How and when do you cut an Arbutus hedge?

Commonly known as the Strawberry tree or Killarney strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo is best known as an ornamental, evergreen shrub or small tree. However, it can also be used to great effect as a formal or informal hedge. The leaves are a glossy, dark green, and white, bell-shaped flowers appear in the autumn. Arbutus unedo is most noted for its strawberry-like red fruits, which ripen from the previous years flowers. Just be aware that if regularly clipped to maintain a formal effect you will prevent it from coming into bloom, which will subsequently result in a lack of fruit.

How and when do you cut an arbutus hedge?
The best time for pruning an arbutus hedge is from late winter or early spring. You can expect a flush of new growth at the end of May followed by a seasonal drop of some of the older leaves. Newly planted hedges should be cut down in their first spring by 1/3 rd of their height to help promote basel growth, and for the first two years after planting.

Informal hedges will require little pruning. Just remove and diseased, damaged, congested or crossing shoots as they appear late winter or early spring. After pruning, mulch with well-rotted farm manure or garden compost.

Formal hedges can be clipped to shape using hand shears or an electric or petrol powered hedge trimmer. If they are regularly trimmed, there will be no need for the width of to exceed 60cm . Formal hedges should be slightly tapered on both sides so that the base is wider than the top and light can reach the bottom of the hedge.

How and when do you cut an arbutus hedge?
While April to May is an ideal time to prune back an arbutus hedge, be aware that in the United Kingdom cutting hedges and trees should be avoided between March and August as this is the main breeding season for nesting birds.

It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. So it would be considered an intentional act, for example, if you or your neighbour know there is an active nest in your arbutus hedge and still cut the hedge, damaging or destroying the nest in the process.

Once cut, red buds will start to appear on the exposed wood after about a month or so.

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