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Pruning a Yew Hedge

We have a very well established, and nicely shaped evergreen hedge. It has red berries in the late fall. We keep it pruned to the original rectangular shape it was in when we bought the house. I want to make it about 6 inches shorter. The established wood is very thick and hard to cut. Will I kill it if I try to make it shorter? If not, what time of year should this be done? And lastly, how would I go about cutting through the old wood?

Your evergreen hedge is a Yew (Taxus). You can prune these evergreens drastically without killing them, however, you want to do it when it is best for the plant. Drastic pruning will leave those old, woody stems bare for one or two seasons. The bare stems will eventually produce new needles to mask this ugly growth. I recommend doing this type of severe pruning in early spring. The plant will have all season to recover form the stress and grow new needles to start filling in the bare spots. Use a sharp hand saw or loppers to prune through the thick wood. Make cuts where stems join other stems, above the node (where needles were attached) or where stems join the main trunk. These wounds will close quicker for less stress on the plant. Hedging shears and chain saws are often used. Shearing with these tools results in stubs that can dry up and die and create entryways for insects and diseases.


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