Hedges make great privacy screens, and they're certainly friendlier than stockade fences. At some point, though, you may decide that your hedges have gotten too tall. (A hedge that's taller than you are requires a ladder to trim, so cutting it back makes it easier to maintain.) Before you start slashing, here are a few things to consider.
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A mature hedge is often green on the outside but woody on the inside, because the outer foliage blocks sunlight from reaching the inner branches. Cutting a large amount at once off the top of a hedge to reduce its height will expose all that bare wood and leave you with rather unattractive results. If you want a shorter hedge right now, remember that it will look quite spare this first season but will fill in nicely in years to come.
If you don't want to live through a season with a hedge that looks like bare sticks, you can take a multi-year approach to the project. Thin out your hedge by cutting a third of the larger wood stems back to the ground, which will open it up and allow inner branches to leaf. Do the same thing the following year and by year three, you should be able to cut back your hedge to a more reasonable height and still have a nice green screen.
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