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Hedge your Bets

Hedge your Bets
Posted on 08/04/12 | Posted by The Fat Gardener

Hedges make us feel safe, define our boundaries and allow us privacy in even the most overcrowded conurbations.

But hedges weren’t invented for gardens, they were actually first used in agriculture during the Neolithic era to protect cereal crops on prehistoric farms. Later they became established as a way of marking field boundaries, at which point they were introduced by gardeners; not only as a method of defining borders, but also for decoration, drama and entertainment. Early examples of decoration include low hedging in knot and tapestry gardens popular in Elizabethan times, whilst topiary hedges of clipped trees were used to form avenues in 16th century Italian gardens and mazes were a very fashionable entertainment in 17th century gardens including the oldest surviving hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace. History lesson over!

Here in the UK we use a wide variety of different shrubs for our hedging needs including: privet, hawthorn, beech, yew, leylandii, box, holly, berberis, pyracantha, camellia, laurel, rhododendron and dog rose to name just a few. All of these plants form thick (and in most cases) evergreen screens, but continue to grow year after year requiring regular pruning and maintenance. Most of us keep our hedges in good order and even an informal hedge will require some pruning to ensure healthy, vigorous growth.

The garden tools required for regular hedge maintenance are hand shears and/or petrol or electric powered hedge trimmer. When bringing an unkempt or overgrown hedge under control, loppers, a saw and even a chainsaw will be useful. However, the garden tool I would not be without are my hedge shears.

Quality hedge shears are not easy to find, particularly in garden centres or the diy superstores. It always amazes me that gardeners often buy such cheap hedge shears when the task they perform is every bit as tough as the jobs undertaken with secateurs and loppers.

So what should you look for when choosing a good pair of hedge shears? Firstly, they should be finely balanced and not too heavy, as fatigue can become a problem when using them over protracted period of time. They should have handles that feel comfortable include buffers to cushion the constant jarring on the arms caused by the repetitive shearing action. When it comes to the blades, look for chunky hollow ground blades for work on bulky, thick stems and thinner, hardened blades for fine, accurate topiary and other shaping work on newer, green growth. Finally, it is also worth looking at the central pivot nut which will need to be cleaned, oiled and tightened to adjust blade spacing as blades will start to ‘separate’ over prolonged use.

My favourite shears are not cheap, but will give years of excellent hedge trimming and will not let you down:

1. The Bahco P51 professional hedge shears are tough, sharp and stronger than anything you will find at the local garden centre. They are one of my favourite garden tools and are a particularly good choice for unruly, wood hedges.
2. Okatsune hedge shears are made in Japan and 535mm long and weighing just 800g are a good choice for box and other accurate shaping work.
3. The ARS lightweight hedge shears have very sharp, hard blades and are light, but tough. They are a great ‘all round’ hedge shear which work well on large hedges as well as precision topiary.
4. Bahco PG57 expert hedge shears have telescopic aluminium handles allowing them to extend from 79cm to 104cm giving a little extra reach when required. This means they are not quite as rigid as fixed handles, but these shears are so good you will hardly notice!

So, don’t waste time with cheap shears, ‘hedge your bets’ and invest in a really good pair.

Quality Garden Tools range of hedge shears are here:

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