Hedge shrubs are planted in rows and are often used to provide privacy in a very natural way. A variety of shrubs can be used as hedges, though the type of shrub will effect how the hedge should be cared for. Gardeners also have flexibility in how they prune their shrubs.
Shrub hedges fall into one of two categories: formal and informal. The formal hedge is trimmed to a very specific height and width. The informal hedges are allowed to grow however they'd like, but are pruned to get rid of old branches and to make sure that the shrubs do not get too large.
Evergreen hedges, as opposed to deciduous hedges, often do not need to be pruned for five years. After two years, the small shrub is usually cut back to 6 to 10 feet to create a shrub that is thick and bushy. Otherwise, the hedge will not grow thick enough to serve as a privacy hedge. The hedges should be pruned so that they develop in the shape of an inverted V, preventing higher branches from hitting lower branches. For the sunlight to reach the lower branches, the top of the hedge should be rounded or pointed.
Shears are the best for pruning hedge branches that are 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter. Lopping shears are best for cutting larger branches 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. Small curved pruning saws are the tools to use for pruning larger branches.
Restoring Old Hedges
Old hedges can become very messy and overgrown eyesores. Fortunately, these hedges can be restored over the course of three years of pruning. Prune the hedge while it is dormant during the winter. Cut back all of the branches to 6 to 10 inches above the ground. Hedges can also be restored by cutting back the top and sides of the hedge to 8 inches.
Ways to Reduce Pruning
Depending on the conditions of sunlight and the soil, some shrubs are difficult to keep under control and require a large amount of pruning. One way to avoid too much pruning work is to buy shrubs that naturally grow to the height you want. Another way to reduce pruning is to just let the shrubs grow any way they want. Some shrubs look more attractive when they grow naturally and some gardeners prefer that to perfectly groomed shrubs. Another way to reduce the amount of pruning is to prune during the summer, which has a dwarfing effect on some shrubs.