There are some things that to my mind are better done by hand. It is not that I am against tools, it just that I think we lose something when we start using a machine of some sort. Take gardening for instance. I use various tools as I engage in the perpetual fight to see who is in charge (it isn’t me). But my tools tend to be things that help me achieve something without damaging my hands. So I use a spade to dig a hole, or some forks to turn some soil over, a trowel to plant some plugs. The list goes on. The work achieved is through less pain than direct action, even though some blisters may be apparent. I tend to avoid the latter by not being an all-day gardener anymore. Also, my tools are powered by me, no electricity or petrol in sight. This has the advantage of reduced air and noise pollution, plus I am less likely to damage myself. I have cut my fair share of cables in my time and even electrocuted myself during a repair.

Hold on cables! You are using electricity then? And yes, like most gardeners in the UK I followed the trend of getting electric lawnmower and hedge-trimmers when we purchase our first abode with garden. Electric because it is a small garden and the cost of petrol-machines combined with their power could not be justified at the time. The hedge-trimmer packed up a couple of years ago. I tried to get it repaired but I couldn’t find anyone local to do it. Fed up with the push to always by new gadgets, I thought maybe a petrol trimmer might last longer. I asked around and someone suggested using theirs rather than buying one. It was not to my taste. The machine terrified me for a start, it was so powerful and noisy. Then there’s the weight, holding it out a head height took some muscle development.

I think all this distaste also means that the hedges get cut less frequently. It was always a matter of how long I could leave the hedge until the next cut. Then it was, I really must get around to cutting the hedge, and when the day finally arrived it involved a lot of tidying up and trips to the recycling centre. So much effort could only be rewarded by an extended break from cutting the hedge again. I suspect that in reality the hedge got cut twice over the summer which had the side effect of not being about the see very much when pulling out of the drive in the car. Perhaps that encouraged us to ride our bikes more.

Last year, rather than hacking the hedge with a borrowed petrol driven trimmer, I decided to use hand shears. It wasn’t exactly early in the trimming season so it took a while and some effort to get the job done. A passing pickup even pulled over and offered to do the job in five minutes for twenty quid. I just said “no thanks”, rather than explain that time wasn’t the issue. Hedge trimming became more than a chore or a job to be quickly done. It became something to take care over and appreciate.

This spring the hedge rewarded my efforts by being absolutely covered in white flowers. In my mind this is due to the more constant attention I was giving it last year. New shoots never got very long if they were directed out of the hedge. Regularly trimming meant that the border of the hedge grew denser and I suspect allowed the flower buds to develop on its surface. Well that’s my working theory. So this year the hedge has been getting weekly attention. Well nearly weekly attention. For some reason yesterday had been two weeks since the last cut. This mean the spikey new growth had reached a length of six inches or more rather than three or four. It’s the sort of length that requires an effort to tidy up a bit, normally I let the cuttings disperse naturally. Another reason to make it weekly then.

I know it is unusual, but I enjoy my hedge trimming using hand shears. It doesn’t take long really, maybe thirty minutes and I find the result satisfying. I hope that there are some bird nests hidden away in there somewhere, though maybe the frequency of cutting puts the birds off. We have had nests before which were uncovered by the electric trimmer much to the shock of the birds and myself. Unfortunately the birds seemed to abandon nest when they became exposed. Hand trimming avoids this situation at least. The neighbours seem to like my efforts too and shout “good job” over the road at me, but really hedge trimming is about doing something I enjoy and doing it well. It helps me feel good about myself.