Questions received about Privet
Q. We have a very long privet
hedge that skirts all three sides to our garden. It
is about 3ft - 4 ft high but has got very wide and is encroaching
on our beds too much. How and when do we prune it. We will
need to prune hard, any tips on how we tackle it please.
A. Privet can take very
hard pruning, so no real worries about damaging it. Leave
it until it's showing signs of spring growth first though.
I'd do it a side at a time, prune the side that is causing
the greatest encroachment first, and then when that has
greened up again, prune the other side. You can do both
at the same time, but the plants then have to draw entirely
on their reserves rather than being "powered"
by the leafy side, the hedge also looks very threadbare
until new leaves have grown.
Q. My privet
hedge has been diagnosed as having a fungus or twig blight.
My landscaper said I should cut this 10 foot row of shrubs
down to 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall and it will grow back. Do you
really think it will?
A. Privet can
come back again strongly after being cut to ground level.
Make sure you remove all traces that you cut back out of
the garden, so as not to re-infect again. I'd also drench
the area with a fungicide to help kill any residual fungus.
Q.Are there any climbing
plants which will grow through a privet hedge and will withstand
the usual clipping? Possibly a vigorous clematis or honeysuckle?
I can't cut down my shared privet hedges but I desperately
want to make them even the tiniest bit more attractive,
especially as they have been cut back very hard this year
as they'd been neglected in the past & look like
twigs at the moment.
A.Some climbers such as
those that you mention will withstand the regular cutting
that your privet hedge will get if they grow through it,
though I wouldn't do it myself. The plant will almost
certainly never flower, or at least not as well as it would
do otherwise. Whenever you cut the hedge/climber you'll
be removing resources that could be put into flowering and
possibly at some times of the year, the flower buds themselves.
Climbers growing through hedges only work in a very informal
setting with maybe a single annual cut, situation where
privet aren't really planted.
The good news on the other hand is that privet recovers
very well and very quickly from a severe cutting into bare
wood. Your hedge should be all bright and green again in
much less than the time it would take for a climber no matter
how vigorous to establish.
Q.We have a Privet Hedge,
approx 7 ft by 2-3 ft. Unsure of it's age. Early spring
after the spring growth had appeared, 2 plants curled up &
died. They had lost most of their leaves the previous autumn,
however when they sprouted in the spring we thought all
was OK. We had cleared all the ivy from around the base
of the plants the year B4 & thought maybe this had had
some effect. Now it seems that part of 2 other hedges are
also starting 2 die. They R not anywhere near the 2 plants
that died in the spring. Somebody suggested it was because
of a lack of water over the summer, however one of the hedges
is situated behind our herb garden and so was watered regularly
during the summer. The leaves now are a mix of dark purple
/ red and yellow / brown. Some of the plants show some new
green growth, others don't. They appear to have thinned
out quite considerably too as we can now see through to
the other side. Some of the old wood has a green soft coating
to it, like a thin moss.
Also a few months back I noticed some of the leaves had
curled up on themselves and turned black, with further investigation
I found a small cream coloured larva (3mm) inside the leaf
walls surrounded by what seemed to be digested black remains
of the inside of the leaf. I have not been able to find
help anywhere on what this might be. It doesn't leave
tunnels like a leaf miner, rather it just seems to eat everything
in between the 2 walls.
Please I don't know what to do next. I feel we are
in danger of losing all the hedge. It was last pruned late
spring / early summer and we've been afraid to touch
it since then. I have noticed a few other hedges in the
district looking somewhat the same, but there are others
which look fantastic. Is it worth putting down some Sequestered
Iron or spraying with a fungicide?
A. I think the leaf miners
you found are incidental rather than the cause of the problem,
they are not uncommon on privet. It sounds like either honey
fungus or wilt (a wonderfully vague term), both are fungal
diseases that will readily attack privet and cause the symptoms
you describe and over the time scale you describe. If it
is honey fungus, you should be able to find some of the
bracket-like fruiting bodies on the trunks of the plants.
Wilt is caused by one of a group of fungi that give no outward
signs other than the symptoms of the plant that is suffering.
In either case there is little you can really do directly.
Cut out all of the dead wood and stems and burn them, clean
pruning tools carefully afterwards so not to spread spores.
Clear under the plants of weeds, ivy, dead leaves and any
other debris and give the hedge a top-dressing of fish blood
and bone meal lightly forked in to help build up the strength.
I have to say though that the outlook is not very positive,
particularly as you say other hedges in the area are affected,
it seems like the disease is endemic and may re-infect.
Try my suggestions, but be aware that you may eventually
have to replace the hedge with something that has resistance
to the disease that is affecting it.
Q. We have an established
Privet Hedge of about 25ft in length. In the spring we noticed
bare patches appearing and thought it may be spring scorch.
How ever the bare patches have increased and now nearly
the whole hedge has mauve/blackened leaves. We have checked
for Honey Fungus and can find no sign of it. Some of the
leaves show sign of a bug attack but we believe this is
not connected. Any ideas on what is causing the bare patches?
A. Sounds very much
like a fungus of some kind, though difficult to tell without
seeing it. Honey fungus has sort of black "bootlaces"
under the soil and maybe under the bark too. The bugs sound
like opportunists on a struggling plant, privet have various
insects that attack them at the best of times.
What to do depends on how far gone it is, I'd strip
the dead regions for signs of disease and if they're
dead, cut them right back to a healthy region. Privet is
good at recovering and responds well to severe pruning.
If it's able to be saved, take care with hygiene, remove
all prunings from the garden, burn them or take them down
to the tip. Sweep up leaves from the base of the plants
and remove these also. Give the hedge a boost with blood,
fish and bonemeal or gromore and a good mulch of garden
compost or well rotted farmyard manure.
If it's really too late or it is honey fungus and
you have to remove the hedge, then replace with something
else instead and try to get rid of all roots too.
Q. We have an 30' long,
8' high privet hedge that was being invaded by Buckthorn.
At first we let the Buckthorn "stay" as it was
very thick and provided a good screen from the neighbors.
But this year the Buckthorn overtook more of the privet,
leading us to cut and remove all of the Buckthorn. This
has left us with a hedge with some serious gaps in it. What
suggestions do you have to make the hedge come back at its
fullest so that it can return to 100% privet.
Also, I just planted 25 cheyenne privet plants 2.5'
apart to make a nice hedge on my lot line. They are now
about 3-4' high after being in the ground about 2 months.
When is the best time to prune, and how much do we cut?
We ideally want a 6' high square-topped hedge.
A. Fortunately privet responds
well to renovation. It seems the wrong thing to do, but
you can stimulate it into growth by trimming lightly in
the areas that you want to re-grow. Also give it a mulch
if you have something available in large quantities and
a slow release fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone meal.
Also, watch out for re-growth of the buckthorn.
As for your new privet plants, I wouldn't touch them
until they're growing strongly in the spring, then trim
lightly to a neat shape and repeat every couple of months
through the summer. Imagine you're growing your hair
long but want it to always look well trimmed and groomed
Q. We have a very
long, old privet hedge which we are trying to nurture back
to full thickness. There is a lot of ivy growing at the
bottom, should this be removed (it does provide some 'filler'
at sparse bottom of hedge)?
A. Yes you should remove
the ivy as it will choke the bottom of the hedge and grow
up and compete with the privet if left. If there's any
small twigs at the bottom, trim by them by about 1/3rd next
spring which will stimulate them into growth. Privet is
very good at growing again from brown wood, exposing it
to light will help get it going - so remove the ivy.