A well-kept hedge can transform a scruffy outdoor space into a perfectly preened part of your home. And even if you don’t have hours to spend crafting the perfect box topiary, it’s still well worth investing in a decent hedge trimmer: most hedges can be kept looking their best with tidy two to three times per year.
Although a hedge trimmer will be essential for large hedges, investing in an electric, petrol or cordless trimmer will be handy to maintain all sizes and types of hedge, saving you time and energy compared to using manual shears. Read on to discover the key things you need to know before spending your cash, or you can skip straight to our pick of the best hedge trimmers you can currently buy.
How to choose the best hedge trimmer for you
What type of hedge trimmer is best for me?
There are three main types of hedge trimmer, each with their own pros and cons, and which you go for really comes down to the type, size and number of hedges you need to take care of and how long you’ll need to use your trimmer at a time.
Electric hedge trimmers will hit the sweet spot for many people. They’re affordable, powerful and easy to maintain and use, and the only downside is the cord. Not only do you need a long cable and often an extension cable to get power where you need to work, but you have to be aware of the cable at all times to avoid any risk of cutting through it; something that’s easier with a hedge trimmer than with a grass strimmer or lawnmower.
Cordless hedge trimmers are now getting cheaper, and while there used to be some major limitations in battery life and cutting performance, these seem to be disappearing fast. The biggest negative is battery capacity; even today’s lithium-Ion models only run for between half an hour and an hour on a full charge, which means they’re better for small to medium-sized hedges than regular maintenance of a series of long hedges running all around your garden. Having said that, charging times are getting shorter and you can get around the problem by buying a second battery or a bigger battery. In some cases, you may need to buy this separately, anyway.
Petrol hedge trimmers can be used anywhere and will tackle any type, length or number of hedges – as long as you have fuel. They’ll even tackle thicker branches that might scare off most cordless or electric models. This comes at a cost, though. You’re looking at a heavier, bulkier piece of equipment that’s more awkward to store and requires more maintenance.
What size blade do I need?
Generally speaking, bigger is better, especially if you have a lot of hedge to trim. However, the bigger the trimmer, the heavier it is, and you’ll be surprised how much difference a kilogram or two can make when you’re spending an hour or so holding the machine at shoulder height or reaching up to tackle the top of a taller hedge.
The bigger issue is the space between the teeth of the trimmer, or the cutting width. This effectively sets how big the branches in your hedge can be and still get cut, so take a good look at your hedges before you decide to go too small. The odd thicker branch here and there isn’t a problem – you can usually deal with it using loppers or a pruning saw – but try to tackle a thick conifer hedge with a tool that isn’t up to the job, and you’ll find you keep stopping and starting as the trimmer jams.
Are there any other features I should look for?
Many hedge trimmers now come with extra features to make your experience safer and easier. These include safety mechanisms, such as an automatic brake to stop movement instantly; anti-jamming systems to prevent stalling caused by trapped branches; and handguards to offer extra protection while working.
Occasionally, a hedge trimmer will also come with a clipping collector. This will save you from having to pick up all the clippings after you’ve finished, but these are quite rare and can make trimming more difficult if poorly designed.
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The best hedge trimmers to buy
1. Flymo SimpliCut Li: The best cheap and cheerful cordless trimmer
Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon
This pint-sized Flymo cordless has three big things going for it: it’s very cheap for a cordless trimmer and, at just 2.1kg, very light. It’s also incredibly easy to use. Just plug it into the wall-wart charger, leave it for around three and a half hours and you’re good to go. Amazingly, the built-in battery will keep on strimming for around an hour. In our testing, we ran out of stamina long before it did and had to come back for a second go.
Before you get too excited, there are some limitations. With a 40cm blade and a 16mm blade gap, this really isn’t built for bigger or taller hedges, and we found that 16mm is probably pushing it, as any twigs or branches bigger than around 10mm stopped it dead. Also, unless you have mains power in your shed or garage, you’ll have to bring the whole unit in for a recharge. Still, if you’ve got a small garden and low privet or honeysuckle hedges to maintain, then the SimpliCut makes the job nice and easy without even the hassle of a cord.
Key specs – Power source: Built-in 14.4V Li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 40cm;
Maximum branch width: 16mm; Weight: 2.1kg
£80.25 Buy now
2. Bosch EasyHedgeCut 18-45: The best hedge trimmer for a light and easy trim
Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon
If your hedge-cutting needs are relatively light, look no further than this cordless little wonder. Nicely balanced and easy on the arms, it won’t have any trouble trimming down the average lonicera, privet or box hedge, and it didn’t struggle as much as we expected with our tougher conifer or laurel hedges, either, thanks to Bosch’s tried-and-tested anti-block technology. It uses one of Bosch’s 18V “Power for All” system batteries, which takes about an hour to charge and gives you around 30 minutes of trimming. Those with lengthy or tougher hedges will soon want something with a bit more reach and clout, but this is a great tool for a speedy trim or getting your unruly hedges ship-shape two or three times a year.
Key specs – Power source: 18V li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 45cm; Maximum branch width: 15mm; Weight: 2.3kg
£99.99 Buy now <