How to tidy an overgrown hedge and high hedge disputes

Tidying An Overgrown Hedge

In any garden, a hedge whether tall or short, bushy or formal can be used to define property boundaries, screen unwanted views or noise, and provide an important framework for the layout and design of your other plants; however, without proper maintenance all of these structural values can be lost, especially if a hedge is left to become overgrown. If when planting a new hedge you choose the correct species for the size and type of hedge that you require, the issue of an overgrown hedge can be avoided altogether. By researching the growth rate, the final height and the level of upkeep required, you will understand how much work you are committing to in order to achieve the hedge you desire. For example, if you are looking for a fast growing species to create a formal hedge boundary, you could consider Privet hedging, whereas for a more natural aesthetic and a slower growth rate, Euonymus Emerald n Gold would be a good option.

If however you do find yourself faced with an overgrown hedge, don’t worry – it may take a bit of time but your hedge can be restored to its former garden glory.

Tidying deciduous and evergreen hedges

Certain varieties of hedging take well to hard pruning better than others. Deciduous hedging species that can be hard pruned using the following techniques include, Beech, Hawthorn and Hornbeam, and this should be carried out in winter when the plants are dormant. Evergreen hedging such as Box, Privet and Holly can also be renovated in mid-spring in the following way:

  • You can cut both the height and width of your overgrown hedge back by up to 50% in one single cut, however we recommend staggering this process over at least two years, preferably more.
  • In the first year cut back the width of one side of your hedge to at least 15cm less than your final desired width then trim the other side as normal, leaving the top of your hedge uncut.
  • To encourage growth at the base of your hedge, ensure the surrounding soil is free of weeds to prevent any competition for water and nutrients. Mulch and feed as usual in spring, watering weekly during warm weather to increase re-growth.
  • In the second year, carry out the same process as year one but on the other side of the hedge, again leaving the top uncut and continue to feed and water in spring.
  • The third year is the time to tackle the top. Cut back the height of your hedge to 15cm lower than your desired final hedge height. Follow with the same feeding and watering procedures in spring.

Tidying Up A Conifer Hedge

Conifer hedges are slightly different in that they cannot tolerate hard renovation pruning. With the exception of Yew, which can be cut back similar to a deciduous hedge, conifers such as Cupressus, Leylandii and Golden Leyland Cypress need to be approached with a different method:

In early to mid-spring, cut the height of your hedge back by up to a third. Prune some of the side branches right back to the leader and leave others uncut. Doing this will encourage growth by letting light and air into the plant, allowing the remaining stems to branch out. After pruning, mulch and feed your hedge and continue to water well.

If you find the top of your hedge remains quite bare for a few seasons, this is nothing to worry about – by leaving the shoots that grow around the damaged areas unpruned, you can tie or wire them over the bare spots to fill in any untidy gaps. Always remember, when pruning in winter, leave your berried hedging for as long as you can to provide hungry birds with food, and in spring always thoroughly check your hedge for nesting birds before carrying out any pruning or maintenance.

High Hedge Disputes

Planting a hedge is the ideal way to outline your garden, create a lasting feature with year-round interest, provide privacy and reduce noise and wind pollution in your garden; however, planting the wrong hedge can also be an easy way to cause problems with your neighbours.

High hedge disputes are a lot more common than you may think, so it’s important when making the decision to plant a hedge that you also consider how much maintenance it will require to keep it from invading next door’s garden and causing ‘right to light’ issues. And, if it’s not your hedge that’s causing the problem, make sure you go about raising your concerns in a sensible way.

The Government has a huge amount of information on their website relating to the issue of high hedges, including how to choose the right hedge for your garden, what is considered to be a problem hedge and how to deal with high hedge complaints.

Causes of high hedge disputes

There are many reasons that arguments arise between neighbours due to hedging issues, with light blockage and overgrown foliage being the biggest troublemakers.

Often people complain about a hedge that has grown so tall that it prevents natural light from reaching their garden or certain rooms in their house. In cases like these the Government have guidelines in place to determine the extent to which light is being blocked and its impact, for example, the garden is in constant shade or the homeowner has to leave lights on in their house for longer than they would normally be needed. Once the problem has been accessed, the Local Council will act accordingly, only when considerable effort to rectify the problem without their involvement can be proven, and decide if the height of the hedge needs to be reduced.

Another common hedge problem is that an overgrown hedge begins to encroach into a neighbouring garden. This can either be over a fence or simply that the neighbour’s side of the hedge has not been cut properly and is now affecting their plants or making their garden look untidy. It is the responsibility of the hedge owner to ensure the hedge is cut regularly on all sides and on top to avoid unkempt foliage. This issue should also be attempted to be resolved personally by the parties involved before the Local Council are asked for their input.

Preventing and resolving high hedge disputes

The Government suggest that with the appropriate planning, design and information, most high hedge disputes can be avoided completely. As long as hedging species are chosen with growth rate in mind, issues of fast-growing hedges that quickly become too large to handle can be prevented. The same goes for design, if the position of the hedge is considered prior to planting to ensure it will not affect the light exposure in neighbouring gardens, a lot of unnecessary hassle can be side-stepped.

With regard to fixing hedging issues, it’s always best to go about it in the most polite but clear way possible, whether you are issuing a complaint or on the receiving end. By speaking to your neighbour directly, you can let them know what the problem is, how it affects you and offer a proposed solution. It’s better to try and sort any high hedge disputes without the involvement of outside parties as you want to keep your relationship with your neighbour as amicable as possible. If the issue cannot be resolved, you may wish to contact your Local Council as a last resort, but be aware that they will ask for proof of your attempt to fix the problem without their help beforehand;  if they do not think you have made enough effort to find a resolution on your own, they can reject your complaint.

So, although you do not need permission to establish a hedge boundary and there are no laws to restrict the height of your hedge, you do need to take into consideration your neighbours and the impact that planting a hedge could possibly have on their garden; after all, it’s much nicer to receive a cup of tea over the fence than a letter of complaint.

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