Forsythia in a frightful state? Leylandi looking like it’s seen better days? Then there’s only one tool that will do to knock them back into shape and give your garden a more manicured look.
Hedge trimming requires a lot of lifting, sweeping and reaching with the machine so, no matter if you’re cutting the sides or the top of the hedge, trimmers need to be easy to work with and feel well balanced when in use.
Single-sided machines often sport longer blades, so you can cut more material in a single sweep. While, double-sided cutters allow for sweeping cuts, back and forth, in both directions, which can make light work of bigger garden jobs.
No matter how much hedging you have, you’ll need a machine that is as lightweight, as possible, as you’ll be working against gravity while you cut.
You should also look out for the space that the manufacturer has allowed between the teeth of the machine. The larger the teeth spacing the more ably the machine will be able to cope with thicker branches without getting snarled up in the undergrowth and the sooner you’ll be sitting in a well-maintained garden admiring your own handiwork.
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The problem with many petrol cutters is that they feel fine in the hand until you fill them up with fuel, when the balance can be thrown off. The double-sided 322HD60 pulls off the trick of feeling better balanced when the 0.3l tank is full and the 60cm cutter bar performs well across a range of pruning jobs.
One of the advantages of a petrol model is that it can deliver some real power to the blades and this model is a good example of that. With a high cutting speed, combined with sharp blades with good angles, it performs really well across a broad range of hedging. We had no problem starting the petrol machine, even on slightly colder mornings, and the handle can be repositioned according to your cutting angle, making it easy to get a uniform overall cut on the sides and tops.
Ego Power HT2000E
It doesn’t always follow that smaller hedges will be made up of plants with thin, easy-to-cut branches. And that’s exactly why this 51cm, double-sided cutter has a 25mm blade gap that is very capable of slicing through woodier patches without snagging or hacking at the hedge, as well as taming any easier, evergreen borders running around your home. The blades are efficient and sharp for effortless cutting and backing up the performance of the machine is the power and work time you get from Ego’s superb battery line up. It holds its charge really well and delivers some real power to the blades for confident cutting.
This double-sided, petrol machine, had the largest teeth spacing (35mm) we test and a powerful motor. We found it ideal for more radical, heavier pruning jobs – for example, when you’re trying to plug gaps and cutting needs to be done at the base of the branch so that it grows back denser the following Spring.
The long 56cm blade means you get good coverage and the 0.65l petrol tank is positioned so that it doesn’t impede the handling. There’s a five-position handle that swivels 90 degrees left or right, so that the 5.8kg machine is comfortable to use, even for extended periods.
Even with the battery fitted, this trimmer only weighs in at 2.8kg making it the ideal machine for light pruning and shaping. The innovative design is really well suited to all kinds of hedging jobs with the in-line handle keeping it lightweight and making it very ergonomic to use. Plus, it boasts a 55cm blade which makes it easy to sweep over unwanted growth. The battery powers good blade speed and the 24mm gap between the blades means that you can tackle a range of jobs without worrying about the machine getting entangled. The battery and charger are part of the interchangeable Ryobi ONE+ system and come at an additional cost.
Bosch easy hedgeCut
For its small size, this corded, one-sided hedge trimmer offers a surprisingly impressive performance and trims different materials well. Lightweight (2.6kg) and manoeuvrable with a 45cm blade, the all-in-one, moulded body of the machine incorporates the blade guard and adds to the compact but capable feel. Good cutting speed provides a nice, neat finish, making it the perfect tool for contouring and light pruning – something we found especially useful for privet hedges because the 16mm small teeth spacing will be able to manage the younger, thinner branches. There’s a generous 10m cable too, so you may not need an extension lead if you’re cutting close to the house.
This machine from Stihl comes complete with an integrated battery system, so no more scrabbling around trying to find a compatible battery before you start work. Its double-sided 50cm cutter blade performed well on a range of formal hedgerows made from different plant varieties and the 24mm teeth spacing made it a good machine for moderate pruning jobs, so you can go after the fruit bearing branches more easily. As you’d expect from Stihl, the machine is really well balanced and the fact that it’s only 2.3kg makes for effortless working with 35 minutes of trimming from a full charge.
The British manufacturer have recently released an upgrade on their very lightweight pole trimmer, which comes with, toughened blades with 15mm spacing for improved cutting performance. The thickened blade hasn’t increased the weight and the 2.47kg tool is very easy to work with. We found the cutting head especially easy to handle as it rotates through 135 degrees, allowing you to get on top of any unruly high hedging around your plot that’s within reach of the 10ft pole. We got almost an hour’s worth of runtime on a full charge with the battery that’s included in the price.
The slightly bigger 20mm teeth spacing makes the double-sided Cobra a good match for moderate pruning jobs. You can cut back fruit bearing branches more easily and still ensure the branches sprout buds effectively again. We also found the corded Cobra a good tool for closing gaps as its lightweight (3.4kg) and balance enables you to easily trim back bordering branches that are throwing shade on the gaps, to allow more sunlight on them and encourage growth. The machine has an articulating handle and 10m of cable to give you unlimited working time in a small to medium-sized domestic garden.
For a 5.5kg petrol machine this is a well-designed trimmer with a good centre of gravity, which means that you’re not constantly fighting against it while you’re working. There’s a good balance between blade and housing, which makes the machine easy to arc up and down the side of a hedge, with the 61cm blade maximising the cutting sweep. The ease of use was added to with a handle that twists through three different positions and the 22mm spacing was enough to handle tough stems and leathery leaves.
The 50cm double-sided blade did a great job in tackling small to medium hedges, with thicker stems, without having to go over the same area twice. The cuts were clean so we didn’t suffer any stoppages or jams while working and the blade tip protector ensured that we didn’t have to worry about damaging the blades.
The Makita also boasted one of the most comfortable grips on test, so if hand or wrist strength is an issue while working, the Makita could provide some respite. There’s 23.5mm of spacing between the teeth, which are very sharp and have a wide blade movement to manage a range of stem thicknesses.
This 3.2kg cordless pole trimmer is suited to high hedging thanks to a telescopic shaft that will extend the reach of the cutter head to 3.6m, which might rule out the need to bring a ladder into the equation, which many gardeners will welcome. The 45cm double-sided blade boasts nice, sharp teeth with 16mm of gapping that coped well with scrappy growth from formal hedgerows. The handle rotates to keep everything under control and even when at full stretch the machine doesn’t feel top heavy, allowing you to get right up to the top growth and complete the job.
The verdict: Hedge trimmers
The petrol Husqvarna 322HD60 delivers real power to the trimmer’s teeth to deal with the toughest of hedgerows slicing through woody, mature growth to leave clean cuts and attractive lines, while also being adept at more subtle jobs, like shaping and gap closing.
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