There are plenty of different hedge trimmers available these days but how do you know which is best for you?
If you have a lot of hedges or very large hedges, a petrol powered hedge trimmer is really your only option. In smaller gardens there are many more options.
The cheapest option will be the hand held shears. They are easy to use and easy to keep sharp, but as they are powered by you they can cause arm fatigue if you have a lot of hedging to do. If well looked after they are a very effective and environmental friendly choice for a garden which has small hedges or only requires occasional pruning.
The next option is an electric hedge trimmer. These can be very light weight, easy to handle and are inexpensive to buy. They are really only useful for small courtyards or small hedges close to a power source. Care must be taken when using them to not cut the power cord. A length of old garden hose slit open and fitted over the cord can assist to prevent accidents, as can wrapping the cord in brightly coloured tape to make it easier to see while hedging. Take care also not to become tangled and trip in the power cord.
Battery powered hedge trimmers come in a large range of sizes and prices to suit. Small units are light weight and easy to use but generally only contain enough battery power for approximately half to one hour of hedging. Recharge time for the battery can be between 1 and 4 hours, so it may not be possible to finish the job in one day.
Check the model carefully before purchase as some do not come with the battery and purchasing the battery separately can be expensive.
There are some very heavy duty battery powered hedge trimmers available and generally the cost of the model will be a guide to its performance – the more expensive models will usually have more power and longer lasting (and more reliable) batteries but can also be heavier to use.
Some battery powered hedge trimmers have the option of extension poles for trimming tall hedges. These will require a high powered battery to be effective. A lower powered battery may simply not have enough power to run the hedge trimmer effectively on the extension pole.
Petrol powered hedge trimmers are by far the most powerful and are preferred by landscapers and gardening professionals. Petrol powered trimmers are usually very fuel efficient and able to be used all day. They often come with an extension pole which gives significantly greater reach and is ideal for large hedges. When choosing a model check for one with a rotating head which can be angled to better reach the top of the hedge. A small chain saw which can also be used on the extension pole is an optional attachment with many petrol powered trimmers and is handy for pruning small branches from trees but also for restoring an overgrown hedge which may require cutting into old wood. They are usually also the heaviest to use and this may make them too difficult for some people to use well.
All of the powered hedge trimmers should be able to easily handle branches up to 1cm thick. The more heavy duty models will handle branches a little thicker.
All models will need some care. Blades should be regularly cleaned and oiled to keep them sharp and cutting cleanly. If your hedge trimmer is tearing rather than cutting branches it needs attention. Blades should be cleaned regularly with warm soapy water then turps to remove sap build up. After cleaning the blades will need oiling.
Some of the battery or petrol powered models may have extra features worth looking out for.
Some larger models have a lock on switch. Most hedge trimmers have only pressure switches so that if dropped they will automatically stop. A lock on switch allows the trimmer to stay running when the pressure on the handle is released. This is not particularly safe if dropped so is not recommended in most cases but if you have a lot of hedges to trim it will reduce arm fatigue, and is often preferred by gardening professionals for this reason.
Another feature to look for is blade length. Hedge trimmers come with varying blade lengths. Longer blades will make the job of cutting large hedges much faster but will be heavier to hold and will be unwieldy on small parterre hedges or for topiary. Choose a hedge trimmer with a shorter blade (usually 45cm) for these small jobs.
With each type of hedge trimmer be aware of the range of quality available. Price is often but not always an indication of the quality of the machine you are buying.
For small or occasional hedge pruning jobs a lightweight and less expensive machine will be sufficient. As the machine is receiving less wear and tear, quality might be less important. The more use your hedge trimmer gets, the more important it is to have a good quality machine which is up to the task.
Power output is important. Battery powered and petrol powered models all come with different power outputs based on the voltage of the battery or the engine. The more work your hedge trimmer will be doing the more power you will need it to have. More power often means more weight which will need to be taken into consideration.
It is recommended that you ask to hold the machine in the shop prior to purchase to feel the weight and balance of it. This will help you best choose a model which you know you will be able to handle well. When you choose a hedge trimmer that suits you and the amount of hedging you will need to do, it will become a much appreciated tool.