A hedge is usually a manicured and shaped bush with dense tip foliage. It is meant to have only the new flushes of growth showing at the surface.
When you maintain a hedge at the same height for many years the soft leafy cushion at the top can’t been seen when you have just cut it again. All that can be seen are the leaves from previous seasons growth that usually look old and lacklustre.
Normally you would keep this soft flush of new growth between 5cm and 15 cm long. If not, the larger older leaves tend to be the only ones that are showing, and the hedge loses its appeal.
Usually when I see a branch between pencil and cigar thickness showing at the hedge level, I tend to cut it between 10 and 15cm below the desired level of hedge. But in some circumstances the whole surface of the hedge will only have room to show 1cm of new flush of growth and behind that the older leaves.
This is time to cut the plant back about 15cm from the desired level of the hedge and let it grow back. Usually you would do this in active growing season. Here on the Gold Coast/ sub tropical east coast, this would be anywhere between September and mid- May.
Remove by hand any dead wood that will snap off . Cut back any dead branches to where it is alive on the branch. Most of the work you will be doing will involve using secateurs and heavy duty loppers. With this heavier work the wood being cut is usually too thick for any type of hedge shears.
Be careful in dry times. Some plants do not respond to pruning past the green wood, meaning the limb can die off. This can often happen to plants like grevilleas and other softer types of foliage.
Now that you have cut back your hedge a little more than you were comfortable with doing, all you have to do is wait. It might look like a hedge of ugly twigs, in a few months it will look new again. When you prune it, it will look like a well loved hedge once again.