Do You Trim The Top Or Side Of A Hedge First?

When it comes to trimming a hedge, one question often arises: Should you trim the top or side first? While the answer may seem straightforward, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to achieve optimal results. 

If your hedge has a flat top or one that’s a distinct shape, then many people find it easier to trim this first so that it gives you a clear outline to follow for the sides. For a more naturally shaped hedge, you may find it easier to cut the sides first. It really comes down to personal preference and what you find easier to work with.

In this article, I’m going to take a look at the best order to trim your hedge so that it looks fantastic. You’ll find out what factors can affect your choice and why it’s important to take a step back every now and again.

Top Or Side First? – The Best Trimming Order For Your Hedge

There are a few key factors to consider when deciding whether to trim the top or side of a hedge first. 

The main one is the overall shape and design of the hedge as this can make a significant difference. 

Level Topped Hedge

As a general rule, if you have a hedge with a distinct top, such as a formal, rectangular shape, many experts advise trimming the top first. 

The reason for this is that it ensures a clean and well-defined outline that you can use to get the angle correct when cutting the sides. It’s much easier to see exactly how you need to cut the sides of the hedge when you have the reference point of a neatly trimmed top to focus on.

Some hedges that have thick branches that might be difficult to cut.

Just remember to take a step back every few minutes so that you can take in the wider view and adjust your angles if necessary.

Naturally Shaped Top

On the other hand, if your hedge is more free-flowing or has a natural shape, focusing on the sides initially might be the better choice as you’re not so worried about making sure the sides fit in with a formally shaped hedge top. 

Trimming the sides first in this case helps establish the desired width and density of the hedge so that you can more effectively balance the overall shape.

Different Hedge Heights

The height of the hedge is also an important consideration and many use this to decide which order they do things regardless of the shape. 

If the hedge has been allowed to grow excessively tall, trimming the sides first could make it easier to physically reach the top of the hedge and cut it down to a manageable level.

On the other hand, if the hedge is no more than head height, starting with the top might be a lot more convenient and efficient.

In the end, it will come down to what works best for you considering the space around you and what equipment you have available (ladders, platforms, etc.)

Achieving Balance and Symmetry

The aesthetic appeal is a vital aspect of hedge trimming, and achieving balance and symmetry is key to creating a visually pleasing result. Whether you choose to start with the top or the sides, it’s essential to maintain a consistent approach throughout the trimming process.

Top First

If you focus on the top first, then you can establish a level reference point that makes it simpler to maintain an even height along the entire length of the hedge. 

Many gardeners find that this approach allows them to visualize the final result more easily and adapt as needed. Once the top is trimmed to how you want it, you can proceed to the sides and readily create an even and uniform appearance from every angle.

Sides First

Alternatively, by starting with the sides, you establish how wide the hedge will be at the bottom and work up from there. This method provides a clear framework for shaping the top, ensuring a well-proportioned and balanced final look.

Regardless of what order you decide to trim your hedge in, it’s crucial to step back every now and again so that you can assess the hedge’s overall appearance. 

Check for any lumps and bumps or anything that appears uneven so you can tidy those up before proceeding. Remember, balance and symmetry are both essential elements in creating a beautifully manicured hedge that you will just love looking at.

Achieve Better Results With Regular Trimming

While deciding whether to trim the top or side of a hedge first is important, regular trimming is equally crucial for keeping your hedge healthy and attractive. 

Depending on the species of plant that makes up your hedge, this repeated maintenance often promotes denser growth and encourages the hedge to fill in any gaps more evenly. It also prevents it from becoming overgrown which can lead to it becoming sparse in some areas.

As mentioned earlier, establishing a trimming schedule based on the specific type of hedge is essential.

Another benefit of more frequent pruning is that you will be able to work out whether trimming the sides or top first works best for your particular hedge. This can be a real time saver in the long run.

Which Direction Is Best For Trimming Sides?

There usually is not much of a choice in the direction you trim the top of a hedge, but the sides can be either done top to bottom or the opposite way round.

Many professionals prefer to trim from the bottom upwards.  This means that as you move up the hedge, the clippings are falling onto areas already trimmed so they tend to make their way to the ground much more easily.

On the other hand, there are many who are convinced it’s easier to work from the top down. 

The best idea is to just try it in different ways and find what works best for you as there’s no right or wrong option here.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the order of trimming the top or side of a hedge depends on factors such as the hedge’s shape, height, and how you want it to look when finished. 

Whether you choose to start with the top or side, maintaining balance and symmetry throughout the trimming process is essential for a pleasing finished product so keep that in mind at all times.

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

Recent Posts