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Conifer Hedge "Dead Inside"?

I moved to Herefordshire in December and have just had my conifer hedge trimmed last week. However, the chap who came over said that he couldn't cut it back as far as I would like because the hedge is "dead inside". It's presently hanging over 1/3rd of the garden path, and his recommendation was that I remove the lot and have the retaining wall as a flowerbed instead. 

The hedge itself is green, but when pulling the needles forward it's brown and bare inside. He believes it wasn't properly trimmed in the past, which is why it's overgrown and now can't be cut back.

Does this sound plausible to experienced gardeners with conifers? 
I'm extremely new to gardening so any advice would be greatly appreciated! 


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,151
    edited August 2021
    Hi @Robcheale  and welcome to the forum 😊 

    Your hedge chap is absolutely correct. 

    The majority of conifers will not regrow from the older brown wood … if he cut it hard back you would be left with a permanently brown ugly mess. 

    We frequently get queries from folk who have done this, and now want to know what they can do to get the green leaves to regrow. 
    Sadly the answer is that there is nothing that can be done. The hedge is ruined. 

    You are fortunate that your chap knows his stuff. Treasure him 😊 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 9,626
    edited August 2021
    That's how conifer hedges grow - the inside will be brown. You have to leave some green all over it, so really they need regular trimming from a young age to keep them under control.  It sounds as if the previous owners have let it go so the gardener is spot on - if it's cut back to the brown, it won't regrow and the only options (other than an ugly brown hedge) are to keep it overhanging the path or take it out altogether.
    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news :(, and welcome to the forum.
    Edit - I forgot to say, Yew will grow back if cut back hard, and I think there's another (maybe Thuja) but most conifer hedge plants won't.

    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • bcpathomebcpathome Posts: 1,256
    That’s quite right .When we moved here to Buckinghamshire our neighbour next door put llelandii ( spelling) bushes all down our side of the driveway . By the time the sale went through and we moved in…….why does it all take so loooooooong…….the bushes had grown half across our drive. The only answer was to cut them back to use the driveway.We cut them but they are brown and have been for over 15 years 
  • Thanks, all! I think I'll be having a conversation with the Mrs. to see what she wants to do :smile:
  • Very sensible!
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,009
    I'd echo the other responses re the gardener. Totally accurate.
    @JennyJ is right re the growth habit - the inside of conifers is always brown because they grow from the tips. Thuja is one of the few types which can cope with hard pruning. Leylands are hopeless unless correctly pruned form the start. 

    Once you cut back into brown, dead wood  the only way to make them green again is a can of spray paint  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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