of knot gardens.

    InitialPruning

    For all hedges it is essential to encourage bushiness, so that the base is packed with stems and leaves. Hedges which are not pruned when young invariably have bare and unsightly bases later in their lives. When planting is in late summer or early autumn, leave the initial pruning until spring of the following year. This is because young and tender new shoots that develop from late summer or autumn pruning may subsequently be damaged by winter frosts.

    The initial pruning needed by hedges can be divided into three groups (see pictures).

    Group One

    Immediately after planting, cut back all shoots to 6 in (15 cm) above the soil.
    • Buxus sempervirens (Box)
    • Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)
    • Ligustrum ovalifolium (Privet)
    • Lonicera nitida(Chinese Honeysuckle)
    • Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn)
    • Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry)

    Group Two

    Immediately after planting, cut back all leading shoots and long side shoots by about one-third.
    • Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)
    • Corylus avellana (Hazel)
    • Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’
    • Fagus sylvatica (Beech)

    Group Three

    Do not prune leading shoots, but cut back untidy laterals
    • Aucuba japonica (Laurel)
    • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson’s Cypress) and its varieties
    • x Cupressocyparis leylandii (but only for use in large gardens and as a windbreak)
    • Euonymus japonicas (Spindle Tree)
    • Griselinia littoralis
    • Hippophae rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn)
    • Ilex x altaclerensis
    • Ilex aquifolium (Common Holly)
    • Olearia x haastii (New Zealand Daisy Bush)
    • Pittosporum tenuifolium
    • Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel)
    • Prunus lusitanica (Portugal Laurel)
    • Taxus baccata (Yew)
    • Thuja plicata
    • Ulex europaeus (Gorse)

    A–Z Of Pruning Established Evergreen Hedges

    Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’

    Spotted Laurel / Gold Dust

    Pruning is not usually necessary for established hedges, but use pruning shears to cut out old stems in spring, as well as those damaged by frost.

    Berberis x stenophylla

    Informal shrub with arching stems. No regular pruning is needed, but cut back large hedges after the flowers fade

    Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’

    Edging Box

    Use hedging trimmers to trim hedges in late summer or early autumn.

    Euonymus japonicus

    Slightly tender evergreen shrub with a dense, leafy nature. Use pruning shears to clip the hedge to shape in mid-spring. For a more formal outline, use hedging trimmers to trim it during summer.

    Griselinia littoralis

    An attractively foliaged hedge for coastal areas. Use pruning shears to trim back hedges in early or mid-summer.

    Griselinia littoralis ‘Dixon’s Cream’

    Prune in the same way as for Griselinia littoralis, but not quite so severely.

    Ilex x altaclerensis

    In mid-spring, use pruning shears to trim back long shoots and to smarten up the hedge’s shape.

    Ilex aquifolium

    Common Holly / English Holly

    Prune in the same way as for Ilex x altaclerensis.

    Ligustrum ovalifolium

    Common Privet

    Once this hedge is established, use hedge trimmers to clip over it several times during summer.

    Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aureum’

    Golden Privet

    This plant is less vigorous than the all-green form and therefore needs slightly harder pruning during its early years. Once established, treat it in the same way as for Ligustrum ovalifolium.

    Lonicera nitida

    Chinese Honeysuckle

    In the initial year after being planted, ensure that each plant is cut back by about a half, and in the following year cut back the young growth several times. During the following years, cut back all new growth by about a half.

    Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’

    This is less vigorous than the all-green Lonicera nitida and therefore needs slightly harder pruning over the first few years.

    Pittosporum tenuifolium

    Use hedge trimmers to trim established hedges in mid-spring and mid-summer.

    Prunus laurocerasus

    Cherry Laurel / Common Laurel

    In late spring or late summer, use pruning shears to trim back long shoots. Additionally, large hedges can be cut back hard in spring.

    Prunus lusitanica

    Portugal Laurel

    Prune in the same way as for Prunus laurocerasus.

    Renovating Ilex (Holly)

    Where hedges have been neglected, they can be cut hard back in spring. Fresh shoots will develop from the hedge’s base.

    Renovating Neglected Aucuba Japonica Hedges

    Large and overgrown hedges can be cut back to about 2 ft (60 cm) high in spring. Although the hedge will initially look unsightly, it will soon start to develop fresh, young shoots.

    Shaping the Tops of Hedges

    All hedges should be trimmed, regardless of the shape of the top, so that the base is wider than the top and sunlight can reach the lower branches. Often, hedges that are trimmed perfectly vertically have the bottom shaded by the top and therefore the bottom loses its foliage and the stems can be seen.

    Pruning Established Deciduous Hedges

    Berberis thunbergii‘Atropurpurea Nana’

    A dwarf Berberis with rich reddish- purple leaves. Use pruning shears to trim to shape in winter.

    Carpinusbetulus

    Common Hornbeam / EuropeanHornbeam

    Forms a large hedge. Use hedge trimmers to clip the plants during mid- summer. Trim young hedges lightly, but established ones more severely.

    Fagussylvatica

    Common Beech

    Once established, use hedge trimmers or power equipment to trim the hedge in mid- or late summer.

    More fromHome Gardener’s Pruning: The Essential Guide to Caring for Shrubs, Trees, Climbers, Hedges, Conifers, Roses and Fruit Trees. (Home Gardener’s Specialist Guide)Pruning:

    • Philosophy of Pruning Shrubs


    Reprinted with permission from Home Gardener’s Pruning: The Essential Guide to Caring for Shrubs, Trees, Climbers, Hedges, Conifers, Roses and Fruit Trees. (Home Gardener’s Specialist Guide)Pruning by David Squire and published by Fox Chapel Publishing, 2016.

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