Pruning shrubs and bushes is an important task that every gardener should perform every year in order to be able to guarantee their health and proper growth all the year round. Pruning your shrubs regularly will also improve their overall shape and they will produce more blooms.
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How to trim hedges into shapes
Hedges serve as natural fences and add the classic appearance to every yard. Because the foliage which makes up the hedge does not grow in perfectly designed patterns a large amount of pruning and grooming is required to ensure that these plants look great. When shaping a hedge you should consider the following steps:
Shaping of young hedges
During the first two months of their growth, these hedges require only generalized shaping. You can achieve this by using a pair of pruning shears to cut them down by a size of approximately 6 inches or 15, 24 centimeters. At the end of the first growing season, it is advised to measure the total height of the hedges. This operation can be performed by using a yardstick or a measuring tape. With their help, you should be able to determine the distance from the base of the hedge to its highest point.
After the first year of growth, at the start of the second growing season you should follow these guidelines:
- In the spring after the first year of growth of the hedge, you should perform a greater amount of shaping. You should watch the height of the plants and trim them down to half of their current size. This process should be completed before the hedges begin blossoming
- In their second year of growth, the sides of the hedges can be shaped slightly. With the help of a large pair of shears, you should trim growth sticking from the side of the hedge. Your attention should be focused mainly on deviant branches and leaves in order to avoid excessive amounts of trimming.
- For the third growing season, you should repeat the process, trimming the hedges to half of their initial height. Sides of the hedges may require greater amounts of shaping during this period.
Related: The Best Manual Pole Saw Pruners
Shaping of adult hedges
Hedges become adult during their fourth growing season. At that time of the year, they can be shaped with greater detail. For that purpose, you should purchase two pairs of stakes which height should be equal to the desired height of the hedge.
The next phase is to hammer in the stakes into the ground on either side of the length of the hedge. Then you should tie a colored string to the each of the stakes aligning it to the necessary height of the hedge.
The final step involves shaping the hedges using an electric trimmer. For this phase it is important to implement the following steps:
- Carefully cut the top of the hedge with this instrument down to the height of the string. You should be aware that the top of the hedge is level at all places.
- Shape the hedges along their width: This process will be mostly identical to shaping the hedges throughout their length. The only difference is that you should push the stakes in the ground on either side of the width of the hedge.
- Tie a string around the stakes and make sure that it is the same height as the top of the hedge.
- With the help of an electric trimmer remove any branches or twigs that stick outside of the staked markers.
A good tool which you can use for hedge trimming is the BLACK+DECKER LHT321FF 20V MAX Lithium POWERCOMMAND Powercut Hedge Trimmer, 22”
When pruning with this instrument, you should use also stakes and a string because it is very difficult to cut perfectly straight lines even if you have a great eye.
Now that you have the necessary instruments, it is important to know that the interior of the hedge receives the right amount of light. Using hand shears you should clear the dead wood and thin the top of the shrub.
The second important thing to consider is to make sure that the top of the hedge is thinner than the bottom. If this requirement is not met then the top branches will overshadow the lower ones and they eventually will die out. When trimming hedge again use stakes and a string to delineate your cut. When operating with trimmer use gloves and eyes protection and hold it in a perfectly horizontal position in order to be able to achieve flat cuts.
Are you wondering what you are going to do with all those waste leaves and branches? With a wood chipper mulcher, you can turn it all into mulch and woodchips that you can use on your garden and vegetable patch.
How to shape hedges and bushes into a round ball shape
Shrubs and bushes which have naturally occurring round shape serve as a complement to the landscape with their soft curves being able to break the hard lines of structures, such as sidewalks and roads. Pruning a bush into a round shape regardless of its type (deciduous, evergreen, flowering or strictly foliage) will help improve its natural shape, rather than shaping it into an artificially made sphere. A certain trait of the bushes which are in the form of a sphere is that they tend to die out at the bottom. That is why, when pruning them, you should make sure to leave them wider at the bottom than on the top.
The art of shaping hedges and bushes into various forms is called topiary. Using topiary frames, you can train the twigs of the bushes to grow into various different shapes. A certain bush can be trimmed into a round ball shape with the help only of a round topiary frame made of wire. Its main purpose is to serve as a guide in the process of pruning the bush. The sheer process of pruning is not a complicated one. In order to fulfill it successfully, you are required to follow these steps:
- Put a cloth measuring tape on an even surface. Wrap the tip of it all the way to the length to form a circle with the approximate size in which you want to trim the bush or shrub. Then add 1/2 inch to the measurement.
- Using wire cutters cut a piece of baling wire to the size plus ½ inch. Connect the two loose ends of the wire and twist them tightly with pliers. Shape the wire into a circle with the help of your hands and pliers. The twisted end should be at the bottom of the circle.
- Hold the circle near to your bush placing its top where you want the top of the ball to be. Stretch a measuring tape on each side of the circle starting from the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position to the ground. After adding 6 inches to the measurement cut two pieces of wire in that size. Fasten each piece at the 3 and nine o’clock positions and twist the wire. Afterwards, straighten them downward to make an improvised two legs on each side of the circle.
- Push the legs into the ground.
- Put one part bleach with three parts of water in a bucket. Mix the contents, then place the blades of a lopper in the solution. Place there also a pair of pruning shears. Leave the tools to soak for five minutes to sterilize them and wipe them dry with a towel.
- Using the loppers, trim all around the ball shape cutting limbs and branches that are outside the circle. Rotate the wire shape into 45 degrees until you trim that area of the shrub. Continue this process, until you trim all sides of the bush into a perfect ball.
- Take away the wire, and then hand-trim the small pieces of greenery left with pruning shears. Observe if there are pieces protruding from the ball shape. If there are such simply chop them off on all sides of the shrub.
