Should I plant hedges for the sheer joy of cutting them into tidy lines? | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

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8/27/2021

Should I plant hedges for the sheer joy of cutting them into tidy lines?

Don’t be fooled – New England is a jungle.

Ok, maybe not a tropical one (though give climate change a couple more years and who knows!) – but a jungle for sure.  

It took visiting a real live inextricable, impenetrable, jungle (aka the Peruvian Amazon) to realize I live in a jungle, of sorts.  

People around here like to call it ‘wooded’ and ‘leafy’,  but that’s just Yankee for primeval forest with a shin-tangle that will ‘disappear’ you.  

We also have strange violent creatures (fisher cats). Our noxious vegetation (poison ivy) can make you wish you were dead.  And, there are deadly bugs (ticks) and monstrous plants so dense they choke the life out of their neighbors. 

I’m mostly referring to Bittersweet, but in my garden there is also the formidable Forsythia hedge.  

before and after path clearing

My forsythia hedge flanks what used to be my only access path to get the mower to the back yard.  A year and half ago, when we put in a new path around the other side of the house, the forsythia path became a little less important. And I guess that’s all it took.  

Without regular traffic and regular trims to keep it from poking my eyes out as I rode past on the mower.  The hedge took over. 

Take a look….

before and after garden path clearing
Before and After - Path clearing in the Garden with pith and vigor.

When I visited the actual Amazon, we hired a guide (his name was Mirco – pronounced MEER-co) who walked around with a giant machete hanging off his belt. It was very Temple of Doom and he used it to slash paths when we went searching for tarantulas and nearly extinct giant otters. 

He was elegant (in a ‘I can assassinate a panther’ if I need to, sort of way) – and his rhythmic swipes made jungle path clearing seem easy.  

Plants fell away in a quiet whoosh.  

Inspired, I returned home and was delighted to pacify my Laura Croft tendencies when I found a machete with the gardening tools at the hardware store. I couldn’t wait to hack my herbage with my own giant knife. But instead of powerful swipes that cleared everything in reach, I could barely muster clean cuts of jewel weed. 

I was a danger to myself.

battery powered hedge trimmer blades

Here is a garden truth: Good Tools Make Good Work

It’s too easy to get burned-out, tired & frustrated with manual labor.  And when that happens it is easier to call it a day and just go back inside.  We’ve all been there.  

I’ve learned over the years that knowing what tools to use, and investing in them can make a world of difference.

It is the difference between quitting in frustration and feeling so empowered that you start looking for new ways to put your delightfully easy tools to use.

stihl battery powered hedge trimmer

My forsythia needed a serious electric machete type of intervention and I was happy to see if the Stihl HSA 56 hedge trimmer (a slightly smaller and battery powered version of the electric machete that saved the Natick Mall) could do the job. 

Could a battery powered hedge trimmer restore my swallowed up path? 

The HSA 56 arrived a few rainy days before I was set to leave on vacation.  Frustrated at wanting to use my new tool before I left, I was relieved to finally find a few hours of dryness at the last minute.  

Who knew I really only needed a few minutes? 

Rochelle Greayer using the stihl garden hedge trimmer form stihl

If you haven’t used a hedge trimmer, you really ought to give yourself the joy.  It’s like a hot knife through butter.  Except the butter is a rangy mess of chewy branches. 

Pruning by hand was tedious and took hours and I avoided it (hence the overgrowth).  

Pruning by hedge trimmer took less than 15 minutes (maybe even less than 10!).  And it looked so much better. 

And I felt elegant doing it. Like Mirco.

Before and After - Path clearing in the Garden with pith and vigor.
before and after garden path is restored

It was all over too fast.  I wanted more and I immediately went after anything that looked messy. 

Wild raspberries fell.  

Weeds were no match.

I even made something of that winter smashed boxwood ball that I was about to rip out. (I took off about 18 inches in diameter in less than a minute and I’m optimistic about a cute ball recovery) 

What else I can prune?  

The bittersweet running through my rhododendrons is about to get its comeuppance…  

I am starting to question my long standing stance that boxwood is better when naturally shaggy… 

Should I plant hedges for the sheer joy of cutting them into tidy lines?

I love wild meadows and naturalistic plantings that are embedded with neat shrubs. That kind of contrast always catches my eye. 

I’d never have expected that a tool could be so inspiring that I want to create things to use it on. 

before and after garden too storage

Now that I have three battery powered tools, I’ve also added a Stihl battery powered tool wall organizer for the whole set. My garage is normally a cluttered mess and the tool hanger inspired me to get organized.

The batteries, charger, and all the tools have their own spot.   

Garden tool organizer makeover

So now my garage is cleaner and tidier too.  Ahhh…

This post is sponsored by Stihl.

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  1. gardener says:

    This is such a nice article. Thanks for sharing it.

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