Home & Garden Gardening

Zen and the Art of Hedging

Zen is a form of Buddhism which originated about 1400 years back in China.
It took until the 1950s to start to infiltrate the western world.
It is all about personal enlightenment through contact with an accomplished teacher.
Hopefully, I am the accomplished teacher who will help you towards enlightenment in the field of hedges.
Pardon the pun.
Zen has also come to be associated with being stress free.
The first stage of enlightenment is to discover how you see your garden.
Is it an extra room to the house, designed for outdoor living? Is it a piece of land that you simply tend? Is it simply a recreational space? But whichever it is to you, one or more hedges will undoubtedly be beneficial.
A hedge reflects the countryside that we are used to seeing thanks to the enclosure Acts and can help with relaxation by invoking a feeling of freedom that accompanies a visit to the countryside from being outside of an urban environment.
Nor does it blow down in a gale like fences.
Very Zen? For the garden itself, the teachings of Buddha tell us that a hedge protects and nurtures the wildlife.
That in turn benefits you as it provides an environment in which Bees can thrive; and as we all know, when the bees finally give up the ghost, the human race is stuffed too (it was the late, great 'Bert Einstein of relativity fame who realised that and not actually the Buddha).
These days, only the enlightened gardener will plant a hedge.
Why? Probably because your average gardener reckons they are probably too much trouble to maintain.
Not true.
A hedge needs trimming only every few weeks and is much lower maintenance than say a lawn or a border.
Using a hedge trimmer rather than shears cuts down maintenance time even more.
Regular trimming ensures vigorous growth and ensures that the hedge will not have holes.
Many gardeners have a vision of a hedge as a boundary structure.
A Zen gardener is enlightened enough to realise that hedges can, and indeed are, used as internal dividers for a garden.
Take the Elizabethan garden for example where small box hedges are used to divide the area into sections.
Hedges can also be used to create secret gardens within the garden, hiding a portion from view until the hedge is traversed.
Now that's Zen at its best.
When trimming your hedge, avoid cutting it too short.
A taller hedge can give a garden the impression of being altogether grander than it is.
But be careful, there is a fine balance between that and having a hedge that is overpowering.
For privacy, a tad greater than head height works.
Leaving your hedge trimmed to shoulder height is a bit more sociable.
Another hedge trimming fault is to cut it with vertical sides.
It should be given a slight 'A' profile.
That allows more light to reach the lower leaves as the top is narrower giving better growth.
Look at many badly trimmed hedges and you will see they have become a bit leggy and sparse at the base.
Professional hedge care It takes a while to develop a good hedge and a DIY hedge trimmer can spoil it within the first season.
So why waste your valuable time and effort cutting your own hedge? Get a professional tree surgeon in to do the job for you.
But remember, this article is about Zen and the Art of hedge trimming so keep in mind that you should learn from such accomplished teachers...

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