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A hedge can be kept in a formal or informal style. Formal hedges tend to be
neat, boxlike affairs while informal hedges take their cue from the shape of
the shrubs and tend to be softer and looser. Informal hedges have been gaining
in popularity recently because they're more natural looking â€“ and less work.
Trimming an informal hedge is fairly straightforward. With a pair of long-handled loppers, first cut out dead or damaged wood (being careful with evergreens, which may not fill in if cut back more than a few inches). Then use the loppers to selectively cut back branches to control shape and size as desired.
Formal hedges take a bit more effort and care so that sun can hit as much of the shrub as possible.
It will take about one
hour to prune 6 to 8
feet of hedge.
- Lumber for template†
†Available at retail stores.
Prune plants that flower in the spring on old wood, such as lilacs, at the end of the flowering period. Prune all others in early spring. For exact cutting for a formal hedge, create a wooden template. Nail together three pieces of wood to form a simple template that can be inserted into the ground on either side of the hedge to serve as a guide.
To trim a formal hedge, use hedge shears or power shears to create the shape you want. Be careful in cutting back too far. With the exception of yew, boxwood, rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese cedar, China fir, and redwood, many evergreens will not fill in where you've cut.
As you cut a formal hedge, be sure to 'batter' the hedge, that is, make the top slightly narrower than the bottom. This tapering allows sunlight to reach all the branches, preventing the bottom from being shaded by the top and dying out. A hedge 5 feet tall might have a base 2 1/2 feet wide and a top 1 foot wide.
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