old privet hedge in need of some help!

beautifulboy(6-Coastal MA)March 25, 2010

We have three old privet hedges in our yard, they've been around since my dad bought the house in 1978 and are presumed to be much older. I need some guidance on how to restore them back to their former privet glory

#1: (the small one) very very very bad - scraggly and bare-- so yesterday I gathered some courage and took the whole thing down to about 1'. I am hoping that with some love it will grow back. How often should I trim this one this summer?

#2+3 - both bare-ish and weedy, could each probably stand to be taken down to re-grow also, but I want see how #1 does before taking such drastic measures - or maybe I can help them without cutting it all down. I've read that if I cut out the bare shoots from the interior of the hedge, effectively thinning it out, those shoots will grow back with more outgrowth and make the hedge more dense. It looks like those shoots are also the youngest ones. Is this the right thing to do? Cutting the younger shoots worries me.

also #2+3 - these are also crooked, if I trim each hedge down 1-2' (from 6' to 4' tall, for ex) and begin to shave the outside to straighten can I just chop off some of the outside surface- making the hedge narrower and straighter - or will I ruin it?

One more note-- I have seen neighbors' hedges trimmed down drastically to halfway and then grown up again, resulting in a thickness of new growth at that halfway point where the hedge was chopped and then cared for. Is there any way to avoid this ? Or would I have to take the whole hedge down to ankle-height again to achieve uniformity?

many thanks

: )

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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

There are a lot of ways you can attack this, but the big question is, what do you see as "their former privet glory". Are you after tall, thick, ground-up hedges, and how tall? Or something looser and more shrubby?

This whole process may take a year or six to get where you want. Be patient.

#1, I think you did right. If it was in this bad a shape, it will make it or not. And I wouldn't "trim it" this year. At most, I would clip off the the growing tips to encourage branching. When the others are recouped, you can always move privets in here, if needed.

#2&3, you are right to be concerned about taking out the new growth. This kind of thinning out works well for a well-tended healthy hedge. If it has gotten out of hand over time, and there are tallish, thick woody stems that are not producing lots of branches, then what needs to be cut back... judiciously.... is the old thick woody growth.

This will encourage new sprouts from the ground. But they will be "desperation sprouts"... Clip back a couple of nodes to encourage branching, and let them be.

The original hedge was not created fast. You also can't recoup it fast. Be patient.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 9:14PM
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beautifulboy(6-Coastal MA)

Thanks for the response Linda -

I would really like these hedges to have some order, to have no gaps, and to be nice even and green. #2 doesn't have to be tall, along with the hedge I already cut down it edges my garden on two sides so I'd like it to be 3-4 feet. The other one, #3 is REALLY the problem one and it's the one I'm currently ignoring....

Instead of cutting it all down at once do you think it will help to cut the woody branches with no growth selectively? Or am I just chickening out here.

Also, will the hedge stubs that were left after I cut #1 down grow into the little hedge balls that I see in people's yards? I imagine that they will grow fuzzy and green independently for a while before they get big enough to touch again and make one big wide hedge.

One final (desperate, maybe) thought - Should I just start over? I like the hedges and they go well in our yard with our house.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 10:26PM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

First of all, don't worry about the little "hedge balls" (wry grins). People have to work very consistently to make those strange things happen. I've never figured out why they would want to....

One question that matters: Are these hedges in a lot more shade than when they were first planted? Are there large trees casting heavy shade? If not, then the hedges can be recouped. If so, let me know.

(Wish I could stand there and take a look at the different hedges.... Here's the best I can do to explain the dynamics.)

When you cut the aboveground parts back, the roots put out new aboveground shoots, as many as they can manage. Each shoot will try to grow "straight up" as fast as possible. When the shoots get to be about half the height you want the hedge to be, cut off the growing end, above a set of leaves. This will get that shoot to put out branches all along the stem. It will bush out, and continue to add more height as well.

When it comes to the old woody parts of the hedge, it can be a balancing act. You need to leave *some* aboveground parts to feed the roots, so they can put out the new productive shoots. But you need to get the non-productive stuff out. If the old woody thick stems have younger sprouts coming up from the ground around them, then take a deep breath, and cut the old-thicks to the ground.

If that part of the hedge is mostly old-woody, without much in the way of other younger shoots.... Gets trickier. If that's the situation, let me know.

"Starting over" is not a crazy thing, but it probably would take at least as long to get something like decent hedges back. And they would not be your dad's hedges...

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 9:34PM
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I too have old privets, about 18' tall, that run the width of my yard (150 feet) and provide privacy from the homes behind us. Over the last several years, they have become progressively worse and worse with many many dead clusters throughout. I have unspecified vinery climbing which i try to get at the base, cut and kill, and remove from the hedges. I cut a small section out about 5 years ago and planted a couple new ones, that never really gained height. The entire thing is troubling to me, as they are far too significant in size for me to remove, nor do I want to if they can recover. Do I remove the dead bunches to encourage growth. Do I take height off of them. Shoud I be trimming the front surface of these so they are not hanging heavily from the upper branches. Do they need food, water, a clean ground beneath them? I realize this is a bunch of questions, but I am desperate to save these. ALSO, the temps are in the 90's now in August 2012, in New Jersey, so I imagine this is a fall/spring project? Thank you for all who have knowledge with this.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 10:42AM
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