THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Dec13

Hedge Laying

Hedge laying is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time, a type of pruning that can bring huge benefits to wildlife as well as looking amazing.

So last year I went down to Dorset/the edge of Devon, to spend a day learning to lay a hedge.

Hedge laying is a way of building a stock proof fence. It does take time, and some practical and physical skill, but once you get the hang of it I would think developing your instinct about what to prune and where to lay the branches is where the true proficiency arises…

That will come with experience of course (and is similar to any pruning and topiary – developing your eye for the shapes you wish to make needs you to give it a go!) but I recommend booking yourself on a course, spending the day outside, working with plants, to get yourself into the swing of things – it is pretty easy to socially distance and the only real danger is cutting off a thumb (if you are an idiot with an axe).

Plus, wherever you are in the country, you get a different style of hedge laying. This is because of plant material being different, as well as need – a bigger, stronger laid hedge would be needed in areas of the country that kept cattle, for example, while the style I learnt had two ‘combs’ with an earth bank on the inside.

Looking at the old laid hedges as we drove around and seeing the earth bank filled with an array of flowers and plants, that loved the dry slope it grew on, was a real treat – tiny eco-systems that bring forth these wonderful tapestries of plants that can cope with conditions, almost like a banked meadow – the last time I saw something like this was the wide variety of flowers growing on the old limestone graves in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. These unusual circumstances, man-made, create perfect conditions for a wider group of plants.

Anyway, book yourself a course on hedge laying, or read this article in Gardens Illustrated for a bit more guidance… and check out below some of the notes I made from the day as a taster:

What is hedge laying for? Stock control and cerating boundaries

The best plants to use? Blackthorn… and holly.

Preparation for hedge laying? Billhook, axe, saw.

Anything else important to know? Prune when plants are dormant (October to March?)Always lay uphill. Lay towards the sun, where possible.

How do you do it? Remove unwanted material first (like brambles). Trim growth back to the hedgeline (from the facade of the hedge.) Choose the strongest, youngest material as this is most suitable for laying.

Then what do I do with the stem I am going to lay? Cut low down, near the ground, about 3/4 of the way through the limb at a 45 degree angle. Lay it as flat as possible. Trim the heel. Weave the next one in.


Now, that may all sound like gobbledegook to you, but it will make sense if you work a day with someone who knows what they are doing. I really enjoyed it and will be going again, perhaps to learn a new style.

I hope you will think about the laying of hedges – or even the planting of hedges, if you don’t have any! They are wonderful for wildlife, providing cover, habitat and food. And you can always grow a tree out of them too, to make them even better carbon stores!

Sep29

New Topiary In South London Out Of Yew

Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …

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Sep27

Topiary Teacher – Put on The Spot!

topiary teacher

Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …

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Sep27

Book Yourself A Topiary Workshop 2022

organic topiary snow

Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022