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How to Trim Hedges

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How to Trim Hedges
Information on trimming boxwood hedges.

Picture of hedge shears.

David Beaulieu

The example I use in this tutorial showing how to trim hedges is a boxwood hedge that I planted last year. In fact, it is the same hedge to which I refer in my article on how to plant hedges.

They say that there's more than one way to skin a cat. Now, mind you, I've never skinned a cat, myself (nor do I ever intend to, being a cat-lover!), so I'll have to take "their" word for it. Be that as it may, I suspect that there's also more than one way to trim a hedge. What follows in this tutorial on how to trim hedges is, then, to be taken as a guideline, rather than as a set of instructions to be followed slavishly.

After planting my boxwood hedge and fertilizing it, I pinched back new growth during that first year, to induce low branching. To do so, I did not set up a guide, using stakes and strings, as I did for the present tutorial on how to trim hedges; rather, I just "eyeballed" it.

But now, in my boxwood hedge's second year, it's time to employ more precision in my trimming. I'll be showing you how to get straight lines in your trimming in this tutorial. I should caution you, however, that the hedge-shape for which I'm aiming in this second year is not the final shape my hedge will assume. Let me explain:

After the second year of trimming, enough low branching will have been induced to set my hedge on the right track. But to keep these lower branches healthy, I'll want to start trimming the top of the hedge to be narrower than the bottom -- otherwise, sufficient sunlight wouldn't reach the bottom branches. You can think of the eventual desired shape as being that of an inverted vase.

But for second-year trimming, straight sides will do. I did my trimming with manual hedge shears, pictured above. In Step 2 we'll look at some of the other tools of the hedge-trimming trade....

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