A formal hedge is one that is clipped regularly.
Choose a dense, fine-leaved plant, such as privet or a conifer.
Trim regularly to a square, or preferably to a wedge shape with the base wider than the top. This allows maximum light to reach the base and looks more solid.
Try to keep the top no wider than about 60cm, so you can cut it easily from one side.
When using a hedge trimmer, start at the bottom of each side and work upwards in smooth, continuous swathes. Cut the top last.
Save time by spreading a plastic sheet beside the hedge to catch the clippings. Brush or rake the clippings from the top of the hedge, or they’ll look unsightly.
Choose a large-leaved deciduous plant, such as forsythia, Escallonia, Berberis and hawthorn, which have flowers and berries, too.
Cut back hard occasionally if you like the berries or give them an annual trim after flowering for a more regular shape.
Check first that birds aren’t nesting – it is illegal to disturb nesting birds; wait until the chicks have flown.
All hedge plants – except Leyland and Lawson Cypress – respond well to drastic pruning.
Decide on the height or width you want and use canes and string to mark it out.
Cut back up to 30cm further than this to allow for new growth.
To retain a physical barrier, cut back one side of the hedge one year and the other side the next.
Use loppers or a pruning saw on older hedges.
Once you’ve cut it back to the required size, trim regularly with a hedge trimmer. Go to our hedge trimmer reviews to find one to suit you and your garden.