A tree surgeo trimming hedges

The world of hedge trimming is certainly not something to be taken lightly! It’s not always the case that you simply go in with your hedge trimmer, hack away, forget about it and expect your hedge to look happy and healthy. Depending on the type of plant, the weather, the time of year, you may need a completely different approach.

We’ve pruned hundreds of hedges over the years, with hedge trimming being another string to a tree surgeon’s bow. From the overgrown, to the unattractive, hedges can be anything from a wonderful feature to a nuisance and eyesore. As with anything that grows in your garden, you need to treat it with respect and give it the care and attention it needs to thrive.

If you have a lot of hedge in need of attention, make sure you hire a reliable tree surgeon. Sometimes with your hedges, that means a good prune! Here are some things to think about from the experts!

Types of Pruning

For young trees and hedges, when left to grow untouched they tend to, on average, grow more heavily around the crown (bottom). That is, the branches will be heavier and denser towards the bottom. For fruit bearing plants, this achieves smaller yields of lower quality fruit. Formative pruning is the process of pruning and shaping a young plant. A skilful arborist will prune a plant very precisely, leading to strong and well-balanced growth.

What Time of Year?

Formative pruning is best done in winter/spring, during periods of low growth. The hedge can then begin to take shape during its faster growth in hotter weather. Once the hedge is older and has taken shape, the emphasis becomes maintenance, to keep the shape, rather than alter it. Formal hedges require more consistent attention, maybe as much as three trims per year. For informal hedges, once a year is usually sufficient to prevent overgrowth, given the same neatness doesn’t need to be maintained. Maintenance trimming is usually done in the spring/summer time.

How to Trim a Hedge

You always need to right tools for the job. Hand held shears are great if you don’t have a huge hedge to cut, but it will simply be too much effort if you have many hedges, or a particularly large one. In this case, an electric hedge trimmer is the best option for you. Hedge trimmers are powerful. Especially for the inexperienced, it takes a little getting used to before absolute accuracy is achieved.

For formal hedges, they typically don’t need to be more than two feet wide. It’s best to taper them slightly to give a wider base and slimmer top, allowing light to reach the bottom more easily. Use a combination of stakes, canes and string to gauge the top to get it perfectly level. More elaborate shapes require a bit more preparation, wood/cardboard templates for example, and a bit more dexterity.

Informal hedges simply need to be reduced back to size. If the hedge is particularly leafy, shears are preferred to avoid leaving a large number of damaged leaves. We’ll do a full breakdown of hedge trimming techniques in the future!


Safety first. For tree surgeons it’s imperative, this is a highly dangerous job. For starters, if using an electric hedge trimmer, you must be fully trained in the safe operation of the tool. Keep the blade away from the cable, by running it over your shoulder and behind. Keep two hands on the trimmer at all times that the blade is on, and don’t use if it’s raining or the hedge is damp from rainfall. Most modern trimmers should have two handed control, where the motor cuts out if one hand is released.

Safety goggles should be worn. A hedge can throw a surprising amount of debris your way, and your eyes will be in the firing line! Make sure you wear good quality safety goggles that don’t inhibit visibility, so you can maintain accuracy.

Ensure any steps/ladders are completely secure before using them. Make sure they’re placed as well as possible for accessibility to the area you’re trying to trim. That way, you’ll be able to keep the tool as close to your body as possible, maintaining control.

As you can see, trimming and looking after a hedge is far more complicated an art than many realise. That’s why for bigger jobs it’s best to get in touch with professionals who have the necessary qualifications and experience to bring out the perfect result. Whether your formal hedges need some real care, or your young hedge needs to be encouraged to grow higher, talk to us and we’ll give you a free quote. Avoid trying to do this all alone!

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to learn about planting your own hedges, have a look on the Royal Horticultural Society.

Until next time,
TH Tree Surgery

TH Tree Surgery

48 High Street,

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