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Pruning back a large Forsythia/Beech hedge

Hi, I have a lot to learn with gardening and did some forum searching but couldn't quite see anything covering this.

I have a large mature hedge which has largely grown wild although gets cut back to maintain the shape it was when I inherited it. It seems to be made of various things but by far mostly Forsythia and Beech. The hedge is very leafy which I'm fine with. It's about 3.5m high, about the same in length, around 2m thick at the base, 2.5m at the top.

What I'd like to do is prune it back to be around 1.5m thick top to bottom, back to where the thicker older stems are at least but that means quite a large reduction and certainly cutting back all the leaves. So how robust are Forsythia/Beech and is there a limit to how much you can prune without killing it off?

I've seen that you need to time it to see flowering the following year but I'd be fine if it takes more than a year for it to recover as long as it will ultimately. That said how soon would you expect it to take the leaves to grow back?

Thanks in advance for any advice.


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 22,233

    Forsythia can be pruned back hard and will recover but, if you do it now, you will lose next spring's flowers.   

    Not sure about beech but I would have thought it can be cut back hard and will regenerate as long as you make clean cuts and do it when no frost is forecast so the wounds have time to heal naturally.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 64,574

    There shouldn't be a problem with cutting it back pretty hard.  The  leaves will grow back just fine in the spring image

    It would be better (looks and growth) if you make the bottom of the hedge slightly wider than the top, so it's sort of a flat-topped A shape, but not so exaggerated.  That way the base of the hedge will get plenty of light and grow just as thick as the rest of the hedge.  If you look around you'll see that a lot of hedges are quite thin at the bottom.  

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • That's great, thanks very much Obelixx and Dovefromabove for your responses.

  • Kitty 2Kitty 2 ManchesterPosts: 5,150

    Agree with Obelixx that forsythia can take a hard prune, you will get new leaves next year but no flowers. It flowers on old wood, the stems which grew the previous year. 

    If this is a privacy hedge (front garden?) I would do it in stages. Cut back one side one year, and the other side the next. Otherwise you might feel a little exposed while it regrows and gets "bushy" again.

    Don't forget to take some off the top as well, as this will encourage growth lower down.

  • Thank you for that. It's good to know the leaves will come back in that sort of timescale too. I expect it's overdue some proper pruning as it is but that's really helpful thanks all.

  • Mark56Mark56 Windsor, BerkshirePosts: 1,653

    It will be well away by late Spring next year again. image

  • Good to hear, thank you image

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