Whether you are trimming a few yards of pivot in Mrs Smith's garden, a mass of yew in the grounds of a grand house or half-a-mile of hawthorn down the lanes around an estate, the right kit will get the job done quickly and leave the desired effect.
Handheld equipment continues to become cleaner, quieter, more convenient and more productive. Stihl's new HS82 double-sided and HS87 single-sided eco-efficient hedge trimmers are good examples.
Aimed at professional gardeners, the trimmers are fitted with Stihl's 2-MIX petrol engines to reduce emissions by up to 50 cent and fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent compared with their predecessors. That makes them gentler on the pocket as well as the hands, being lighter than the previous models.
As well as doubleor single-sided, Stihl also offers a choice of length. The HS82 is available with 60cm or 75cm blades, while the single-singled HS87 comes with 75cm blade.
Knowing that sometimes a fine-finish trim is required of tender young growth and ornamental hedges, the company supplies the HS82 and HS87 in a "T" format - having a rapid stroke, narrow blade profile and 30mm tooth spacing to give high-speed trimming and a super-fine cut. Where tough native hedges and thicker older wood need cutting, both are provided in "R" form with a wider 38mm tooth spacing, relatively thick cutter blades, slower stroke speed and special gearing.
Battery-powered products continue to gain ground for work in noise-sensitive areas such as around hospitals and schools or in residential zones. This year sees a new player join the market. EGO Power Plus offers a range of battery handheld products including a 56V cutter with 61cm laser-cut, diamond-ground, dual-action blade. The 22mm blade gap with 16.5mm blade tooth depth, specifically produced for the European market, is said to cope with tough mature hedges.
The EGO hedge cutter has a built-in electronic brake for safety and weighs less than 4kg with 2.0Ah lithium-ion battery and D-shaped handle. The battery is expected to give up to an hour's runtime.
More choice is offered to those needing to trim tall hedges, with Makita introducing the EN5950SH long-reach hedge trimmer. With 1.8m reach and weighing just 6kg, the unit has a forward D-handle and rear grip for maximum control.
Designed for the professional gardener and grounds maintenance contractor, the 1m handle extension enables the 590mm blade to reach further across the hedge. This is a straight hedge trimmer without blade angle adjustment, but with its compact length it still gives good reach, making it ideal for deep hedges and shrubs where a full-length pole trimmer is too long. The compact size also makes it suitable for transport in smaller vehicles.
The double-sided blade can cut branches up to 21mm in diameter and will run at up to 2,100 strokes per minute. Powered by Makita's MM4 four-stroke engine, this 25.4cc model delivers 1.03hp and will run at up to 10,000rpm. The MM4 is recognised as lightweight and economic, with low fuel consumption, low running costs and low emissions. Moreover, the wet sump oil pressure lubrication system enables this trimmer to be used at any angle.
Also new from Makita is the EN4950H pole hedge trimmer. It has a 49cm double-sided blade that can be set at 12 alternative positions through a 135 degs arc from 45 degs tilt-up angle to 90 degs tilt-down angle. The blade can also be swung down against the shaft for easy transport.
The new model, which has an overall length of 2.55m, features a gear drive transmission that converts the rotary shaft drive into cutting strokes and gives the double-sided blade run rates of up to 2,100 strokes per minute. Power comes from the same engine as on the EN5950SH, delivering 1.03ph and 1.1Nm of torque to cut through branches of 21.5mm diameter.
For anyone needing to cut back vast lengths of hedges, the tractor-mounted side-arm flail comes into its own. Here too we have another new player as Wessex International has launched a new range of hedge cutters for the agricultural and grounds care markets.
The flagship models of the Wessex range, the T500G and TPE600, have a working reach of 4.85m and 5.96m respectively. Both have 1.2m working width heads and feature the option of cable controls or the EP-Tronic proportional control joystick for accurate manoeuvrability.
In the mid range, the TA380D and TA430D offer 3.84m and 4.33m reaches, with a 1m-width cutting head and a choice of Y-pattern or Bootie flails. The arms are fabricated from heavy-gauge circular steel tube for maximum resistance to torsion stress and feature a mechanical breakaway device. The oil tank is designed to reduce the overall weight. A thermostatically controlled oil cooler is an optional extra.
Smaller and designed to suit compact tractors from 20hp upwards, models TA26 and TA32 both feature a 0.9m cutting head. The former is a right-handed cutter, offering user comfort while allowing the driver to view the operation over their right shoulder. The left-handed TA32 is designed for use on public highways. The floating heads on these machines allow an even cut over uneven ground and front steel guards eliminate projectiles being thrown out in work. For use on public footpaths, there is also a cutter bar option.
Finally, recognising the increasing tendency to leave hedges uncut for longer, McConnel has developed a new flail. Introduced at the start of the year, the F14 is the first heavy-duty T-flail. It is adept at grass mowing but should also prove useful in the maintenance of mature three-year hedge growth.
Reaching up: Niwaki EN tripod ladder
From Japanese company Niwaki, the EN tripod ladder is a beefed-up version of the firm's Classic tripod and conforms to EN-131 standards. It has a load bearing of 150kg, reinforced lower rungs and a chunkier back leg to make it stronger, more robust and rigid, and offer great stability.
Depending on the slope, the EN version can be used face-on, with the third leg poked into the hedge or sideways with the ladder parallel to the hedge. As well as being useful when cutting hedges, the ladder is also expected to find favour in orchards for both pruning and fruit-picking duties.
The ladder is available in 6ft, 8ft, 10ft and 12ft lengths, with the shortest weighing in at 8.4kg. For further details, call 01962 779421.
Suppliers of tractor-mounted hedge cutters include:
Bomford Turner 01789 773383
Gianni Ferrari 01254 813175
Kilworth (Sovema) 01530 412690
Kuhn Amenity (Agri-Longer) 01952 239300
Master Farm Services (Berti) 01787 228450
McConnel 01584 873131
Opico (Maschio) 01778 391680
Ryetec Industrial 01944 768232
Shelbourne Reynolds 01359 250415
Spearhead (Twiga) 01789 491860
Twose 01844 253691
Wessex International 01264 345870.