Page 26 - Forest Row Local November Edition
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26 November 2020 • Forest Row Local
 Hedges: pruning, planting and making new friends?
I generally prune hedges twice a year, once in June very lightly, and again in October/November a little harder. The June cut is light because there are still birds nesting at this time, and any disturbance should be as minimal as possible. A quick light cut with a good, quiet hedge cutter will cause minimal distress to any remaining nesting birds. Pruning in June also encourages multiplication of the leaf buds on the outside edge of the hedge, leading to more density. Unless the hedge is really formal or in a confined space I would not suggest further pruning during the summer, but rather to allow it to gently grow with the summer as any other plant would wish to do. Don’t forget hedges are made up of trees, often large trees (for example beech or yew) and whilst we have taken this tree and forced it into a particular form,
it actually wishes to be open, tall and blown by the wind. Perhaps the least we can do is allow it some summer freedom! Once Autumn has really arrived
in October or November and there is no further growth taking place we can trim the hedge again. By pruning as late as possible the hedge will keeps its sharp architectural form right into Spring, a form now quite appropriate for winter, reflecting as it does the crystalline sharpness of the season, and mirroring the stark outlines of the hedges’ more mature tree sisters.
The best time to plant a hedge is at the end of November and December. At this time good hedge nurseries will be lifting their bare-root stock - basically small / medium stems with really strong roots. I find these bare root varieties are much better
than those grown in a pot - partly because they have brilliant root systems that are not constricted by a
pot and partly they are much cheaper! A good hedge nursery will have a range of sizes up to 2 metres, suiting all situations. The simplest way to plant a hedge is to create a trench, place the plants at the desired spacing and density ( this can be worked out in conjunction with the supplier) and then backfill the trench with soil and some good compost, treading firmly around the roots. In dry winters it will be necessary to water the plants regularly ( perhaps once a week ) and depending on the weather this regime may have to be continued throughout the first year of the hedge’s life.
The choice of hedge varieties nowadays is bewildering but if you adhere to the rule of trying to keep as ecological as possible the choices are reduced. If you need an evergreen hedge then I would suggest the native Yew, Privet or Holly as an alternative to the ubiquitous non-native Lleylandii. These varieties will host more insects, and therefore attract more birds and will make a positive contribution to the ecological balance of plants in this country. An alternative to evergreens are beech and hornbeam, both native, which will keep their leaves throughout most of the winter. Although not fully evergreen they have the advantage of changing throughout the year: green buds in Spring, thick fresh growth in Summer and beautiful colour in Autumn all add up to a winning visual and ecological combination, to mirror the movement of the seasons. A final suggestion for a native hedge where formality is less important would be the mixed hedge. Good nurseries now supply a
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