How To Get Your Hedges in Shape - Backyard Boss
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How To Get Your Hedges in Shape

Shapely hedges have been a hallmark of the elegantly manicured landscape for generations. There are many scenes in popular culture of the eccentric billionaire with animal-shaped hedges punctuating a moat encircling their mansion.

Fiction aside, a neatly shaped hedge brings instant sophistication to any outdoor area. Whether you choose to go for the simple, clean box hedge shape, or something more elaborate, you need to know how to get your hedges in shape to keep them looking their best. Let’s learn all about how to keep your hedges in shape so you can pull off the best landscape hedge ideas. 

Materials Needed

  • Hedge trimmer
  • Wooden stakes
  • Bamboo
  • String
  • Wire mesh
  • Hand shears or saw

Step One: Eyeball It

If you’re giving your hedge a straight edge, many gardeners just eyeball it. It won’t work with very high hedges, but if your hedge is no higher than your head, this should work. Use your best hedge trimmer to cut the hedge back as far as you need, and then use this as a reference point for the rest of the hedge. Don’t forget to take a step back and look from different angles for the best results.

The overall shape you’re going for is thicker at the bottom than at the top. This ensures that light will reach all parts of the plant, and your hedge will keep thriving. If you get the shape wrong, and it resembles an inverted triangle, the bottom of the hedge won’t get any sunlight, and leaves will start dropping off.

Step Two: Set Up A String

If you have a larger or longer hedge or just want more accuracy, you could set up a string as a guide. Set up a wooden stake on either side of the hedge. Tie a string between the two stakes, and pull it taught. A builder’s line would work best here. Use this string line as a guide for a straight, even cut the length of your hedge.

Step Three: Top It Off

You can apply the same principle to the square hedge. Simply reposition the string so that it runs along the top of the hedge, and use the string as a guide to straighten out the top of your hedge.

Step Four: Round-Up

For round hedges, the most common way to keep them in shape is by eye. Unless you’re using mesh (details below), the only way to shape a round hedge is by eye. Start at the top and lightly snip the tops of the hedge, following the curve around the bush. It’s best to practice on a hedge that’s not in the center of attention. And remember, you can always cut more off, but you can’t put any back on.

Step Five: Spiral, Anyone?

A spiral hedge is one of the most popular shapes out there. And while it looks complicated and fancy, it’s pretty easy to pull off.

First, you need to trim your hedge into a cone shape. Determine its center at the top. Mark this point and begin trimming here. Taper the hedge down towards a thick base. You should now have a consistent cone-shaped, a perfect foundation for what comes next. If your hedge is looking a bit thin, give it some time to fill out a bit.

Next, use a string to determine where you would like the spiral to go, and wind that to the peak of your conical foliage.

Now use your trusty hand shears to trim a depression below the string. Follow the string as close as possible as you make your way up to the top of your hedge.

Step Six: Irregular Shapes

Unless you’re a hedge trimming master artist, the only way to maintain your hedges in irregular shapes is to do it with wire mesh. Create the shape you want out of wire mesh first. Make sure it will fit over your hedge and secure it in place with garden stakes.

Now you have a consistent formwork to guide you each time you trim your hedge back into shape. Over time, the hedge will become trained into growing into the shape you desire, and you’ll be able to try all the most awesome bush and shrub sculptures you can dream of.

Remember to leave half an inch or so outside of the wire mesh so that your hedge will easily be able to obscure the wire.

To Sum Up

By following the steps above, you can see that keeping your hedges in shape is not as tricky as it may seem. The best part is that the more you do it, the better you’ll get and the more trained your hedges will become. So eventually, keeping your hedges in top shape will take a few shaping trims now and then. You won’t have to tame unruly plants trying to take over.

Even elaborate, irregular shapes can be quite easy to master. So long as you can manipulate some wire mesh into your desired shape, the sky’s the limit!