With a hedge trimmer in your garden arsenal, you can quickly create order in even the most unruly hedge. The best time of year to trim your hedge is July, August or September, but you can also trim it in the period between winter and spring before it starts to develop buds.
A hedge trimmer consists of a motor, a set of double blades that scissor over each other, and loop handles enabling you to hold the machine. To prevent injury there are also a number of safety functions. For example, you usually have to hold the rear handle while pushing the front handle forwards to make the hedge trimmer run. Another common safety function is a start button that you have to press in while holding the handles.
When you buy a hedge trimmer, it's important to choose one that suits your type of hedge. Thuja, privet and mountain currant are examples of hedge types that don't need a particularly powerful hedge trimmer. This is because they are relatively soft and because they rarely have very thick branches - as long as you keep them in trim. However, if you have an older hedge with thick branches, you need more power. A hawthorn hedge requires a bit more from a hedge trimmer. Trimming a hedge is physically demanding work, and the better the hedge trimmer you have, the easier the work will be.
Petrol-driven hedge trimmer
Battery-powered hedge trimmer
The type of hedge trimmer you should choose depends on your requirements. The battery-powered ones have improved enormously and now have a good battery capacity and a lot of power. If you have a normal sized garden with hedges around it, you will get a long way with a battery-powered hedge trimmer. However, professional gardeners often choose petrol-operated hedge trimmers to avoid having to deal with charging batteries. But even here, the trend is towards battery-powered tools.
Mains-powered hedge trimmers are most suitable if you have very little hedge and small distances in your garden. Because you have to take into account both long horizontal distances and vertical distances, cables can be very limiting when you're trimming a hedge, partly because you have to use extension cables, and partly because it's easy for the cable to get in the way and be cut by mistake. If you choose a mains-powered version, you should have a small, low and easy hedge to maintain. Otherwise a wire-free version is often better.
Trim the hedge into an A shape. It should be slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom, so that the sun's rays can reach all of the leaves and make the hedge nicely dense all the way down.
When the hedge has reached the desired height, you should always cut it at the same height. This means you only cut the new growth and makes it easier to keep it attractive.
If it's a newly planted hedge (not the "ready grown" type), you should trim it quite a bit straight away. Hedges branch where you cut them and if you want it to be dense at the base, you need to cut it low down from the start. After this you should trim it 10-15 centimetres every year. This gives you an attractive, dense hedge right from the ground to the top.
Always use protective equipment when you're cutting a hedge. Gloves, safety goggles and a protective jacket are recommended.
We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. We have tested hedge trimmers outdoors in genuine private gardens on different types of hedge. They have been used individually for long periods and also compared to each other. The most common type of hedges have been thuja, hawthorn and privet. The hedge trimmers have been tested on a number of points, of which some of the most important are as follows:
Performance What thickness branches can the hedge trimmer cut? How long is the cutting time in relation to the battery size? How much of the hedge can it cut in one go?
Construction: What materials has the manufacturer used? How long is the blade? Where are the buttons and handles?
Ergonomics: How heavy does the hedge trimmer feel? How well balanced does it feel in your hands? Can the handles be rotated so that it's easy to cut vertically? What's the noise level like?
Other aspects that have been taken into account are safety functions, charging times and of course also the price - primarily the combination price including the hedge trimmer, battery and charger. All of the above aspects have been taken into account, and the score ultimately reflects our perception of how well the hedge trimmer functions in relation to its price.
The Stiga SHT 48 AE stands out by combining plenty of power, good ergonomics and a high build quality in an affordable package. This battery-powered hedge trimmer can cope with both small and large tasks. Whether you're trimming an older hedge with thick branches or fiddly types like hawthorn, it has sufficient power to make clean, attractive cuts. In addition to its power, the SHT 48 AE has rotatable handles, which are very useful. Because you will mainly be trimming the hedge vertically, the handles provide you with good working ergonomics even when you're cutting on an angle. The long blades also help make the process quick. Despite the fact that the hedge trimmer is quite heavy, the work never feels like too much effort for the body.
One disadvantage of the SHT 48 AE is the safety button that you have to press in to start it. This is slightly inaccessible, but once you've got the hedge trimmer going it cuts without problems. The battery life is reasonable. The machine cuts for almost exactly an hour with a 2.5 Ah battery, and this is enough for a normal-sized hedge if you're used to the work. But if you have a bigger hedge, it might be a good idea to buy an extra battery.
The Stihl HSA 56 is a slightly smaller but still quite heavy battery-operated hedge trimmer that makes neat cuts and has a decent amount of power. The battery included in our set was the smallest one, the AK 10, which corresponds to 1.6 Ah. We got about 40 minutes' battery life from it. If you have a normal sized garden, it may be a good idea to go up a battery size, or buy two batteries so that you can swap them. However, the battery life is fine for a battery of this size. What we'd have liked is rotatable handles, as these provide much better ergonomics. While you hold the hedge trimmer to cut horizontally, it's easy to operate the front handle to keep the machine running. But when you're cutting vertically the handle movement is so short that it becomes quite uncomfortable after a while, as it requires a bit too much force. This combined with the fact that the blades are quite short means that you're not comfortable for about 80% of the cutting time.
However, one advantage of the HSA 56 is that it can cope with older hedges with thicker branches. The cuts it makes are very good. In fact we were extremely impressed with the cut quality. The impression given by the quality of the blades and the power it produces is that of a professional machine. Nor do you need to be worried about damaging the blades as you get closer to the ground, because the clever design protects them. Overall, the HSA 56 does a really good job of trimming hedges, but it would be even better with improved ergonomics.
The Black & Decker GTC36552PC is a light and handy companion for anyone cutting straightforward hedges. The combination of light weight and long blade means that trimming a hedge is a fast and easy business. However, it's most suitable for young hedges or those without thick branches. We felt that the hedge trimmer was lacking the power to deal with older or tougher hedges. For example, hawthorn can be difficult to manage with the GTC36552PC. There's a kind of turbo position that Black & Decker have called Power Commander, which provides short bursts of increased power. Unfortunately this can only be run for 15 seconds, and so this hedge trimmer is best suited for softer, thinner hedges such as privet, mountain currant or thuja.
The battery life is very good, and a normal sized hedge can be cut on a single charge. But it's always a good idea to have access to an extra battery just in case. Unfortunately, the GTC36552PC doesn't have rotating handles, so when you're cutting the sides of the hedge you have to stand in a position that's not great in ergonomic terms. But the bail handle solution is easy to depress so that the hedge trimmer keeps going, and this together with the light weight mean that it still works for vertical trimming. The long blade also means that it's quite quick, so it's an ideal hedge trimmer for a simple, soft type of hedge.