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Edge your hedge to tame monster.

HEDGES have bad habits. One moment a hedge can be a desirable boundary between your garden and your neighbour, the next a dark brooding monster in need of hard pruning from which some never recover.

Boundary hedges should always be on your side of the property, even when mature since neighbours have the right to cut any growth that encroaches.

A hedge, nevertheless, has to be preferred to a fence, affording privacy, protection from the wind, reduced traffic noise and contrasting backdrop for flowering plants. Even a low hedge offering none of these advantages will define the boundary of a property in a pleasing and inconspicuous way.

In a front garden, a closely-clipped hedge is the best choice between your property and the public pavement and there are many species that thrive on light trimming. Privet is widely used because it's durable, so is box, while Escallonia and Berberis darwinii are more colourful as well as being evergreen.

When planting a hedge consider its effect on other plants. If the plan is for a tall, dense hedge this may prevent light reaching neighbouring plants and reduce air circulation. No matter what its height, a hedge takes up nourishment from a fairly large area, in the process starving plants in the adjacent border which could mean more regular feeding.

Conifers in particular form a dense, if gloomy, barrier but make more rapid growth than deciduous hedges such as beech and hornbeam which on the other hand hold on to their tinted autumn foliage through the colder months of winter.

Container-grown plants, both evergreen and deciduous can be planted at any time of the year depending on soil and weather conditions. But be sure they have been grown in pots rather than transferred after being lifted from open ground.

Pruning is necessary to prevent a hedge becoming a thug! Restrict the height by removing the leading shoot six inches before it reaches the required height, at 1.7m (51/2ft) if you want 1.8m (6ft).

When trimming the sides make the base a little wider than the top to prevent snow accumulating and causing damage. Deciduous hedges thicken up more quickly if the leader is removed early and the side shoots shortened.

Hand shears or trimmer are quickest for shaping formal hedges such as yew and privet and secateurs for conifers and informal shrubs.

Container-grown hedges can be planted now provided they are kept well-watered during dry periods. The established hedges to prune this month include yew, privet, beech, Cotoneaster, Berberis darwinii, Weigela and Pyracantha (firethorn).

In its first year privet should be trimmed two or three times to encourage young growth to thicken the hedge. Informal flowering hedges are pruned immediately after flowering bearing in mind the need for prompt pruning because shrubs flowering before the end of June do so on growth produced the previous year.

Evergreen hedges sometimes have to be moved, commonly box, laurel and yew. If the hedge is more than 12 years old, start preparing for the move a year in advance by cutting the roots back to the size of the root ball with a spade and dig a trench along either side of the hedge just clear of the over-hanging branches. By the time you're ready to make the move, fibrous roots will have been produced around the root ball.

Using a sharp spade undercut the roots and lift the hedge in short sections, slipping strong polythene beneath each section so that the roots remain encased in soil when moved. Pack a mixture of soil and peat around each section when re-planting and water regularly, never allowing the soil to dry out.

Pruning is necessary to prevent a hedge becoming a thug!

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A well-tended hedge, which will need to be kept in shape by pruning
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 7, 2014
Words:634
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