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Hi, I have a young laurel hedge about one metre high which was sown from pots last spring.The plants themselves seem to be healthy enough and after the long cold spring are beginning to thrive.However I would like them to thicken up at the base of the plant as they only seem to be growing upwards and as a result there are quite a few gaps in the hedge especially at the base and was wondering what is the best way and time to prune them to achieve this as I am a bit of a novice.
Hi Ray, get the secateurs and cut back all the stems by a couple of leaves to just above a joint. One stem will become two stems. You can go back further than two leaves if you need to. Shape it to what you want, keeping the base wider than the top so it doesn't get shaded out. It's a pruning job not a hedge trim, If you cut through the leaves the edges go brown anf it looks awful.
Yeah, I'd second all that for general thickening. I'd add that if you want it to bush out at the bottom and there isn't currently growth where you want it, you need to shorten the overall height quite a bit. Have a good look at the plants in the area you want to fill out. You'll be able to see little green buds on the branches where leaves aren't. Those are what'll grow if you prune to a little bit above them. So, just prune off anything that's growing past that point and all the plant's energy will go into those buds instead of supporting what it had before. That may mean you end up with not much left, but rest assured, having spent all the time between planting and now putting on root, you'll be amazed how fast they'll grow back - they'll just do it from where you want. If you dont do it, you'll end up wishing you had, because you'll have a hedge on stilts forever. Good bottom growth is very hard to get down the line. For the future, as it grows, as nutcutlet says, basically chop branches back to where you want them to thicken, creating new stems and leaves. And chop out entirely (so no buds remain) anything that's weak and spindly or heading in a direction you don't want/need - let it send its resources in more useful directions. I prune my established laurels with a hedge trimmer, then wait for the cut leaves to go brown and then go over and whip them off with secateurs. If I did the whole lot by hand it'd be like the Forth road bridge... And remember, the ideal hedge is almost triangular in section, so as nutcutlet says, the top doesn't shade out the bottom, causing it do go bare down below. So to speak.. Oh, and when you're choosing a bud to grow on in this way, make sure it faces outwards, otherwise your new growth wont go where you want. The new stems that emerge can always be pruned to THEIR low buds, causing THEM to branch, and so on, creating the dense hedge you want. Or not, if you want it more open. See wot I mean? You will once you start examining your stems I hope - sounds more complicated than it is. You're just allocating resources really. Bx