Hedges are an integral part of most landscapes but there are many different types. Some will be evergreen, others deciduous. Some may have bright leaves in autumn or have showy flowers and berries. They may be intended as simple barriers for security or boundaries to separate one parcel of land from another. Some provide shelter from wind or noise. Others form a backcloth against which to design a garden or set of statuary or artwork. Some may even be works of art themselves, crafted into topiary forms.
Whatever their species and function, and irrespective of whether sited in a rural or urban environment, hedges have two things in common - they grow and they need to be maintained. For most hedges this will mean cutting and trimming several times a year.
What are the options available for keeping hedges in shape?
There are many but the choice will largely come down to the size, extent and species of the hedge. Clearly where there are hundreds of yards of hawthorn marking the boundary between field and country lane, estate managers and contractors will need tractor-mounted kit such as the side arm flail. For extensive but more ornate hedges there are tractor-mounted cutter bars, while the best choice for big, old hedges may be tractor-mounted kit that uses circular saws.
In amenity areas the vast majority of hedges will be tackled by handheld hedge cutters and trimmers - cutters taking on the rougher work and trimmers adding the finishing touch. Previously the domain of the two-stroke unit, we are increasingly seeing a trend towards cordless tools that eliminate the risk of fuel spills, run without producing fumes and are quieter. For smaller areas and for topiary work, there is a wide range of hand shears and topiary clipping tools.
What is the latest news on tractor-mounted flail machines?
At LAMMA 2016 in Peterborough in January, McConnell introduced the new TuffCut flail head. Said to set new standards in strength and durability, the TuffCut is a flail head for professionals. It features a lug design that is 65 per cent stronger and a larger-diameter rotor that is up to 75 per cent stiffer. Available in 1.2m and 1.6m working widths, the head is compatible with a wide choice of McConnel machines.
I need to replace my old petrol trimmer. Is there anything new on the market?
FGM Claymore has introduced two new Tanaka models - the TCH 22ECP2 (66) and TCH 22ECP2(78). Both of them have 22cc engines producing 0.65kW but the blade lengths are 65cm and 78cm respectively. Units are priced at £499 including VAT.
Cordless tools are improving, with longer runtimes and faster charging. Are there any new models for 2016?
You bet. The past 12 months have been a bumper spell for the introduction of cordless hedge trimmers for use by professionals. For starters, Bosch brought out the GHE range. Lightweight and robust, thanks to a magnesium chassis, the range includes both roughing and trimming models with Swiss-made carbon blades. The double-sided units have 60cm and 70cm blades, and are powered by 36V batteries. Battery belts are available to make the tools even lighter in the hand.
Husqvarna's 536LiHD70X features a commercial grade 36V motor and 70cm diamond-ground laser blades boasting 4,000 cuts per minute. Also new, and with the same streamline shape, is the 60cm 536LiHD60X. Vibration levels are recorded at 2.3/2.5m/s2 and 1.6/2.5m/s2 respectively. The runtime can be increased by using the "save" mode to give a lower motor speed when trimming younger, less dense material. Prices start from £291.67 + VAT.
A recent introduction under the Pellenc brand, the Helion Compact 2 hedge trimmer is supplied in the UK by Etesia. With increased power for pruning and finishing work, it has a fast connector system, a retractable trigger and interchangeable blades, and is water protected to IP54. A swivel head is available on the pole models.
The number of cordless 56V hedge trimmers offered by EGO Power+ increased last autumn with the introduction of 51cm and 65cm models, both with brushless motors and benefiting from articulating heads for improved user comfort. New batteries of 5Ah and 7.5Ah capacities and featuring EGO's patented arc design and "keep cool" cell technology were also added to the range. All EGO's batteries are interchangeable across the range.
Honda has also joined the cordless market for 2016, offering a hedge trimmer with a battery manufactured by Chervon. A choice of two chargers is available.
What personal protective equipment (PPE) do I need?
If you are driving tractor-mounted equipment then you should have a cab with strong windows to reduce the risk of injury from flying debris. Operators of petrol-driven power tools should wear a helmet with ear defenders and full-face visor. Helmet and full-face visor are also recommended for use with cordless tools. Safety spectacles and gloves should be worn if using hedging shears or clippers. In all instances, overalls will help to overcome the risk of irritants.
DOWNLOAD a table detailing suppliers of major brands of handheld hedge trimmers.