The road in front of our house is a steep hill that people like to zip their cars up and down at a pretty good clip. The only thing that stands between our front yard and the street is a privet hedge that provides a good degree of privacy as well as protection from the cars.
Over the course of twenty years, however, we’ve actually had two cars come through the hedge into the yard — once due to driver neglect in engaging the emergency brake and a second time due to the antics of neighborhood hoodlums. That hedge serves as an added buttress protecting our front yard from street traffic – and caring for that hedge requires regular maintenance.
One challenge we face is to maintain the shape of this beast. It likes to grow fat around the middle and top leaving the base narrow and bare. The dense upper growth doesn’t allow light and air to get inside, and the integrity of the hedge is at stake with this shape.
Fortunately, privet hedges can withstand heavy duty renovation. The best time to tackle a shearing is in late March or early April before the new growth starts. If you stretch out the rejuvenating process over three years by cutting back 1/3 of the stems each yeart to within two or three inches of the ground, you will keep the hedge healthy and controlled without losing its screening abilities.
After pruning, make sure to provide fertilizer and water during dry spells so the hedge can have the best possible conditions for repairing its wounds. For regular maintenance, take off half the previous season’s growth on the top as well as the sides in early spring, and shape again in mid-summer. You can also do a lighter trim at the end of summer as a touch up. Keep in mind that the best shape to maintain is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top.
text and car photo by Ann D. Travers
second photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/libbyrosof/2658815654/