Trimming box hedge: tips, timings and techniques

When is it best to start Box Hedge trimming?

It is an English tradition for gardeners to start trimming box hedge on Epsom Derby Day, which is held on the first Saturday in June. However, it is fine to trim box in May. If you are tempted to prune your Buxus any earlier than this, make sure you are at no risk of frost. Exposing your cut stems to frost will likely lead to brown, papery regrowth, ruining the appearance of your hedge.

One advantage of trimming box earlier in the spring is that you are less likely to find new birds’ nests. It is an offence to disturb an active birds nest.

Box hedges are sensitive to strong sunlight, so aim to trim yours on a cloudy day. Trimming in direct sunlight can lead to sun-scold which causes the leaves to become discoloured.

As with most hedges, Buxus should ideally be trimmed at least twice a year (more often if you are creating an ornamental hedge using topiary techniques). They can grow up to 9 inches a year, so it is a good idea to trim again once the new shoots reach three to four inches (eight to ten centimetres) in length. September is a popular time for carrying out this second trim but, once again, make sure any nests are fully fledged.

Trimming box hedge any later than September risks exposing sensitive new growth to cold, wintery weather.

How to identify new growth on box hedges

It is important to avoid cutting into previous years’ growth, but how do you identify new growth. New box leaves will be soft and pale green, becoming more waxy and darker as they age. You should therefore be able to see a clear contrast between the current and previous season’s growth. Counting two leaves above the old growth will ensure you are not pruning too deeply.

Tools and techniques for trimming box hedge

As with all hedge trimming operations, you should work with sharp, well-oiled tools; wear sturdy gloves and eye protection; ensure ladders and platforms are stable and keep pets and children away from danger.

A pair of garden shears are adequate for smaller hedges, with a pair of secateurs and/or garden scissors on hand for fine-tuning. For larger hedges, you may decide to use an electric trimmer.

Whether working vertically or horizontally, try to keep your shears or trimmer straight. If your hedge is large, has a complex shape or you find it difficult to judge your trimming by eye, plywood or cardboard templates can help. Suspending a length of taut string between stakes can also be useful, especially for large box hedges. We provide more details in our previous article on hedge trimming.

Is your box hedge too much for you to manage?

Kneebone Trees can provide various Hedge Services to help you keep on top of your box hedge management. If your hedge has become overgrown through neglect, we can restore it to a more aesthetically pleasing shape. We can also arrange a regular maintenance schedule with you, saving you the hassle of remembering to trim your box hedges.

If you need advice on sourcing box hedge plants, or on how to best care for your box hedges, we can help there too. Please visit our Hedge Trimming Services page and get in touch to arrange a site visit and free quotation.

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