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How to Prune Hedges

Goal #1: Ensure the Health of the Shrubs

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A creative way to prune a hedge.

A creative way to prune a hedge.

David Beaulieu

What, you liked my recommendations for hedge shrubs on Page 1, and you feel that such a "living wall" could enhance your landscaping, but you know nothing about pruning hedges? No problem. Below, I tell you about the basics involved in the operation. And in case you wish to take your education on the subject to the next level, I also provide a link that will bring you to a full tutorial (with pictures), showing you how to shear your masterpiece with precision.

How to Prune Hedges

Do not prune hedge plants so as to form a wall straight-up-and-down. Rather, prune hedges so that the base is wider than the top (a shape sometimes referred to as an "inverted keystone"). This will allow sufficient sunlight to reach the growth at the bottom, keeping it healthy. To aid you in the task of pruning hedge plants, you'll probably want to invest in a hedge trimmer. And as I relate below, you'll also need a tape measure.

How do you prune hedges so that they come out straight? And how do you get the tops level? The key is to lay out a foolproof network of guides before cutting, using stakes and string. Pruning hedges is truly a case of, "You get what you put into it." If you measure carefully with a tape measure and place your guides exactly where they should be, then you'll get a precisely trimmed hedge. But if you just try to "eyeball it," then the end-result will reflect your haste. It's that simple. Hedges are not for homeowners who desire low-maintenance landscaping.

Thus to prune hedges with precision, there's a lot of preparation involved. Essentially, the preparatory work entails framing the area (the "inverted keystone" shape mentioned above) that you want the finished product to occupy. This preparation will probably take you longer than the trimming itself. That's the bad news. But the good news is that, with the guide-strings in place, you can proceed to prune hedges with total confidence that your cuts will be unerring.

I show you how to set up those guide-strings, step by step, in my tutorial on trimming hedges, replete with pictures.

Continue on to Page 3 for a look at a different group of plants (not shrubs) sometimes used to form hedges....

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