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Evergreen Hedge Pruning

Question:

I have an evergreen hedge that runs the length of my property. It is beginning to grow too large. When and how should I prune it?

Answer:

Things really begin to pick up in the garden in late winter and early spring, so to stay ahead of the workload, it is a good idea to get as many of the big projects out of the way as soon as possible, like pruning evergreen hedges.

The first thing you'll want to do is start with a pair of sharp shears so that when you prune the plant you don't leave any ragged edges on the stems. The great thing about pruning evergreens is that the more you prune them, the thicker they become.

How you make the cut depends on whether the hedge is a broadleafed evergreen like boxwood or a needle type evergreen, such as Leyland cypress.

Broadleafed evergreens have dormant buds on their stems down close to the trunk. So when you cut back a broadleafed evergreen, the dormant buds are activated.

However, you never want to cut a needle type evergreen all the way back to the trunk or to a bare stem because they can't recover. All of their dormant buds are in the green foliage.

One of the reasons it is wise to prune this time of year is that it's just before the plant flushes new growth, so you are helping the plant be more efficient with its energy.

Now when pruning hedges, shear them on a slight bevel so that the bottom sticks out a little further than the top. Allowing the top to grow out too much shades out all of the light and causes the bottom of the hedge to become leggy. You can make the job easier by using a string and a line level as a guide to keep it even across the top.

By shaping up your hedges and not let them get out of control, you'll find it doesn't take much time to keep them looking great.