Gardening / Keep hedges under control

A ruthless but necessary hard prune of a photinia hedge.

HEDGES are a cheap and effective way of providing privacy in urban gardens.

Cedric Bryant.

In Canberra’s older suburbs front hedges were almost a standard feature and, believe it or not, the Parks and Gardens Department used to maintain them. Those were the days!

Hedges, however, can quickly get out of control including, for example, excluding light to a property or reducing the width of footpaths.

The control of hedges is ongoing. Neglect them too long and all the growth is at the top with the base bare wood, which defeats the whole purpose of a hedge when used for privacy.

An overgrown hedge is not a job for the faint hearted. The stems could be very thick with nothing less than a chainsaw to deal with the problem. This can present a daunting challenge to prune a hedge to such a degree for fear of killing it, as seen in the photo from our Watson garden. In many cases I would recommend the help of an arborist (tree surgeon).

The same hedge six months later in all its spring colour.

EQUALLY so when it comes to trees. Most people would be reluctant to spend money before buying a home on an inspection of large trees on the property, but it could be money well spent.

A tree can look perfectly healthy providing wonderful summer shade  and yet a qualified arborist may paint an entirely different picture, especially with trees near power lines.

I can give many instances of clients who, having bought a new home with an established garden, found they had to remove trees with problems. This expense can be increased considerably if there is no easy access to the rear garden. In some instances we have had to resort to using a crane to lift large trees over the home.

The inside story… a sick tree despite looking healthy on the outside.

As shown in the picture, the tree here looked perfectly healthy and yet when examined from the top or crown it indicated rot right down the centre of the trunk.

I may have painted a frightening picture and, in many cases, it may only be some judicious pruning to make a tree safe.

However, I am recommending that any homebuyer not be taken in by the lovely, shady cottage garden look without getting advice before raising a hand at the auction.


  • Frosts can continue well into November and draw moisture from the soil. Check how well either rain or your irrigation watering has penetrated the soil. Dig a few holes at least 15-20cm deep to check.
  • Plant roses and all deciduous trees and shrubs without delay.
  • Don’t rush to plant citrus trees, wait until the weather warms.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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