SHEDNOTES 137: Talking Tools – On Hedging

Here in The Shed, we are always poised to pinch a bit of good advice and we are filing the following summary of Bunny Guinness, Sunday Telegraph, writing about hedge cutting, 5.7.15. The article does not seem to be posted online.

She interviewed one of the Prince of Wales’s contractors for maintenance at Highgrove, Andrew Tolman of atpgardening.co.uk/

She reported: “You frequently heard people decrying power tools in favour of shears and secateurs but Andrew is emphatic that a mechanical cutter not only delivers a far better finish but is much quicker. He has a range of hedge cutters, but for most box (and formal) hedging he uses a Stihl HSA 86 with a 62cm-length blade (abut £200). You can get two batteries for this – the longer-powered AP180 (lasts about two hours) or the lighter AP115, with less running time.

“As I am only doing my own hedges, I find my cordless Bosch AHS 48 Li (about £100) light and efficient (it has a 48cm blade and a spare battery, so there is no down time).

“We both agreed that, having cut with a machine, we would go back with shears (Bahco lightweight ones, good pro kit at sensible prices) to get any missed sprigs.

“We went on to discuss hedge profiles. For me, rounded edges are far easier to cut. In terms of box blight, this may help, as this disease tends to settle on the flat tops.

“Andrew prefers perpendicular sides and a traditional flat top with a 45-degree angle at the top. This ‘chamfer’ may be just an inch or two below the top. It looks smart and counteracts the tendency for box hedges to splay at the top.

“When establishing a young hedge of any type, clip it to an A shape for a while. This allows light to the base, which encourages a good, thick bushy bottom. Gradually, over the years, Andrew will allow the angle to decrease as the sides become taller. Andrew cuts the top growth from the word go, leaving no more than half the year’s growth, to make the hedge thicken.

“Getting your blades sharpened is important. Apparently I should do this once a year (Andrew does his three times a year). With his secateurs (Felcos No. 7 with longer, thinner blades), he sharpens with a diamond sharpener daily.

“As to collecting clippings, the expert uses a 2m-wide plastic sheet. I use butyl off-cuts and find them easier to control than plastic.

“For high hedges he uses a tripod ladder with adjustable legs, so he can even cut on steps. And he puts a ‘catcher’ blade on his Stihl, which allows him to remove cuttings from the top as he cuts, saving another operation.”

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