Originating from the Mediterranean, laurels are broadleaved evergreen bushes commonly used as hedges, borders and privacy screens. Left to grow naturally, the bushes grow 2.5 to 6 metres (8 to 20 feet) tall, depending on the variety. When grown in a garden, the hedges require frequent trimming and pruning to maintain shape and size, and control spread. Trim your laurel hedge to form a square top so it looks neat, tidy and enhances the appeal of the landscape.
Pound a wooden stake into the ground on each corner of the laurel hedge with a mallet. Use a level to make sure your stakes are plumb. The tops of the stakes should be slightly higher than the hedge.
Tie string between the stakes along the long edge of the hedge, about 15 cm (6 inches) above the ground. The string determines the depth you want to cut, so keep it taut.
Tie the string to a corner stake, 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) below the top of the laurel hedge. Run a string to the next stake and use a spirit level to get it horizontal. Repeat the process along the other two corner stakes at the other side of the hedge.
Spread a tarpaulin or old sheet under the hedge to collect clippings. Place a stepladder on a side and climb it to access the top of a tall laurel hedge. Position the hedge shears parallel to the top of the hedge and begin to cut growth using the two top strings as a guide. Clip off branches that extend beyond the top strings.
Trim the sides of the laurel hedge, using the upper and lower strings as guides.
Trim laurel bushes anytime of the year.
Unlike pruning that drastically changes the shape of the hedge, maintenance trimming only cuts wayward growth to maintain appearance.