If you do not want to make a topiary frame yourself you can buy many different types pre-made from Amazon here. There you can a variety of different topiary frames of various sizes.
The wireframe should be stored in a dry place such as a garage or a garden shed, to prevent it from rusting. You should not remove more than 2/3 thirds of the branching system for one year, otherwise, the shrubs may not be able to regenerate from the root system. If the bush has thorns, you should wear safety gloves to keep your hands from the pricks.
How to shape shrubs into art
Trimming shrubs and trees into decorative shapes is called topiary. This one of the kind art of shaping trees and bushes into various animal forms has a long history dating back to the Ancient Rome. There are a number of specific plants which are especially suitable for the art of topiary. These include slow-growing, broad-leaf evergreen perennials with small leaves and dense growth habit. Boxwoods are preferred amongst topiarists because of their density and toughness. Boxwood is a versatile plant, being able to grow in a neutral to acidic well-drained soil with zones of plant hardiness of 5 to 8. They also can thrive in full sun or partial shade. Examples of various kinds of boxwoods can be found on Amazon here. Other broad-leaf evergreens which are suitable for topiary are yaupon and ligustrum which grows in zones 7 through 10, and Japanese holly being able to thrive in zones 6 through 8.
Topiary plants can be formed into various geometric shapes. They are used in formal gardens as container plants, or to flank a doorway. Most often simple forms are used such as squares, rectangles and globes. More intricate designs can include bare-stem sections between the geometric shapes- for example, square at the bottom, and a globe at the top of the trunk. Topiaries can take other forms which are more formal such as spirals shaped in the form of twisted cones. The variety of whimsical forms can be infinite, from animals to any other pattern the mind can envisage and the plant material can support.
Shaping the shrubs into various forms cannot be achieved without using proper tools. For that purpose, you should use a long-handled lopping shears to begin your topiary. You can also use hand pruners to refine the shape. For shapes with flat sides, shears should also be used for achieving smooth and even surface.A ball shape of the shrub can be produced using circular wire hoop as a guide. For more intricate designs one should use wire or wooden frames. These forms are very complex and may take years to complete. The shaping technique is a simple one -a frame should be placed over a shrub allowing the shrub to grow through it. After that, when the plant grows through the frame, it serves as a trimming guide for producing the desired shape.
Art of cutting trees and bushes into ornamental shapes
As we mentioned earlier in this article topiary is the art of mastering plants into different shapes of animals and other forms. According to the International Topiary Organization, this art is very ancient and dates back as early as 38 B.C. Nowadays the art of topiary is popular especially in the United States. Various different topiaries of animals are a major attraction there at some of the most famous gardens from Rhode Island to South California.
Some modern designers produce topiaries using bedding plants which are put into frames stuffed with sphagnum moss. These types of topiaries usually present figures of animated heroes at Disney’s Epcot Center. These giant topiaries are watered using hidden tubing, which is similar to a drip system. The figures of some famous cartoon heroes, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are built on metal frames full of sphagnum moss into which various small bedding plants are inserted. Many hobbyists today use the same techniques to produce small indoor topiaries of animals.
How to shape bushes into animals
Cutting evergreen bushes into various animal shapes can be very attractive and will draw the visitors’ attention to your garden immediately. The most important thing one should know about shaping bushes into animals is to choose the proper animal shape for the design.
For the shaping process, it is necessary to follow these steps:
- Cut the evergreen bush to a size of 8 inches after it is planted to promote fresh new growth. After that, at the end of the first growing season, cut one half of the new plant growth to stimulate new growth the next spring season. Repeat the same process after the second growing season.
- Design a wire mesh cage in the form of the animal. If you are not skillful enough you can also purchase it at the gardening retailers.
- On a piece of cardboard draw the desired shape of the animal, then cut it out and use it as a template while trimming the bush into the right shape.
- During the third growing season make sure to shape the evergreen again. Remove the tips of the bush that have grown through the wire mesh outside the desired shape. Snip small amounts at the end of the branches to prevent taking off too much at a time. Hold the cardboard template near the bush in order to be able to obtain the desired animal shape. You should perform this step every spring until the bush has filled the cage and the shape is created
- The ends of the evergreen should be trimmed every spring in order to be able to maintain the size and form of the topiary bush. New sprouts that appear outside the edges of the shape should also be removed. A second trimming should be performed during the summer to avoid the overgrowing of the bush.
- You should be careful to choose a form which is wider at the bottom than the top. That is because the upper branches may shade the lower ones and consequently they can grow more slowly.
- The pruning tools should be washed in a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach. By this way, you will be disinfecting them before starting the cutting process. This step is an important one because if the tools are not properly disinfected they may transfer many contagious diseases to your plants.
Hedge shaping techniques
Hedges are shaped usually by using an electric trimmer for that purpose. The standard hedge trimmers are particularly appropriate for waist-high to chest high hedges, allowing greater precision due to their maneuverability. With their help, you can also create an impressive topiary.
The technique of cutting chest-high hedges consists of two important steps, which should be followed:
- Cutting the size of the hedge vertically:
The sides of the hedge should be cut vertically using a sweeping arc-shaped movement. Since the hedge trimmer is equipped with double-sided blades, this means you will save time as you cut in both upward and downward directions
- Cutting the top of the hedge
When cutting the top of the hedge, consider holding the cutter bar horizontally at an angle of 10 degrees. The clippings from the hedge should be removed with scything movements.
As you saw from the article, trimming and cutting bushes into proper shape is not an easy task and requires a some expertise and effort. However, when you see your magnificent garden it will be all worth the time and effort you put in!
If you have trees that need trimming check out my article on how to trim a tree with a chainsaw. Happy gardening!
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