Pruning a Hedge

Credit: iStock

Q: I have always wanted a sculpted hedge or topiary. How do I go about this?

Time and patience are the main ingredients, for both features are easy to grow with dramatic effect. First, decide on the desired size and dimensions, then chose the appropriate plant. Use true dwarf boxwood, Japanese holly or spreading English yew for a feature of 90 cm (3 ft.) or less. For subjects up to about 1.8 m (6 ft.), consider the upright cultivars of yew or regular boxwood. Due to their small leaves, these plants can be clipped very precisely. This should be done at least twice a year. If overgrown shrubs must be renovated, they can be cut back hard in May. Fertilize, mulch and water through summer; plants will produce new growth and cover the cuts after several months.

ONE: Use long-handled pruners or an electric trimmer. Clean, accurate lines are critical, as the eye is immediately drawn to imperfections. While professional topiarists “eyeball it,” you might want an aid. Outline the hedge with stakes and twine, checking that horizontals are level. Make the hedge slightly wider at the base.

TWO: Cut a circular hole out of a piece of cardboard and tape this “hole” to two stakes. It can be rotated around the shrub as you cut.

THREE: The late, great horticulturist Linda Plato used to say, “The only thing better than one hedge is two.”