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Hedges heaven


by James Alexander-Sinclair

We have just clipped the yew hedge: actually, to be completely accurate, a very nice fellow called Simon clipped it as I was too busy being a poncey garden designer.


Yew hedgeWe have just clipped the yew hedge: actually, to be completely accurate, a very nice fellow called Simon clipped it as I was too busy being a poncey garden designer (a pity as I really enjoy hedge clipping but time has been a bit short recently).

This hedge was originally in a garden I built at Chelsea in 1999 and has been through a number of incarnations. At the moment I have clipped it (or rather, Simon has) in a strange swooping and rearing shape that I think goes rather well with the Stipa arundinacea that laps around its skirts.

As well as the yew hedge we also have a series of beech columns that are scattered about the lawn to serve three main purposes. Firstly to break up a dull expanse of lawn, secondly to create a series of frames through which to see various parts of the garden and thirdly (and perhaps most importantly) because they make very good goalposts and things behind which to dodge.

I like my garden to be rather chaotic so a well clipped hedge or bit of topiary lends a bit of structure and discipline that is generally sadly lacking round here. I like to see my hedges as a sort of Mr Chips - benign and kindly but sternly intolerant of any slacking. The best topiary anywhere is, I think, at Levens Hall in Cumbria. They have an extraordinary topiary garden with massive yews clipped into extraordinary shapes - top hats, arches, crowns, eggs, birds, Bobby Charlton's combover etc, etc. I filmed there once (for Small Town Gardens) and the head gardener gave us two top tips: always spray the bush you are clipping with water as that stops the sap sticking to the clipper blades (which blunts them) and secondly to keep taking a step back to make sure that you are cutting the right lines. There is also a project on this very website about hedge clipping.

Some other favourite hedges of mine are visible here (part of me just does not really believe that I have just written that - whatever happened to my days of rock 'n' roll hard living?). If you know any other really good hedges then tell me and I will add them to the list. (While you're there you could also drop in on my other Blog.)



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Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:29

And I can't believe I'm admitting to looking at your favourite hedges and will take a picture of the next impressive hedge I see and send it to you.

Any one got any tips on how to make the move from the boring world of Accoutancy to "poncey garden designer"??? Currently studying for RHS exams and done a short garden design course.