The Mixed Hedging

Snaking up from the house to the road, the Priory drive is about three hundred yards long and for much of that distance is bordered by a beautiful, old, mixed hedge.  The predominant species is hawthorn but with a mix of various other species including ash and blackthorn, dog rose, field maple, oak and hazel.

Before

After

As you can imagine, cutting it is a big job.  I like to have it trimmed not so early that it will need another major cut before the winter and after the dog roses are over.  July then suits me fine.  I will need to go over it again quickly in the autumn to take off any new, long growth (bramble for example) but otherwise the hedge should now remain fairly crisp right through until next spring.

In the past, we have hired contractors to cut all the hedges at the Priory including the large beech hedge surrounding the house and gardens.  But this year, I’ve decided to do them myself with lots of help from Tim (not his real name), a proper person who helps Margaret out on the farm.  Tim knows all about engines and power tools and fuel mixes and grown up things like that.  Very handy to have around.  I, on the other hand,  know how to switch on a hedge trimmer.  And turn it off again.

Before

After

We spent two long, hot and tiring days together last week cutting the driveway hedge and a few other stretches of mixed hedging about the estate.  The raking up and transporting of all the cuttings to the bonfire site  took up a good chunk of that time.  The petrol hedge trimmers are fairly heavy when you pick them up for the first time but after you’ve been wielding them for several hours they are extraordinarily heavy.  My arms were so unresponsive they felt like they belonged to somebody else.  Though (temporarily at least) I did have biceps like a gibbon.

Before

You get the idea

Whilst trimming, Tim managed to tread on an underground wasp’s nest.  He got stung a dozen times about the head but remarkably didn’t make a huge song and dance about it.
I would have made much, much, much more of a fuss.  Running around in tight circles, flapping my hands about my ears, shrieking – that sort of thing.

A small section of the beech hedging

In early August, we are going to tackle the beech hedging.

The beech hedge is long and in places, twice my height.  Near to the house, it is more formal than the mixed hedging so it needs to be trimmed much more carefully and neatly.  And if we cut off too much we can’t really stick some back on.  Can’t say I’m terribly excited at the prospect.  Seems like it is going to be very hard work and be very, very tiring.  Hmm, getting a little anxious thinking about it actually.  Best not do the thinking.  No, let’s look at some pretty flowers instead.

Eryngium planum and persicaria

Phew.

That’s altogether better.  Pretty flowers.

16 thoughts on “The Mixed Hedging

  1. Thanks Nat – though even now just two weeks later they're beginning to look not quite so sharp, not quite so pristine.

    Dave

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  2. The sea holly and persicaria combo seems to have been a general hit with everyone, Janet. Of course it looks exactly as I envisaged it when I planted them. Cough.

    Dave

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  3. I, too, like shaggy hedges, but in that setting the neatly trimmed look seems more appropriate. “Ouch” doesn't really cover the wasp nest experience. Nice job, glad it wasn't me having to do it. I love eryngium/persicaria combination.

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  4. Hi Kininvie, hope the roadside hedges are done better than the ones around the Priory. They generally look awful – ripped rather than cut. I'm generally in favour of hitting things with long sticks – I shall add hedges to the list. I feel for you and your platform experience. Shudder.

    Hey Stacy, Tim carries two billhooks around with him in his van. We spent quite a long time admiring them. Sadly though they saw no use that day.

    Yes, Sussex is very big on bonfires. Loads of villages and towns have bonfire societies that have their bonfire nights on various dates throughout the autumn – not just 5th Nov. The biggest and most famous is Lewes (not very far from where I live) but there are dozens of others.

    Dave

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  5. I'm a little bit disappointed that you didn't use your billhook to trim the hedges, but then, you probably wanted to finish them sometime this year. Your bonfire pile must be huge by now! (Isn't Sussex a big place for Guy Fawkes Night bonfires? I don't know why that sticks in my mind.)

    That water lily photo is just exquisite.

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  6. Hi Dave, I don't start my beech hedges until the end of August (have to get the heavy grass cut first). Most of the roadside hedges here are cut by tractor on an angle, but I like my stretch to be four square, so I do it by hand (well, with a Stihl naturally). I always take the precaution of walking the whole length before I start, hitting it with a long stick in case there are wasp nests. You can't escape if you are perched on a platform with a heavy hedge trimmer….as I have learned from experience.

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  7. Gosh Jason, there's contentious. There'll be a baying mob outside your house with fiery torches. And pitchforks. Actually, I rather like them shaggy too especially when they have various wild roses arching out of them. But the ash, for example, puts on 2 or 3 foot of growth a year so the hedgerow would swiftly become a treerow! Part of the drive is a long cool, green tunnel with Margaret's wood on one side and a line of trees on the other. The latter is part of the hedge that wasn't cut for decades (don't know why). I really like this tunnel and am not tempted to reinstitute the hedge. However it's pretty lousy at keeping out cattle and sheep compared to a tight prickly hedge!

    Dave

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  8. I do like the trimmed hedges but I'm going to go against the tide here and say that I actually prefer them all wild and scraglly; I know they need a trim to start the process of new growth for next year but I sometimes find the formality of a cut hedge a bit dull. On a chirpier note, the combo of the Persicaria and Eryngium is great!

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  9. Hi Sara, I planted a new mixed hedge in my last garden (since ripped out by the new owners – sob) and it was very satisfying how quickly it grew and established.

    Ah, a hawk like plant watcher too, eh? I don't find persicaria thuggish in terms of spreading. The two main clumps (in the long borders) were lifted and replanted by me in 2008, and whilst they're now big and wide they haven't spread beyond the area I set for them. I love them – though the sheer buzzing noise from insects can be a little alarming.

    Hi GITD, always in need of a proper person to help – and just to talk to actually!

    Dave

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  10. Great job, those hedges look marvellous. Makes the hard work all worthwhile. Reminds me we really should trim our mixed hedge at the bottom of the garden as it's starting to straggle into our view across the valley! Our new mixed hedge is still to knit together, may trim a few branches later in the year just to encourage it to bush out, but otherwise it can be left alone this year.
    The persicaria offsets the eryngium beautifully! I have two small eryngium plants settling in to our borders, and one tiny thing that germinated from seed which I am watching like a hawk. Fingers crossed we will have such a pretty scenario in a few years' time.
    I love persicaria, but wonder about introducing it into a limited space like our garden – it can be pretty thuggish, can't it, following in the footsteps of its knotweed cousins?
    Sara

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  11. Hi GS, you should have another go at the 'holly. Maybe you were just unlucky as they are pretty tough, flower for ages and easy to grow!

    Dave

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  12. I love my hedge trimmer not that I have any hedges, but it makes short work of pruning back my flowering perennials in the Spring.

    I tried growing sea holly (eryngium planum) once, but to no avail. I think it might be a flower that I will have to enjoy vicariously. Great pic!

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  13. Thanks Petra – it was very hard work but worth it. I much prefer having the hedges cut in-house, so to speak. I must say that all the power tools (chainsaw, leaf blower, strimmer, hedge trimmer and pole saw/trimmer) at the Priory are Stihl. I swear by them. Both Tim and I each had a hedge trimmer and a pole trimmer – meant we could both just get on without having to share tools. Hope that helps – if you want model numbers etc let me know.

    The eryngium is lovely isn't it? Always very pleased if I find a new self sown baby one. I have to grow them up through supports but it's worth it.

    Dave

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  14. I just love well cut hedges and yours are exemplary. Very elegant. We will need to buy a hedge trimmer, any recommendations? Also, love eryngiums. Ours took a while to take, but are now thankfully, prolific.

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