- 06 Sep 2009
A Couple of points: I'm assuming we're talking about cherry laurel, prunus laurocerasus. If so, it has a surge of growth in late April and May, so whenever you prune it, it will look pretty bare until then. Because of this, I always plan to do any hard pruning of laurels in March or thereabouts, as the new growth follows very quickly. If you don't mind it looking bare for a few months, I don't think it matters much when you prune it, as it's a tough plant with great powers of recovery.
I have pruned mature laurel hedges right down to the ground, and they've promptly regrown. And I've made a bonfire of all the outturn - pretty smoky when it's fresh, but it burns very well nonetheless. I've never heard of anyone suffering from the ill-effects of the smoke, although no doubt inhaling any smoke is best avoided.
The leaves are very slow to break down, and I'm told they inhibit the germination of other seeds. However, the wood and leaves shred very easily. I've mixed shredded laurel leaves and branches with other compostable material and produced good compost. Another thing I've done is to simply put all the leaves and branches back, as a mulch, under the hedge. That works fine.
The other thought that occurs is that, if your local council has a garden refuse collection scheme, and you're planning to cut the hedges back over the winter, you could feed the outturn bit by bit to the council.