How to get straight lines when trimming hedges
As you develop your hedge trimming skills, you'll begin to view your work with an artist's eye. You'll find it's important to get those lines straight! Once your straight lines are in place, maintaining them is easy. Here are three hints used by professionals for maintaining picture-perfect hedges:
1 - Understand the shape
For perfect hedge lines, it’s a good idea to aim for a wider base and a narrower top. The reason for this is because the tops of most shrubs grow faster than the bottoms. Attempt a gradual sloping effect, with a 6-inch difference between the top and bottom. This will allow maximum sunlight to penetrate the hedge and make maintenance easier as the top grows out.
2 - Cut from the ground up
When trying to get perfect lines, it's easier to cut from the ground up. Using a gliding, back-and-forth motion, make your way from one end of the hedge to the other, cutting from ground level to about a third of the way up the hedge. Next, move along the hedge while cutting the middle portion, gently tapering your work toward the top. Lastly, trim the top third of the hedge, blending it with the middle third while again tapering toward the top.
3 - Touch up and take a little off the top
Once all the sides have been cut, stand back and inspect the hedge, touching up areas as needed. The final step is to cut the top. Place the trimmer horizontal to the hedge and gently cut away from yourself, moving from the front to the back. Ensure you don’t place too much pressure on the hedge trimmer when cutting away from yourself to avoid unsightly dips or accidental cut-outs.
4 - Keep your equipment in good condition
Be sure to maintain your tools for a superior cut. Regular lubrication and sharpening will help prevent dull blades from damaging your hedge. A common cause of hedge damage is dull tools that create blunt, ragged cuts in the hedge. The sharper your tools, the cleaner your cuts.
How to sculpt a hedge
Sculpting a hedge allows you to express some creativity with your yard work. Read below for some of the most popular hedge sculpting designs and how to achieve them.
Rolling wave-style hedges are hedges with straight sides and a gently rolling top that resembles ocean waves or a line of hills. Achieving this elegant effect is actually quite simple! Once you've trimmed the sides of the hedge, stake tall bamboo canes at equal distances along the hedge's length. Spread the stakes farther apart for gentler waves or closer together for more peaks.
Once the canes are in place, begin at one end of the hedge and cut upward toward the first cane (it will look best if the ends of the hedge slope downward). Maintain a gentle cutting angle! After you reach the first cane, cut downward to the next cane to complete your hill. Repeat this rhythm along the entire length of the hedge.
A castle top hedge is a dramatic style that will give your hedge a uniquely formal appearance. This style is achieved by cutting out box shapes from the top of the hedge. If you love a symmetrical finish with straight lines, this style is the one for you. To start, you'll need a tape measure, string, black marker and bamboo canes.
- First, stake a bamboo cane in the ground next to the hedge approximately every 12 inches.
- Once the canes are in place, measure 10 inches from the top of the hedge and mark this spot on the cane with a black marker. Do this along the entire hedge.
- Tie the string between each cane at the black mark.
- Using a hedge trimmer, cut vertically down to the height marked on the first and second cane. Then cut between them horizontally to cut out the box shape.
- Do not cut between the second and third canes! This part of the hedge will form one of the castle tops.
- Move on to the third and fourth canes and repeat the process from step 4. Continue like this, skipping every other set of canes, along the hedge's entire length.
That's it! The newly cut sides of the castle top may look bare for a few weeks, but this will quickly grow in. Maintain the hedge with a gentle trim every 6 weeks during the warmer seasons to help the hedge maintain its shape.
What about topiary?
Topiary is a great way to introduce a beautiful, fanciful or elegant new look to your yard or garden. In fact, topiary is perhaps the most imaginative way of all to express your creativity outdoors!
However, there is more to topiary than imagining a shape and creating it with a hedge trimmer. There are a few items you'll need before beginning your next work of backyard art. These include:
- A small-sized shrub with compact leaves and strong growth
- A wire or wooden frame built into the desired design
- Cable ties to control branch direction and growth
- Adequate light and water conditions
- Hand clippers
- A Husqvarna hedge trimmer
When starting out with topiary, avoid complex designs and instead aim for geometric shapes. Buy or build a simple ball or cone topiary frame. These shapes add an air of class and elegance, and will help you learn the ropes of topiary.
Now that you've assembled your supplies, here's the general process:
- Plant the shrub in an appropriate area of your yard or garden for its growing conditions. Make sure to read the shrub's label carefully!
- Give the shrub a hard cut back to encourage new growth.
- Install the wire or wooden frame over the shrub. This will be left in place as the shrub grows over the months and weeks ahead. The shrub will begin to grow around and through the frame and begin to take its shape.
- In the first year, gently trim the shrub with hand clippers to remove stray branches. For the first year, avoid major cuts, allowing the shrub to fill out
- By the second year, you should be able to use your hedge trimmer, following the frame as a guide to create the desired shape. Depending on the variety of the shrub, you may need to trim annually or every season.
- Once you've achieved the desired shape, you can remove the frame. Or, if the frame is concealed by the leaves, you can let it remain part of the structure of the plant.
Congratulations, you've created your first topiary! Maybe someday you'll be ready to attempt the masterpiece shown below.