They can be evergreen or deciduous, tall or short, dense or provide glimpses of what is beyond. They can be fun when they take the form of a maze and give a home to nesting birds in the spring. But all hedges have one thing in common: they need cutting — and regularly.
In rural situations, and especially for extensive lengths bordering highways, the tractor-mounted flail hedgecutter gets the job done quickly. At the other end of the scale, shears and clippers are often appropriate where hedges are small or intricate. But for the vast majority of hedges in parks and gardens, the hand-held hedgetrimmer is commonly used to maintain shape and size. There are lots of different models to choose from. Selecting the right one will save you time and exertion.
The prime considerations concern the amount and frequency of trimming to be done, the size of hedge and its species. Petrol-powered hedgetrimmers are recommended for large hedges, although electric models are popular where many hours are likely to be spent on the regular trimming of formal hedges and topiary. Electric hedgetrimmers have the advantage of being much lighter than their petrol-engined counterparts, so they are less tiring on the arms, shoulders and back. They also need less maintenance, but they do require a suitable power source — mains sockets or a generator — and the need to constantly move cables can be a nuisance.
Petrol-powered machines are heavier, but they win hands-down in the mobility stakes and tend to have greater cutting capacity. Electric machines will usually tackle material up to 12mm in diameter with ease, but petrol power can enable you to cut through material of twice the thickness.
The size of hedge will largely determine the most appropriate power rating and blade length. Choose a machine with plenty of power for hedges that are old and dense with thick material, or where the hedge is cut once in a while, rather than being trimmed on a regular basis. A 40cm blade is sufficient for average-sized hedges up to 1.5m to 1.6m high. Blades up to 75cm are available for larger hedges.
The height of the hedge is also important — and not just because of the new Work at Height Regulations. While high hedges require careful thought about how to reach the top, low hedges can mean stooping for hours at a time. Ideally, you want to keep your back straight and both feet on the ground, regardless of height.
The innovation of long-reach or telescopic hedgetrimmers has been a bonus. If the hedge is tall, these trimmers may eliminate the need for work platforms, but can also save the strain of back bending when working on low hedges. Many models have articulating cutter-heads, so the blades can be angled to cut the sides or along the top.
Remember to check how many different positions the head can attain. Some models are infinitely variable up to 180?, while others will give a set number of stepped changes.
Consider whether a double-sided or single-sided blade will be best. Efficiency is a major attraction of double-sided machines because these can be used in large, sweeping movements — horizontally and vertically — while standing in the same position. Safety is a main selling feature of single-sided trimmers because it is easier to keep the cutting edge of the blades away from the arms and body.
Single-sided trimmers are usually the preferred choice for maintaining conifer hedges, while trimmers with closely spaced teeth are best for formal hedges. Dual reciprocating blades, where the blades move past each other, tend to have reduced vibration.
All managers and operators are concerned about noise, emissions and vibrations. Not only can these factors have an effect on the user, but there could also be an issue when using two-stroke machines in public places. Electric machines may offer a solution but it is also worth considering the new generation of quieter, less smelly trimmers fitted with hybrid engines.
As well as checking out the vibration levels, it is important to appreciate the weight of the machine and buy one that is well balanced.
Handle the goods before deciding which one to buy — that way you can be sure the handles are comfortable. Some machines have twist handles to give a range of working positions. Safety features, notably hand guards and stop buttons, should be assessed.
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