Pruning and Care of Privet Hedges
Privet HedgesWinter-killed privet hedges.
In the great majority of cases when California privet hedges are winter-killed nothing is done. The result is that the plants either die outright or make but a feeble and patchy recovery. Where the injury has been severe, if left untreated, they never become as satisfactory as those properly treated.
It is best to cut such hedges as close as possible to the ground and start afresh. Of course, it goes against the grain to cut down a hedge that has perhaps been the best trained in the community. The owner is tempted to wait just a little longer to see if it won't recover but the delay always results in either a dead hedge or a patchy lot of bushes unworthy of the name hedge.
When cutting is done as soon as the winter-killed condition is determined, new growths come up promptly and, by trimming four or five times during the summer result in as beautiful a hedge as before-developed in one season!
As it is natural for trees and shrubs that have been severely cut back to make exceedingly rapid growth of new shoots, such a hedge will doubtless reach its previous size in two or three years, whereas the first one took perhaps six to grow. This is because 100% of root is active to develop the new top.
The correct form for a hedge, especially of privet is A-shape, with either a peaked or a narrow, flat, or rounded top, oblique straight or slightly convex sides, and a base that broadens year by year. This form permits the leaves on even the bottom branches to get light and thus prevent the dying of those near the ground. When made flat topped and with vertical sides the upper branches shade the lower ones and kill them. From two to five clippings during the growing season will keep the hedge in this ideal form.
About the only thing that can be done to and for hedges not properly handled after having been winterkilled is to cut out the dead wood, going back to parts still living so the hedge when trimmed will present a fairly uniform outline from end to end. Though this trimming may be done after growth starts it will usually be better to wait till the following spring because the living parts will then have had the full growing season to store up food for the start at that time and because few or no new shoots can be properly developed so late in the season as May or June. Those that may be forced from May forward will probably be killed the following winter because they will be only partially matured.
Old, unsightly, ragged privet hedges may often be rejuvenated by being cut close to the ground in early spring. If the plants have vitality enough they will make a good growth by late spring and may be trained as suggested above.
In all cases it will help recovery to feed the injured or old hedges with a complete fertilizer rich in potash and superphosphate but not excess of nitrogen.
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