Carol Klein shares her secret on how to create the perfect box hedge – inspired by a Japanese gardening technique

The celebrated presenter offers her perfect pruning advice just in time for spring

Carol Klein's pruning tip, cutting a box hedge, bushes in a well-kept garden
(Image credit: Future)

Esteemed gardener Carol Klein has shared her expert box hedge pruning advice to ensure your garden is ready for the warmer months ahead. 

In her new two-part series, Gardening with Carol Klein, the presenter encouraged her viewers to begin preparation for spring and summer, hinting that there are still jobs to complete before the brighter seasons arrive. 

See: Small garden ideas – maximize a compact gardening space

Following this treasured gardener's expertise will guarantee your garden looks pruned and tidy before the many garden parties we will all inevitably hold once the restrictions ease.  

 Carol Klein's box hedge pruning advice

Before focusing specifically on box hedges, Carol Klein first set the scene by sharing her general pruning advice. She added that a looper is the best tool for the job. 

Carol Klein's pruning tip, selection of gardening equipment for cutting a box hedge, tools for cloud pruning

(Image credit: Future)

'Judicious pruning is an important way to keep shrubs healthy and in good shape,' Carol began.

'First of all, take a really good look at it, look at its silhouette, I can see most of these branches are endowed with these lovely pink flowers, but here and there, there's dead growth.'

Targeting the root of her tree's branch, Carol shared her general tips for pruning shrubs and trees: ‘Begin to make a nice clean cut… Once you've cut out the larger dead branches, snip out the smaller twigs with some secateurs,' she shared.

However, the technique for pruning box hedges is notably different from other shrubs, as Mrs Klein demonstrated on a box hedge in her own garden. 

See: Garden path ideas – create a beautiful walkway with the right materials, edging and plants

‘It's one you don't prune in the usual way,’ announced the gardener. ‘Trim the new growth [like this] using sharp shears or garden scissors. If you do it twice a year – in June – then again in the autumn – it will keep your box neat.'

Carol Klein pruning tip

(Image credit: Future / Allan Pollok-Morris)

The gardener then emphasized the freedom one enjoys while pruning, saying: 'People usually want to change their box into a topiary, just by clipping away to create all sorts of forms and structures. You can really let your imagination run wild. 

'I've got a good friend who used to be a hairdresser, but he gave it all up because he went into topiary,' she jokes. 'And really, the two are the same. They both re-grow, so if you make mistakes, you can always have another go at it.' 

Carol Klein's tips on cloud pruning

After explaining the broader technicality of pruning, the gardener focused more specifically on the Japanese art of cloud pruning – a method of training trees and shrubs into shapes that resemble clouds (see below). 

'The Japanese are very interested in observing nature, and they often let it inform the way they garden. It is a question of trying to emulate those lovely, soft, billowing shapes,' Carol began before explaining how to bring cloud pruning into our own gardens. 

See: Garden wall ideas – create a boundary or define a space with a vertical structure

'You can start your own box hedge with a tray of smaller plants or by taking cuttings in an opened position, and with well-watered soil, it will grow steadily, year by year,' she concluded.

Is your box hedge due a prune?

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.