Box trimming in the Hilltop Garden

It's time again to whip out the shears and trimmers and advance on the box hedges

The season has crept up on us once again, and the fresh green shoots of Buxus sempervirens which grew quickly through the start of summer have mellowed gracefully into a darker shade of green - signalling their desire to be trimmed. The battery operated hedge trimmers are dusted off, the batteries charged, the shears sharpened and, armed with string lines and dust sheets to catch the millions of clippings otherwise destined to disappear into the lush green lawns, we begin our box clipping.

As always our visitors are fascinated at just how straight we are able cut the hedges, their eyes watching on intently as we absorb ourselves in the importance of the contours of our formal hedges. Their kind words encourage us to ignore our back aches from crouching and bending.

Box hedging in the Rose Garden at RHS Garden Hyde HallSurrounding the farmhouse garden I always enjoy pruning our topiary box balls, the trick is to make sure that they don’t slump or look as though they have been sat on, they should resemble a tight ball, as if they might roll off down the hill at any moment. Persuading my team that another couple of millimetres will do the trick, and that small adjustments will make all the difference can prove to be a test of patience; but keeping them trimmed tightly means that the growth will be sturdier and of a better shape in the long run.

Box ball and agapanthus at RHS Garden Hyde HallSurrounding them in mid-summer, informal plantings such as Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ and Agapanthus ‘Blue Moon’ (as shown left) are often inclined to lean onto them. Then in the late winter and early spring, when the borders have been cut down, the shapely box balls, topiary cones and the square hedges hold their own. They are definitive structures within the Hilltop Garden, sometimes dusted with frost, sometimes as a lookout for the moorhens that clamber across them, and sometimes the odd visitor will touch them and comment. This will go on until the time that they lend themselves to being a backdrop for daffodils, spring flowers and summer perennials once again.

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