Hedges can be made from a wide variety of trees and shrubs, from Conifers to broad-leaved Beech, most gardens contain at least one. We are often asked “When do you trim your hedge?” Well, just as you would choose when to prune your trees and shrubs, there is also a best time to trim a hedge. In this simple guide we have covered the main varieties, for more species feel free to visit www.rhs.org.uk for up-to-date expert advice.
• Yew hedges
Yew should be trimmed once a year in August or September. Prune it back hard in April if it’s getting too large. You can renovate a large hedge by cutting right back to the main trunk. Cut back the top in the first year, then one side of the hedge in the next year before finally cutting the other side in the third year. This means the hedge always has some green leaves to fuel the plant as it regrows. Remember to give the hedge a granular, slow release feed to help it put on good growth.
• Leyland Cypress hedges
Leyland cypress should be trimmed up to three times a year: in April, July and late August. It’s fast growing and you can’t cut back beyond the green growth, or the plant won’t recover and it will leave bare patches. Little and often is the best way to keep it under control.
• Beech hedges
Beech hedges are usually pruned in August. They grow rapidly in the early part of the year, but need to grow a little after cutting to make sure there are no bare patches through the winter. If the hedge grows too large, cut back hard in mid-winter, avoiding very cold spells.
• Privet hedges
If you have Privet you should trim your hedge at least twice a year, from May to August. The more you cut it, the more it forms a dense, even hedge and the easier it is to keep it to the same size. If necessary, prune it hard in April to reduce the size of the hedge.
• Laurel hedges
Laurel hedges should be cut in July or August. As this plant has large, tough leaves, hedge trimmers can leave them looking ragged. Remove any damaged leaves with secateurs to keep the hedge healthy and attractive. Cut back hard in spring to reshape overgrown hedges.
Bird nesting season should also be a consideration when trimming your hedges. 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. It has to be an intentional act, for example, if you or your neighbour know there is an active nest in the hedge and still cut the hedge, damaging or destroying the nest in the process.
It is therefore imperative that if you have to trim your hedge in between March and August that you do an extensive survey of the hedge to make sure there are no nesting birds. If you do discover a nest, wait until at least mid-August until checking again to see if it still active. After the nest is redundant you can proceed with your works.