Recently a customer asked me directly, “Can you keep the hedge that high for good?”
I told him, “Not exactly.”
To see what I meant, take a close look at the yew pictured next to the front steps. Obviously, the baseline goal of hedge-trimming here would be to keep the hedge from invading the steps. But I have been trimming this yew hedge at least twice a year for at least 25 years, and as you can see, the steps are covered by at least four inches of woody growth.
So if my parents—whose hedge this is—had asked me, “Can you keep the hedge off the steps?” I could not have honestly said yes.
The point is that we should think of hedge renovation as something of regular maintenance. Your hedges will creep up on you, so if you need to keep them inside certain boundaries, you should plan on renovating as often as every ten years.
How do I plan to renovate this hedge? First, I will mark a reference point on the house 2-4 inches back from the steps. Second, I will place a strip of plywood or cardboard inside the reference point and perpendicular to the wall of the house. Next, I will spray paint the top of the hedge outside the plywood, and then take the plywood off.
Any leaves with paint on them will need to be removed. Third, I will take my power hedge clipper and cut into the hedge along the paint line. I will cut 4-6 inches deep along the top and then along the front and rear. Then I will cut horizontally, until in wood-working terms, I have removed a rabbet of painted hedge, revealing the woody interior of the hedge.
Finally, I will take my pruners and my pruning saw, and remove the wood branches that are beyond the original painted hedge line. I will also clean up the jagged edges left by the power hedge clipper, and I will tidy up the edge of the remaining foliage. Once I clean up the mess, I am finished — for now.
Having restored the hedge to its proper place, it is now time to restore the foliage on the plane beside the steps. With careful attention, I can speed this process along. Once the exposed branches begin to bud, each time I trim the hedge I can pinch of the new growth. This pinching promotes denser growth, so regular pinching speeds the recovery exponentially.
As every year goes by, the renovation will become just a memory. Look at the photo again. Less than a decade ago, I removed more than a foot of hedge from the front. As you can see, it is impossible to tell. Although this process needs to be regular, you must leave foliage on the hedge for photosynthesis.
JOSHUA ARP IS AN ISA-CERTIFIED MUNICIPAL SPECIALIST, CLARKS SUMMIT’S MUNICIPAL ARBORIST AND AN OPERATOR OF AN ORGANIC LAWN AND LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE BUSINESS. REACH HIM AT JOSARHUAP@AOL.COM.