Getting your hedges in shape doesn’t have to be a struggle. We’ll help you find the best hedge trimmer for the job
A well-kept hedge can transform a scruffy outdoor space into a perfectly preened part of your home. And even if you don’t have hours to spend crafting the perfect box topiary, it’s still well worth investing in a decent hedge trimmer: most hedges can be kept looking their best with tidy two to three times per year.
Although a hedge trimmer will be essential for large hedges, investing in an electric, petrol or cordless trimmer will be handy to maintain all sizes and types of hedge, saving you time and energy compared to using manual shears. Read on to discover the key things you need to know before spending your cash, or you can skip straight to our pick of the best hedge trimmers you can currently buy.
There are three main types of hedge trimmer, each with their own pros and cons, and which you go for really comes down to the type, size and number of hedges you need to take care of and how long you’ll need to use your trimmer at a time.
Electric hedge trimmers will hit the sweet spot for many people. They’re affordable, powerful and easy to maintain and use, and the only downside is the cord. Not only do you need a long cable and often an extension cable to get power where you need to work, but you have to be aware of the cable at all times to avoid any risk of cutting through it; something that’s easier with a hedge trimmer than with a grass strimmer or lawnmower.
Cordless hedge trimmers are now getting cheaper, and while there used to be some major limitations in battery life and cutting performance, these seem to be disappearing fast. The biggest negative is battery capacity; even today’s lithium-Ion models only run for between half an hour and an hour on a full charge, which means they’re better for small to medium-sized hedges than regular maintenance of a series of long hedges running all around your garden. Having said that, charging times are getting shorter and you can get around the problem by buying a second battery or a bigger battery. In some cases, you may need to buy this separately, anyway.
Petrol hedge trimmers can be used anywhere and will tackle any type, length or number of hedges – as long as you have fuel. They’ll even tackle thicker branches that would scare off most cordless or electric models. This comes at a cost, though. You’re looking at a heavier, bulkier piece of equipment that’s more awkward to store and requires more maintenance. Unless you’ve got endless hedges or you’re a professional gardener, you’re better off with a cordless trimmer these days.
Generally speaking, bigger is better, especially if you have a lot of hedge to trim. However, the bigger the trimmer, the heavier it is, and you’ll be surprised how much difference a kilogram or two can make when you’re spending an hour or so holding the machine at shoulder height or reaching up to tackle the top of a taller hedge. 45 to 55cm is usually the sweet spot for most people, but you may want to go bigger if you have a lot of long or high hedges in need of a trim.
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The bigger issue is the space between the teeth of the trimmer, or the maximum cutting width. This effectively sets how big the branches in your hedge can be and still get cut, so take a good look at your hedges before you decide to go too small. The odd thicker branch here and there isn’t a problem – you can usually deal with it using loppers or a pruning saw – but try to tackle a thick conifer hedge with a tool that isn’t up to the job, and you’ll find you keep stopping and starting as the trimmer jams. 15mm will be fine for lighter box, privet or lonicera hedges, but go upwards of 20mm if you’re dealing with, say, laurel or conifer.
Many hedge trimmers now come with extra features to make your experience safer and easier. These include safety mechanisms, such as an automatic brake to stop movement instantly; anti-jamming systems to prevent stalling caused by trapped branches; and handguards to offer extra protection while working.
Occasionally, a hedge trimmer will also come with a clipping collector. This will save you from having to pick up all the clippings after you’ve finished, but these are quite rare and can make trimming more difficult if poorly designed.
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Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon
This pint-sized Flymo cordless has three big things going for it: it’s very cheap for a cordless trimmer and, at just 2.1kg, very light. It’s also incredibly easy to use. Just plug it into the wall-wart charger, leave it for around three and a half hours and you’re good to go. Amazingly, the built-in battery will keep on strimming for around an hour. In our testing, we ran out of stamina long before it did and had to come back for a second go.
Before you get too excited, there are some limitations. With a 40cm blade and a 16mm blade gap, this really isn’t built for bigger or taller hedges, and we found that 16mm is probably pushing it, as any twigs or branches bigger than around 10mm stopped it dead. Also, unless you have mains power in your shed or garage, you’ll have to bring the whole unit in for a recharge. Still, if you’ve got a small garden and low privet or honeysuckle hedges to maintain, then the SimpliCut makes the job nice and easy without even the hassle of a cord.
