We just bought a house and we have some shrubs and hedges we want to remove. What is the best way to remove them so that they don't grow back? We have some holly hedges, a very large cedar or juniper shrub, some boxwood, and some red tip photinias. We want to replace all of these shrubs/hedges with native plants and wildflowers, but we're not sure how to approach removing these, because some of these are very large. Should we cut down with a saw and then dig out the roots with shovels? Or after cutting down should we use some kind of weed killer or herbicide on the roots? We do want to replace with plants so we don't have to use much chemicals in the area if we don't have to, but we're not sure what the easiest way to do it would be. Thanks!
I usually just cut as low as I can with a saw (chain saw, hand saw or even a reciprocating saw). Then I use a shovel or spade to dig up what roots I can. I've never had problems with most shrubs growing back, especially the types you mention.
Before I cut down large shrubs, I may prune out many of the limbs which makes a heavy bush more managable.
Its hard work but think of it as exercise and you'll enjoy it better.
I'm not sure IF the hedges ect are a boundary dividing line that indicates the area of your plot size and the neighbours, IF you bound onto another property, have you told the neighbours what you intend to do with the line of greenery (hedges) that grow between your properties. as it may well be the case that you are in fact not allowed to remove this living marker.
Also have you considered just how barren the place will look for a good few years until you get your native / wild flowers growing after the lushness of the shrubbery plantings and the wildlife this supports all year round.
If the Answer to these questions is yes still want to remove all the greenery, then I would ask a few companies to give quotes for removing all the greenery, ask lots of questions (wee call it picking their brains) but ask things like, how do you intend removing all the branches, then do you dig by hand the roots, do you use killers on the roots left (IF ANY) do you bring in soil after the roots are removed as there will be very little soil left in that area. what is the guarantee that there will be no regrowth and how / what would they use to prevent this regrowth.
The once you have a better understanding of what / how the people trained to do this work would do the job, you may be able to tackle it yourself either by hiring machinery like root grubbers that remove the roots either by chewing them up or loosening them enough so you can get 2 people to rock the trunks and roots back and forward so they eventually come out whole.
Also ask what would be used to help feed and nourish the soil left behind as usually when you remove shrubs /trees after being growing a long time the soil is normally very deficient of any humus matter or goodness.
So this is not a job to be taken or done lightly thinking it takes a few hours hard work, the hard part is living with the empty space, the mess the lawn is in after this work, the months of building up the soil again to allow good growing conditions and also the change in view from inside the house can be quite frightening.
Please don't think I am trying to put you off, I am trying to point out some very important questions needing to be asked especially IF the Hedge belongs to your neighbour which is often the case here in UK, have a thought they might replace the removed hedge with a fence that will perhaps not allow enough light onto your soil to let flowers grow and maybe cast more shade than a living hedge.
Best of luck and hope this helps you out a bit.