Pruning Privet hedges

For many garderners, pruning privet hedges is less a chore, than a form of gentle therapy. The privet is one of the perfect plants for hedging. It has a history going back many hundreds of years and is (along with the buxus) the quintecentially British hedge. It is also very popular in American hedges and has great anti-deer properties.

One of the main reasons for its popularity is that privet is a tough as old boots. If your privet hedge needs reigning in, just get in there with hedge trimmers and give it a haircut.Think of cutting privet like you would cut a lawn, rather than a bush.

How to prune a privet hedge

When it comes to pruning privet, forget about the niceties of picking which stem to cut and which to leave. There is no need for fannying about. just choose a line and cut everything back to that level.

Firstly, prune early and often. Privet grows at temperatures above 9 degrees centigrade (much like lawn grass), so as soon as the hedge needs a trim, give it one. This will keep your bush compact and verdant.

I stake out a bit of string as a guide for extra neatness, but a gently undulating line is more natural looking and equally pleasing. I use a pair of ancient hedge trimmers (like a giant pair of wood-handled scissors) and spend a pleasant hour in the afternoon sunshine, snip, snip, snipping along the hedge.

Pruning tools

You might want to try the easier way of pruning privet, and it is true that electrical hedge trimmers make the whole task very quick and easy. Rather than Pruning privet hedges, you carve the privet hedge with an electric trimmer. This means you can curve it around trees, or make curves just for the fun of it. It really is like carving wood with a chainsaw, but without the effort. Privet is ideal for topiary, so if you want to create formal shapes or mythical animals using a privet, go ahead. The privet seems to thrive on the attention.

You only technically need to do this twice a year (anytime between late spring and mid autumn) and your privet will stay looking ok, but to keep it beautiful the lightest trims every eight weeks or so during the growing season will really give you a spectacular privet hedge. The privet hedge will burst with new growth as soon as a bit of sun hits it.

Privet Wilt and Honey Fungus

Verticillium Wilt has spread in the UK but most examples of privet bushes seem strong enough to cope given some tender administration by a caring gardener. The other major pest is Honey fungus which can infect a plant and slowly kill it. Again, privet is such a tough plant that many other species will succumb to local honey fungus before the privet hedges start dying back.

A liitle food, biannual trimming and stopping the local kids from 'hedge jumping' is all that a privet really needs. These are long lived plants and will just keep on growing. If you want to rejuvinate a privet, cut it back in winter to 6 inches from the ground. It sounds drastic, but the new growth will soom shoot up and out to give you a new small bush within a couple of years.