Hedges in the home landscape provide many benefits. They serve as windbreaks and privacy screens, reducing noise pollution and minimizing blowing dust. Hedges provide habitat for birds and small animals, while keeping unwanted large animals out of your yard. The formal hedge offers a neat, trimmed look to traditional landscapes, but requires much more maintenance than a natural hedge. When you decide to allow a trimmed hedge to go natural, keep in mind that the shrub may take two years or more to grow to a pleasing shape.
Consult garden guide books to identify the shrubs in your hedge and also to verify the naturally forming shape of the shrubs. As you perform any pruning, keep this natural shape in mind.
Prune back hedges that are open at the bottom almost to ground level in late winter. This severe pruning will promote new, healthy growth. Shrub types that respond well to this treatment include lilacs, spirea and coton easter. Use pruning shears on limbs less than 1/2 inch in diameter; use pruning loppers on larger limbs.
Prune tall, overgrown hedges with full bushy growth at the bottom of the plants only enough so they stand at the desired height.
Prune shrubs in subsequent years to remove dead or diseased limbs and crossing limbs, and to control tall shoots. Prune in early spring or after flowering for spring-blooming shrubs.