Hey, I love you, hey, I hate you


A dense, straight hedge looks chic, clean, a bit like a well-manicured lawn. But a neglected or poorly cut hedge can be ugly for a long time … even more than an abandoned lawn! Look at the relationship between the man and the hedge.

Posted at 12:00

Catherine Handfield

Catherine Handfield
The print

There are tailors and there are tailors. Jean Perrault considers himself part of the second category. For 35 years he has been trimming hedges and shrubs in the Basses-Laurentides region. For him it is not only a means of subsistence, but also a passion. “I like going to work,” summarizes Mr. Perrault.

And his clients, he says, are proud, very proud of their hedge.

“Some people have been cutting hedges for 25, 30 years, emphasizes Jean Perrault. They don’t put it in anyone’s hands, and with good reason. ”


Jean Perrault pruning a hedge in Sainte-Thérèse.

Some of them accompany the trimmers throughout the operation to ensure that the hedge is cut according to the rules of art. Jean Perrault remembers this gentleman who tapped his freshly cut hedge with his stick to give it some volume, a bit like the client running his hand through his hair when he leaves the hairdresser.

“There are those who are meticulous in life. Their house is tidy, their car is clean, their parking lot is clean, there are no weeds on their lawn… It’s a whole. ”

No middle ground

Jo’Anne Bélanger shares the same passion for the cedar hedge. (We say cedar in Quebec, but he’s actually western cedar.)


Jo’Anne Bélanger’s hedge

Thanks to the small cedars she went to gather in the woods, Jo’Anne has grown two (majestic) hedges that serve as shelter from the wind on her land in Saint-Sylvestre, in Chaudière-Appalaches. One for her pool and another around the fireplace.

Its hedges are narrow, dense, straight.

“Even the thuya left free, like a tree, is absolutely beautiful. But when you plant it to make a hedge, you need to keep it. We have no choice, ”notes Jo’Anne Bélanger, who saw the hedges cut with a saw because she lacked love.

“I am a good witness to the disputes between neighbors that can be caused by cedar hedges! he adds her with a laugh.

In his eyes, either we like it or we don’t like it. “I don’t think there is a middle ground. ”

“The taste of tears”

In the opposite field there are those who find that the cedar hedge attracts too many insects, those who find it antiquated or those who are tired of annual cuts. There are also some who have nothing against hedges in general, but everything against THEIR (or neighbor’s) hedge. A hedge left to grow and then pruned too thickly, whether of cedar or hardwood, leaves something to be desired.

  • The hedge of Bouchra Moutayakine


    The hedge of Bouchra Moutayakine

  • The hedge of Bouchra Moutayakine


    The hedge of Bouchra Moutayakine

  • The hedge of Bouchra Moutayakine


    The hedge of Bouchra Moutayakine

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When Bouchra Moutayakine bought her home in 2021, the cedar hedge that framed her land was already not very beautiful. But when her neighbor decided to prune everything she could on her side in hopes that he would “grow better”, the hedge became downright unpleasant.

Discouraged, M.myself Moutayakine had asked for advice on a gardening Facebook group. “Whenever I see her, I want to cry,” she wrote.

A year later, the emotion is less strong (“I’m used to seeing it so ugly!”), But the hedge has hardly improved. M.myself Moutayakine knows it well: there isn’t much to do.

“It’s a shame, because a beautiful garden and a well-tended hedge give the image of something majestic, even if the house is not stately,” says Ms.myself Moutayakine, who now has to deal with the “small side” of his land.

Without forgiveness

In the eyes of horticultural columnist Larry Hodgson, author of The Laidback Gardener blog, if people have cedars, it’s mainly to gain some prestige. In short, a bit like the search for the perfect lawn. But the problem with thuya is that it’s an “unforgiving” plant, he said, reached by phone.

If we prune in the green, the plant will grow back. But if you prune too far, in the brown wood, the branches won’t turn green there anymore.


Larry Hodgson

If, a year, you have not had time to prune it, the hedge exceeds the permitted height and you have to prune it, it will be completely brown… and it will not resume.

Larry Hodgson, horticulture columnist

If an accident happens (like the woman who recently wrote to Laidback Gardener to say that a section of her hedge was burned by a truck hose), “there isn’t much to do,” Larry Hodgson sums up, aside from pruning around a bite and hoping the lower stems will eventually grow enough to hide the hole.

Larry Hodgson prefers deciduous shrub hedges, such as shrub cinquefoil, blueberry, arctic willow, or Japanese spirea. Plants that grow back … and forgive. “This is my lazy gardener’s vision!” ”

Tailor Jean Perrault agrees that sometimes the solution is to tear everything up and replant, but he prefers to explore other avenues first, such as pruning and sap redirection.

Redraw the screen

The relationship between man and the hedge is also the relationship between man and intimacy, believes Émile Forest, gardener and general coordinator of New neighbors, an organization that aims to transform our relationship with the territory . If we feel good in nature, it is also because it allows us to disguise ourselves, he says. “The hedge is perhaps an extension of that”, summarizes Émile Forest.


Flowerbed in the front yard

To create this screen, one solution is the hedge, another is the wooden fence covered with vines, but the neighbors of Nouveaux like to see things differently. “To promote diversity, I think there is a way to create plant beds by mixing different species, which have a little more organic forms: cedar or hemlock, perhaps, but also other shrubs. ”

Half of New Neighbors’ customers are suburban residents who have cedar hedges. Tear it all up? This is generally not what is recommended. Cedars not only welcome birds, but it is a native conifer, grown on the island of Montreal. Often the neighbors of Nouveaux suggest to his customers to cut their hedge differently, let it grow a little, improve it with other species. Yes, Émile Forest agrees, we are losing ground, but we are returning to nature. “To connect the courtyard spaces, we can create a network of paths framed by nature,” he says. It doesn’t have to be a white carpet with a background of cedar hedges. ”

Émile Forest also sees a parallel between the cedar hedge and the meadow, “two great beauties of nature that have been domesticated and denatured”. “We lost sight of what a cedar was,” he said. We use it in a way that isn’t creepy, but that could be really different, more diverse. ”


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