How To Reduce Hedges and Yourself to Tears

There comes a time when the body is unwilling and the mind can't be bothered. That is sometimes how I feel about hedge cutting. It's not as if I can reach for a petrol hedge trimmer due to the weight and the vibration that gives me white finger is just an added bonus. I am the falling apart type of gardener and with the decline of hedgerows over the last century you can see why I should embrace my hedge and love it. The impact that no hedges has had on our countryside and suburbia is shocking with a huge decline in wildlife linked to the death of the hedge. I may moan about cutting them but hedges have a valuable place in our garden, without them we couldn't grow, on windy days they baffle the gusts so that we can blow through exposed parts of our garden and skip around the sheltered areas as the wind rages way above our heads. Before we had hedges, we had flat vegetables

Hornbeam hedge in image

The problem since 2017 has been the hedges getting way above our heads. I am six foot four inches and my hedges now are seats for giants. I don't want to use ladders as ladders on a hillside are never a great idea, even if you get them level the moles undermine them and you vanish down a hole. Also, I haven't got a great history with heights, it's bad enough I am over six feet without adding to the problem further. I am the falling apart acrophobia kind of gardener. The kind you shouldn't tell not to look down.


So this year we are taking a lot off the top, like a bad 1980s haircut we are keeping the length but not the top, yes our hedges are becoming the mullet. Fun at the back, business on top. With loppers and shears we tackle our neighbours sides first because no garden on this hillside is level with the next one. Meaning hedges on their side could be four foot high and eight on our side or so it feels somedays when you are doing everything by eye. We invented cloud hedging by simply stumbling down a rabbit hole mid chop.


Hedge cutting is slow process for me starting in late August and ending sometime around Christmas for the hedges I want to layer or drastically reduce like the hawthorn which is now in tree territory. Ignore your hedges and the buggers will pay you back by ganging up on you in a menacing give me your lunch money way. It's always a shame to cut hawthorn as we love the blossom but every few years we have to bring it back under control which is a mixture of four letter words, thorns in places were thorns shouldn't be and tears. 


Yet, the clipped hedge is a wonderful thing especially if you planted them as we did (you can see how far they have come from this post in 2012 when they were tiny little things). Soon the hornbeam, hazel, blackthorn, rose, hawthorn and honeysuckle will drop all their leaves but these wonderful plants still provide a spectral structure to the garden in the heart of winter and are the first to let us know when autumn is around the corner and when spring is coming, and when to start planting. Hawthorn blossom let's us know that it is warm enough to get planting. Even the word haw means hedge in old English. 

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