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Ultimate Guide on Cutting and Trimming Hedges Using Garden Tools

It’s incredible how well-maintained hedges elevate the look of the garden while improving curb appeal. Shrubs, bushes, and hedges require regular and careful pruning to keep the plants and their foliage healthy and pest and disease-free.

Different varieties of shrubs and bushes could be pruned and shaped into a natural barrier or privacy screen - a type of living fence that lines the parameters of your outdoor space. Most of these varieties stay green all year round, particularly hedges. Of course, these plants will require lots of TLC to maintain their vibrancy, which means neatly trimming the foliage with the right tools!

In this guide, let’s talk about ways to cut and trim hedges, the essential factors to consider when cutting or trimming, and the garden tools that work best for specific bushes and shrubs.

How to Trim Hedges and Dense Shrubs

trimmed shrubs

Use a bypass pruner to thin out thick, overly dense foliage

Some shrubs have foliage so thick that light and air cannot penetrate well. And when this happens, the foliage within the network of stems wilts and turns brown. Pruning stimulates bud production and ensures that the plants are getting enough sunlight.

If you’re hand pruning the hedges, we suggest bypass hand pruners like the ECOgardener pruner because the tool gives you more control over the blades. More control means you can cut, trim, and prune branches accurately. With a bypass pruner, you can create spaces in the thick hedge for light and air to penetrate. Thin out the dense foliage by clipping at a 45-degree angle, just above the nub or leaflet in the desired direction.

The 3-Year rule for rejuvenation pruning

Some hedges and shrubs grow so out of control that they require renewal pruning or rejuvenation pruning. This method involves major pruning done every three to five years (called the three-year rule). You need to cut the hedges down to the ground, leaving only about 6 to 24 inches of foliage.

Rejuvenation pruning is an extreme pruning method, so it’s not recommended for some plants. But the idea here is to thin out the overgrown hedge down at the base to stimulate new growth, improve the health of the plants, and create a better shape.

Prune in late winter

You want to time the pruning perfectly so that the hedges will be in full health by the time the weather warms up. Pruning should be done in the late winter months when the plants haven’t produced buds and are dormant. You want to avoid the hedges breaking bud before you prune because producing new growths will sap the energy of the plants. It will also take the hedges to full out if you haven’t timed your pruning well.

Evergreens will require pruning early in the season because they’re slow to grow. Just remove discolored foliage well into the summer season and avoid thinning out the foliage unnecessarily. Fast-growing deciduous hedge plants should be pruned after the blooms have wilted and browned. Deadheading will give set buds for next year’s continual blooms.

Keep the plants’ bottom broad and the top narrow

Hedges tend to widen at the top because this area receives the most sunlight. This is why hedges tend to develop a V-shape when they’re left alone. The bottom area is not receiving as much sun, so the foliage isn’t as thick. To keep the evenness of the hedges, you want to keep the bottom narrower than the top. Use a pair of hedge shears for easy shading and avoid over-pruning certain areas.

Begin pruning at the bottom, then work your way to the top. If you need a guide, you can use a string line between stakes, but you can also eyeball the shape for a more natural look. Aggressively pruning the top of the hedges will weaken the plants, making them prone to snow damage and broken branches.

Choose the right plant variety

Forsythia

Not all shrubs have dense foliage to block unwanted views. There are differences between screen plants and hedges, so choose wisely. If you are starting from scratch, opt for a hedge variety that won’t overwhelm your space because it will be hard to prune the plants down to size in the future. Large evergreen hedges tend to require minimal pruning like:

  • Western arborvitae
  • Eastern red cedar
  • Juniper
  • Cypress
  • Hemlock
  • Fastigiate white pine
  • Holly

Flowering shrubs could be used as informal hedges. Some of the most popular are:

  • Forsythia
  • Lilac
  • Hydrangea
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Crape myrtle or rugo­sa roses

The 3 Basic Types of Hedge Pruning Tools

electric pruning shears

You can find three different hedge pruners on the market: gas-powered, electric, and manual pruners. Each of these pruners is best for specific pruning jobs and comes in various sizes. The best one to get is the one which will suit more pruning jobs.

Gas-Powered Pruners: These are designed to cut thick branches and are best for covering a wide expanse of space. These pruners also cut hedges quickly thanks to their powerful engine. Because it’s cordless, you can work anywhere on the property. The caveat is that the engine can be quite loud so please check with your homeowner’s association to see if using this pruner is allowed in your neighborhood. Also, you need to know how to precisely mix the oil and gas to power the pruner.

Electric-Powered Pruners: These are light, powerful, and relatively quiet pruners that could easily cut thick branches and dense foliage. Electric pruners are easy to use and affordable too. However, it’s not recommended for pruning in a large expanse of space because it’s corded, so the range is limited. You’ll need to tote an extension cord around if you’re working in the garden.

Manual Pruners: Manual pruners like the ECOgardener pruning shears and telescopic pruners give you the freedom to cut sizable branches and thick foliage with ease, thanks to their ergonomically designed shape and super sharp, durable blades. No need to deal with noxious fumes, noise, or cords; you have total freedom to prune hedges anywhere in the garden and beyond. Of course, since you’re pruning by hand, the task will take longer to complete. But the sharp blades and efficient cutting means you can work on a space quickly.

Pruning Safety and Precaution

Safety first: Use protective gear every time you’re pruning in the garden to prevent accidents. Wear protective eyewear, gloves, mask, long sleeve shirts, work pants, and closed-toe shoes or footwear with steel toes.

Clear the area of obstacles: When you’re using tools with sharp blades, you need to clear your workspace of obstacles so you don’t end up tripping or cutting things you shouldn’t. Look out for hoses and wires hidden by the hedge. If you’re using a corded pruner, be mindful of the extension cord at all times. If you’re using a gas-powered pruner, watch for toxic fumes and hold the equipment firmly. Turn it off if you’re not using it. For manual pruners, keep those sharp blades in check.

Prune with Care: Focus on the task, don’t let distractions keep you from making the wrong move. This goes especially for gardeners using a gas-powered or electric-powered pruner - focus. Do not hold the branch you are cutting because you might hurt yourself. Keep your feet out of the way when the branches fall to the ground; these might drop on your foot. Always check the area below where a large branch might fall and hurt someone.

Keep Your Balance: Do not extend your arms in front of your body too much when pruning; you could lose your balance and ruin the cut. Prune in a swinging bottom-up action, especially when trimming the sides. You don’t have to work continuously; you can stop, check the cut, then prune until you’ve created the desired shape.

Pruning Using Our ECOgardener Gardening Tools

ecogardener gardening tools

Pruning is vital to the health of the garden; that’s why it’s a good idea to invest in the right tools. We’ve got your core pruning gears covered in our store. Shop now and enjoy great deals on our newest gardening tools and pruners.