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Help for Hebes

I have to admitt to never being a fan of Hebes, only when they are young and in the garden centre/nursery do they look lush. They do tend towards getting woody and sparse on foliage especially in this heat.I have just visited a potential new client who has several large hebes all looking worse for wear and my question is.....Does anyone know a way to bring hebes back from the brink? At present the only way I can think of is to wait and prune them back hoping to encorage lots of lovely new growth but I wonder if this might just finish them off and my client likes the fact that they are large so any pruning would have to be delicatly done.Thanks.

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Replies

  • I find the shape of the skeleton becomes unsuitable to producing a nicely-shaped plant after they get to that size...I always suggest binning and replacing or leaving them as they are.
  • I have the same problem. I look after a couple of blocks of flats on a large estate. My two blocks are the only ones with the original hebe left. The other contractors have managed to kill the rest off.

    I agree with Dan that binning is probably the best option. However, I have found that they can be reduced over a couple of seasons. First, find some decent growth near the base of any branches(there's usually some, somewhere). Then cut the branch down to that growth. This lets in some light which will hopefully stimulate growth low down on other parts of the bush. When this appears, cut back to that. It does look a mess for a season or so, but it's useful if replanting is not an option.
  • In general hebes don't like pruning, especially now. Restorative pruning is best done in early spring, after the frosts have passed. Prune the hebe back hard close the base. Best to do this in three stages, waiting for new growth between each prune. Remember to protect this new growth during the next winter as it will be more susceptible to frost. Alternatively it maybe better to advise the client to replace his damaged and woody hebe with new ones. It sounds like the ones your client has are nearly at the end of the shelf life! Hope this helps.
  • Id say the same as John. Except they do last forever, its just people fail to maintain them. They need a light trim 1/2 times a season to keep that bushy growth your on about ith young plants, otherwise you end up with that bare skeleton were all so used to seeing.
  • Thanks everyone thought as much will advice them to replace but failing that it will at least keep me busy trying to restore it to its former glory.
  • I agree hebes are fine with the right attention there just alway neglected if the smaller are pruned after the frost in the spring into there original shape they will keep to a nice shape and not go leggy i have pruned large hebes hard back in the spring to leave just a few stems the frame of the plant and they have grown back very well, a plants response to pruning is to shoot new growth and grow and the root system on a mature plant is strong enough to aid growth. After the first year they beggin to take there shape again and the secound years growth they look better than ever im pretty certain it even flowered in the first year as well then each year prune into shape and prune the dead heads off.

    Just a note always prune with secateurs not the hedge cutter i cant stand hedge cut pruning its wrong it damages the plants leaves and doesn't give a natural shape. Hedgecutter are for hedges not shrubs i sometimes ask to hedgecut prune shrubs by clients i always try to swing them to letting me do it properly, what do you guys think?

    Jamie Sessford said:
    Id say the same as John. Except they do last forever, its just people fail to maintain them. They need a light trim 1/2 times a season to keep that bushy growth your on about ith young plants, otherwise you end up with that bare skeleton were all so used to seeing.
  • Hi nic thanks, I would never prune with a hedge cutter anyway always using secateurs or topiary shears. I have never come across a client who has reqeusted this yet and would politly decline explaining the benfits to the plants and therfor to them in the long run.
  • In Leeds just about every single Hebe variegata did not survive last winter - I have dug up loads of them this year and binned them. You can prune them, but I would recommend to replace (preferably with something althogether nicer and less "council car park"!

    I agree with Nic that shrubs should (almost) never ever be cut with hedge trimmers. The only exception is Spirea which would take a month to prune with secateurs. Other than that, hedge trimmers are for hedges...
  • Hi Nic,

    I really agree with you that hedge cutters should be kept for hedges. I have stood resolutly to this creed for years and have taken every opportunity to educate clients and write about the subject. Unfortunately, I have to compete with firms that cut everything to a hedge regardless. It is so endemic that it has become industry standard and clients now do not accept shrubs cut in any other way. It is with sick making sadness that, to get the business, I have had to conform!!! I try to console myself with the thought that if is has to be cut in to a hedge, it's going to be a bloody good hedge! :(

    nic johnson said:
    I agree hebes are fine with the right attention there just alway neglected if the smaller are pruned after the frost in the spring into there original shape they will keep to a nice shape and not go leggy i have pruned large hebes hard back in the spring to leave just a few stems the frame of the plant and they have grown back very well, a plants response to pruning is to shoot new growth and grow and the root system on a mature plant is strong enough to aid growth. After the first year they beggin to take there shape again and the secound years growth they look better than ever im pretty certain it even flowered in the first year as well then each year prune into shape and prune the dead heads off.

    Just a note always prune with secateurs not the hedge cutter i cant stand hedge cut pruning its wrong it damages the plants leaves and doesn't give a natural shape. Hedgecutter are for hedges not shrubs i sometimes ask to hedgecut prune shrubs by clients i always try to swing them to letting me do it properly, what do you guys think?

    Jamie Sessford said:
    Id say the same as John. Except they do last forever, its just people fail to maintain them. They need a light trim 1/2 times a season to keep that bushy growth your on about ith young plants, otherwise you end up with that bare skeleton were all so used to seeing.
  • Yeh i understand i find it sickening that us professional gardeners that do it the correct way have to do it the incorrect way i try not to but in this economic climate it has to be done if i had plenty of work i wouldn't mind turning some down or losing work on principle. It's all about money and time at the end of the day to do the job properly it takes longer but looks so much better.

    I did a rhs level 2 course 2 years ago and even the lecturer said its acceptable to hedge cut prune which i totally disagreed with, i couldn't believe it. I found it very basic knowledge and a total waste of time. Since then i felt i should carry on doing things the way that makes sense to me and do what best for the plant.

    Cesare Harradine said:
    Hi Nic,

    I really agree with you that hedge cutters should be kept for hedges. I have stood resolutly to this creed for years and have taken every opportunity to educate clients and write about the subject. Unfortunately, I have to compete with firms that cut everything to a hedge regardless. It is so endemic that it has become industry standard and clients now do not accept shrubs cut in any other way. It is with sick making sadness that, to get the business, I have had to conform!!! I try to console myself with the thought that if is has to be cut in to a hedge, it's going to be a bloody good hedge! :(

    nic johnson said:
    I agree hebes are fine with the right attention there just alway neglected if the smaller are pruned after the frost in the spring into there original shape they will keep to a nice shape and not go leggy i have pruned large hebes hard back in the spring to leave just a few stems the frame of the plant and they have grown back very well, a plants response to pruning is to shoot new growth and grow and the root system on a mature plant is strong enough to aid growth. After the first year they beggin to take there shape again and the secound years growth they look better than ever im pretty certain it even flowered in the first year as well then each year prune into shape and prune the dead heads off.

    Just a note always prune with secateurs not the hedge cutter i cant stand hedge cut pruning its wrong it damages the plants leaves and doesn't give a natural shape. Hedgecutter are for hedges not shrubs i sometimes ask to hedgecut prune shrubs by clients i always try to swing them to letting me do it properly, what do you guys think?

    Jamie Sessford said:
    Id say the same as John. Except they do last forever, its just people fail to maintain them. They need a light trim 1/2 times a season to keep that bushy growth your on about ith young plants, otherwise you end up with that bare skeleton were all so used to seeing.
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