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My clipping day

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I normally work an eight hour day. About an hour is spent unloading and loading tools. This includes disinfecting the clipping equipment, sharpening the blades and laying out the drop sheets to catch the trimmings.

About five hours is spent clipping. Add on two fifteen minute breaks and half an hour for lunch. This is physical work so I need to refresh and refuel. I also take the opportunity to do a few stretches as clipping can really take its toil on the neck, shoulders and back. Important to keep as flexible as possible to avoid the risk of any serious damage.

An hour is left to clear up the clipping- my least favourite part of the day. Buxus clippings are particularly awkward as the little leaves get everywhere. Putting the drop sheets down before clipping helps. I use large tarpaulins. Mine are quite thick and heavy, which are good on windy days but can be quite awkward to handle. I also use old sheets. Large, king size sheets can be cut in half to make them more manageable.

Take care when lifting a drop sheet with clippings as there is nothing more demoralising than seeing all the leaves slide off on to the ground, and not into the compost bin or bag. After a few tries you soon develop a technique of folding the drop sheet that ensures all the clipping are safely gathered up.

The drop sheets don’t catch all the trimmings so I use an Echo garden blower/ vac to suck up all the loose leaves.

This is my one piece of petrol powered equipment. Although the Echo works well, I’m still trying to find a good equivalent that runs on battery power as I wouldn’t miss the noise and petrol fumes.

The advantage of a garden vac is that it can be used on gravel. Very helpful as a lot of box hedging is planted next to gravel paths or driveways. The stones are too heavy to travel all the way up the long plastic tube so only the light trimmings make it up into the collection bag that hangs on your shoulder. The one disadvantage is that the garden vac doesn’t work well with wet leaves and you are continually stopping to unclog the tubes.

Although I don’t enjoy the clear up, there is nothing more satisfying at the end of an eight hour day than to look back at the tidy clipped topiary. And then home time for a well earned cup of tea.

By James Todman

Topiary Specialist based in The Cotswolds, UK.

13 replies on “My clipping day”

Do your wrists ache a little at the end of the day? Mine do when I have been gardening and clipping but I do have arthritis. I wear fingerless support gloves and find them a tremendous help.

Thanks for sharing your work schedule. Cool that you stretch, take a couple of breaks, and have a 30 minute lunch. You’re so self-disciplined. I admire this.

I have had problems with the leaves on the surface turning brown after trimming. I just ordered the Japanese shears that you recommend in hopes a sharper blade will help this problem. I will also begin the bleach routine. I am learning so much from this blog! Thank you!

I have one small boxwood plant that survived this desert region of western Colorado. I water it daily. The brown on some of the tips must be related to the heat or else I over water. I volunteer one weekday morning weekly at our little botanical gardens. They have a row of boxwood. They don’t clip it. Balls are never even considered I guess. I don’t want to suggest it in case clipping them killed them off, so I keep quiet. So these posts and instagrams are my way of getting to participate in ball boxwood gardening.

I struggle so much with cleaning up as I move from plant to plant! I am going to try tarpaulin on Saturday as I will be doing a hedge. I only have a plug in Bosch sucker and blower but need battery or petrol one I’m hunting it but can’t ever find!

Hi James! What are your go-to loppers and what model of Echo blower vac do you use (I see several choices and want to get one like yours that doesn’t suck up stone)?

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