Key specs – Power source: Built-in 14.4V Li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 40cm; Maximum branch width: 16mm; Weight: 2.1kg
If your hedge-cutting needs are relatively light, look no further than this cordless little wonder. Nicely balanced and easy on the arms, it won’t have any trouble trimming down the average lonicera, privet or box hedge, and it didn’t struggle as much as we expected with our tougher conifer or laurel hedges, either, thanks to Bosch’s tried-and-tested anti-block technology. It uses one of Bosch’s 18V “Power for All” system batteries, which takes about an hour to charge and gives you around 30 minutes of trimming. Those with lengthy or tougher hedges will soon want something with a bit more reach and clout, but this is a great tool for a speedy trim or getting your unruly hedges ship-shape two or three times a year.
Key specs – Power source: 18V li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 45cm; Maximum branch width: 15mm; Weight: 2.3kg
Price: £237 (tool only) | Buy now from Amazon
Over 1.2m long and weighing 4.5Kg with battery, the DUH751Z is a seriously heavyweight cordless trimmer. However, when you’ve got a few dozen metres of hedge to trim you’ll be glad you’ve got it, especially if that hedge includes dense conifers or woody laurel. The 75cm blade makes light work of massive hedges, while the three-speed brushless motor and triple-edged tooth design will slice cleanly through the toughest material, up to a thickness of 23.5mm. One fir hedge that normally takes an hour to do was done and dusted in just over thirty minutes, and where lesser trimmers choke on thicker protruding branches, the Makita took everything in its stride.
It's a great tool to use, as well, with a rotating handle for comfortable horizontal and vertical trimming, three speeds to cover different types of hedges, an on/off button for added protection and an automatic shutdown. Plus, paired with the 18v 5.0Ah battery Makita sells in its DUH751RT kit, the DUH751Z seems to go on forever; we had over 90 minutes of use from a single charge and there was still some juice left. Given that Makita’s (rather noisy) fast charger can recharge the battery within 75 minutes, you could easily run it with a pair of batteries and keep it going all day long. A real alternative to the big petrol trimmers, the DUH751Z tackles even the most demanding hedging jobs.
Key specs – Power source: 18V li-ion battery; Power: n/s; Blade length: 75cm; Maximum branch width: 23.5mm; Weight: 4.5kg
While noticeably bigger and heavier than the EasyHedgeCut 18-45, the Bosch AHS 55-20Li gives you much more cutting power in a blade big enough to tackle larger, taller hedges. While cordless, this model chewed through everything we could throw at it, including lonicera, laurel and some really woody confider hedging. What’s more, it takes massive and untidy hedges in its stride, meaning you’ll get through that summer or late-autumn trim that much faster. Our test model shipped with a 2.5Ah version of Bosch’s 18V “Power for All” battery, which will work with other products from Bosch and its Power for All alliance partners. It takes just over an hour to charge and runs for around the same time. This trimmer is ready to get some hard work done, and it makes it all look easy.
Key specs – Power source: 18V li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 55cm; Maximum branch width: 20mm; Weight: 2.6kg
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If you’re looking for a little more power – or perhaps a longer running time – than a cordless hedge trimmer can provide, this 600W unit from Black & Decker is well worth a look.
While it should be able to tackle branches of up to 25mm in diameter using its trimming blades, an additional saw blade at the end of the blades allows cutting of wood up to 35mm across.
The compact body of the trimmer has been engineered to be 10% lighter than previous models in the range, but it still can’t compete with the lightness of the Bosch above.
What it offers in return for this extra weight is greater power, the 600W motor putting out more cutting ability, especially with thicker or tougher branches.
However, you’ll need to weigh this up against the need to carry an extension reel with you as you cut.
Key specs – Power source: Electricity; Power: 600W; Blade length: 60cm; Maximum branch width: 35mm (using saw blade); Weight: 2.7kg
This pint-sized trimmer is noticeably smaller and lighter than the competition, and comes with a choice of three blades to tackle your different topiary needs, or even cut grasses down to size. While you wouldn’t want to take on any larger hedges with it, it’s surprisingly useful when you need to reach up high and clip the top. It’s also brilliant when you’re trying to shape or sculpt a smaller shrub of hedge, even if you don’t go in for topiary replicas of your pets or trendy cloud effects. It uses the same 20V batteries as Worx’s other garden and power tools, and while the 2Ah battery takes a couple of hours to charge, it still runs for well over an hour of clipping and trimming. Where precision matters more than size or power, this is the machine to buy.
Key specs – Power source: 20V li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 10-20cm; Maximum branch width: 8mm; Weight: 550g
Choosing the right petrol-powered hedge trimmer can be tricky, not least because it's a bigger investment than an electric one.
