The privet hedge – Garden view
One of the questions I’m often asked as a gardener is ‘How do I trim my privet hedge?’
Privet hedges aren’t a particularly sexy subject for a gardening article, but hedge-trimming seems to cause a lot of angst so let me tackle it here.
Privet is one of our most popular hedging plants. It has dense foliage which is green all year round, and it’s hardy which means it’s suited to a wide range of planting sites. It’s also available in a selection of varieties and root types, so there’s a Privet hedge to suit most gardens.
Autumn is a good time to trim them because there’s little chance of disturbing any birds who might be nesting in them. Nesting season generally runs from March to early August.
If you have a small hedge like those outside terraced town houses, then hand-held hedge shears are fine, but for large hedges an electric or even a petrol hedge-trimmer is definitely easier. If you have one, give it a check over and make sure it’s sharp and well lubricated.
Safety should be paramount. Wear safety goggles and sturdy gloves. It’s not overkill. I once spent Saturday afternoon in eye casualty because a small sharp twig flew into my eye while I was trimming a hedge. It hurt and took ages to heal properly so be warned. Before starting, remove any potential obstacles on the ground which might prove to be a trip hazard. Avoid using powered tools above shoulder height; instead use a sturdy step ladder set on stable ground. If your hedge trimmer is electric use a residual current device (RCD) for safety purposes, and don’t use it in damp conditions.
One little trick I learned at a hedge-cutting course a few years ago is to cut hedges so that they are slightly tapered on both sides. This will mean the base is wider than the top and light can reach the bottom of the hedge, which means the hedge will be greener and look healthier.
Top tips to ensure an even, symmetrical hedge:
Straight edges are difficult to cut by eye. Use a taut horizontal string tied between two stout canes to act as a guide so you can cut the top of the hedge level. For vertical lines use canes or stakes pushed into the ground.
When using shears, ensure that the top of the hedge is cut level and flat by keeping the blades of the shears parallel to the line of the hedge.
When using a hedge trimmer, keep the blade parallel to the hedge and use a wide, sweeping action working from the bottom of the hedge upwards, so that the cut foliage falls away
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