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Oct / Nov issue of The Irish Garden








Easy CareEasy-care plants : Hedges

Types | Clipping

Hedges are labour-intensive and may not even be necessary. Is there a wall behind the hedge? Or can a wall be made higher or a fence set up as a replacement? But if it is necessary to have a hedge, there are strategies to reduce the effort involved. A hedge provides privacy and shelter, and a good backdrop for flowers and shrubs, but it is labour-intensive, the amount of work being directly related to its size.

Hedges are sometimes planted unnecessarily beside a garden wall to hide the bare concrete. Disguise can be achieved more successfully, at less expense and with less maintenance, by using climbers, shrubs and standard trees.

The other major aspect of the size of a hedge is height; the higher the hedge, the more clipping and the more difficult to reach. A hedge of 1.5 metres has twenty per cent less clipping than one of 1.8 metres.

Tall hedges might be needed in a garden that is overlooked but, for privacy on a level site, a hedge does not need to be more than 1.65 metres high. Any hedge higher than this cannot be clipped from the ground. Higher hedges need higher ladders, or some kind of scaffolding. This adds greatly to the work because it is more difficult to clip a hedge from a ladder, and the ladder will need to be moved.

A wide hedge takes up more garden space and makes more work in reaching across to clip the top. All hedges grow most vigorously at the top and the wider the hedge the more top-clipping necessary. All hedges should be trained to a wedge-shape, in cross-section, to keep the top narrow and allow light down to the sides.

Types

The species of hedge has a big influence on the amount of clipping work. Some kinds like privet, lonicera, Cotoneaster lacteus, Leyland cypress and Monterey cypress are very rapid growers, capable of making a decent hedge in four or five years, but they also need most maintenance. Lonicera and privet need to be clipped at least twice and as often as four times each year to stay neat.

Slower-growing hedges like beech, yew, griselinia, thuya, lawson cypress, hawthorn, hornheam, berberis, olearia and holly hold their neat look with a single clipping each year. Feeding has an influence on the growth rate of hedging.

These slower-growing kinds can be speeded up in the initial years of establishment by feeding and watering. If this is done, they lose nothing in speed of establishment to the faster-growing kinds, but have the distinct advantage of easier maintenance for life.

Clipping

Clipping should be done before the young shoots begin to get woody. This process begins in July and by mid-August the job of clipping will be much more difficult. At the same time, clipping too early will encourage new growth and necessitate a second clip later.

Powered hedge-trimmers make the work much easier, but they also need care in handling to get a neat finish. Petrol-engined trimmers cope more easily with long runs of hedge, large hedges and tougher material. The cables of electric trimmers can be awkward over long runs of hedge, but they are cheaper.

Laying out polythene or similar sheeting before clipping makes tidying up much easier. Alternatively, if the clippings fall onto a lawn area, and they are not too plentiful, a rotary mower with a grass-bag can be used to chew them up and collect them.

Like to learn more? Go to Garden.ie's Know-How section >

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