Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners

Pruning and Care of Privet Hedges

Privet Hedges

Winter-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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