But the Superlite 4528 is perfect for domestic gardens, with an impressive level of power and user-friendly features including safety guards, a transparent fuel tank and a quiet-running motor that won’t annoy the neighbours.
Despite the name, it's heavier than any electric trimmer on this list, but by petrol trimmer standards it's pretty light.
And it packs in all the technology you’d expect at the price – an anti-vibration system to make trimming as smooth as possible, OxyPower technology to minimise fuel consumption and a Soft Start feature that reduces the resistance in the starter cord by 40%.
Key specs – Power source: Petrol; Power: 22cc; Blade length: 45cm; Maximum branch width: 20mm recommended; Weight: 4.8kg
Price: £180 | Buy now from Amazon
Once your hedges reach above 7ft or so in height, simply keeping the top clipped can be a nightmare. Not so with an extendable trimmer like the Einhell GE-HC 18Li, as the 40cm blade sits on the end of a telescopic pole that can stretch to 1.7m, meaning you can reach the top of a 2m or even 3m hedge without getting on a ladder. What’s more, the head pivots on the end of the pole, so you can have it straight on for trimming the side of the hedge, then switch to a right angle once it’s time to cut the top down to size.
There’s plenty of power here – and a 22mm maximum cutting width – to deal with most garden hedging, and if you do come across something thicker or tougher, the GE-HC 18 has a party trick. The trimmer head can be switched for a mini-chainsaw attachment, with a 20mm blade that’s perfect for slicing through thicker branches or pruning your trees. We found it worked superbly on an overgrown hornbeam hedge then helped us prune a series of conifers and fruit trees without any hassle. Einhell also does a cheaper, hedge-trimmer only tool, the GE-HH 18/45, but this is one brilliant and versatile garden tool.
Key specs – Power source: 18V 3Ah li-ion battery, 60min charge time; Blade length: 40cm; Maximum branch width: 22mm; Weight: 2.9kg
If you’ve got a lot of big, tough and unruly shrubs and hedges, the Karcher HGE 18-50 won’t have any problems taking care of them. It’s a chunky, hefty cordless trimmer, but with a 50cm blade length and a maximum cutting width of 22cm, it’s comfortable taking on anything from beach to hornbeam to overgrown conifers, and we really had to work hard to stop it in its tracks.
What’s more, the ergonomic design has an ingenious mechanism where pulling on a lever allows you to rotate the blade by twisting around the top handle. You can keep adjusting the position as you trim each side of the hedge or work along the top to match what feels most comfortable to you.
Even with a heavy battery attached – we tested with Karcher’s 18V, 5Ah unit – it’s a very easy trimmer to work with, and that battery kept on going for nearly an hour and still had enough puff left to sweep up some clipping in a Karcher garden vacuum. It’s compatible with all batteries from Karcher’s 18V platform, which is handy if you have existing tools. Otherwise, you’ll need to budget an additional £93 to £120 for a battery and charger.
Key specs – Power source: 18V li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 50cm; Maximum branch width: 22mm; Weight: 2.9kg
Over 1.2m long and weighing 4.5kg with battery, the DUH751Z is a seriously heavyweight cordless trimmer. However, when you’ve got a few dozen metres of hedge to trim you’ll be glad you’ve got it, especially if that hedge includes dense conifers or woody laurel. The 75cm blade makes light work of massive hedges, while the three-speed brushless motor and triple-edged tooth design will slice cleanly through the toughest material, up to a thickness of 23.5mm. One fir hedge that normally takes an hour to do was done and dusted in just over thirty minutes, and where lesser trimmers choke on thicker protruding branches, the Makita took everything in its stride.
It's a great tool to use, as well, with a rotating handle for comfortable horizontal and vertical trimming, three speeds to cover different types of hedges, an on/off button for added protection and an automatic shutdown. Plus, paired with the 18v 5.0Ah battery Makita sells in its DUH751RT kit, the DUH751Z seems to go on forever; we had over 90 minutes of use from a single charge and there was still some juice left. Given that Makita’s (rather noisy) fast charger can recharge the battery within 75 minutes, you could easily run it with a pair of batteries and keep it going all day long. A serious alternative to the big petrol trimmers, the DUH751Z tackles even the most demanding hedging jobs.
Key specs – Power source: 18V li-ion battery; Power: Not supplied; Blade length: 75cm; Maximum branch width: 23.5mm; Weight: 4.5kg