details about renovating a hedge (privet)?

linaria_gwJanuary 13, 2012

Hi there,

we got an allotment/ garden plot since last year with abot 6 yards of privet hedge in one corner. All in all ok, just somewhat a little too tall and wide. I want to take it back from about 3-4 feet wide to about 2 f (within 2 seasons).

And I am clear about timing and tools and all,

BUT the detail: I read in several books that you should rigg up some kind of batter board /template in order to get an even outline or shape, which in my case is tapering/ getting more narrow towards the top, prefarably in an regular angle and smooth surface.

So to make it clearer a pic of the hedge, with added coloring

Red: present outline or profile of the hedge

Purple: planned outline (well, roughly) and template/ batter board made out of roof lathe/ tiling batten/ timber batten

Pale blue: position of string/ wire to cut along at it

now, I wonder how you would do this. I thoght I put in 3 templates-thingies. The one at the end and front would be easy, the one in the middle bothers me. I would need to sqeeze it somehow into the hedge with it beeing aligned with the two other and of exactly the same built.

As fort he actual pruning: I planned to use wire and attach it to those timber frames, moving it from bottom to top in measured bits and prune working from one side to the other. OK, part of the fun is to put theory to practice, and now ist he first time that I can lay hands on a hedge and do this.

Any thoughts or pointers or what I should avoid? Has someone done this before and could help with the actual constructional drawing? Thanks a lot, bye, Lin

ps: sorry, couldnt find a better pic of the hedge

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

IMHO ...

you totally renovate it.. which is usually a 3 year project... but which can be done in 2 ...

and i would go at least twice the distance down from your goal ...

and then in the 3rd year.. you start training it back up ...

never head of template theory .... sounds like an unnecessary cost ...

you can not do this at height.. everywhere you cut one branch.. 2 to 4 will sprout ... and at height.. you will end up with excessive growth .. which will have the tendency to flop ... ergo ... you go lower.. and then train up ...

i hate privet .. too many years of clipping.. pruning.. training.. etc ... if it were me... i would cut it to 6 inches from the ground .... and regenerate it from there ...

in the mean time .. if a sight block is important.. i would put in a couple 2 x 2 posts.. and rig up a burlap screen .... or even just string.. and train some morning glories across it ... or cukes .. or peas .. think about using the vertical space for whatever you grow in your plot... think outside the privet box ..

again .... for personal hatred ... i dont understand why you want to save the privets invasion of your allotment ... couldnt that space be put to better use in your limited garden?????

whatever you decide/do .. good luck ...


    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 8:11AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Cutting a hedge with a batter like that it standard practice, especially in areas with snow as it stops the hedge splaying out under the weight. For such a short hedge I'd be tempted just to do it by eye rather than making a frame. But for a really good result a frame is probably best. As Ken suggested I'd cut a little further back than you want eventually and it will grow back to you required size.

Ken - I expect the hedge is for privacy, possibly even the boundary of the plot. Remember we are a bit cramped over here in Europe and we need something to hide behind.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hedge cutting

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 12:20PM
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Hi flora,
thanks for the neat link, yes, exactly an privacy-hedge. And yes, we are somewhat cramped even though our plott is almost twice as wide (ca. 10 yards) as the average terraced house garden around here.
And, Ken, peas or cukes would not do, next folks are just feet away.
And I definetely keep it as I am quite fond of it, slightly oldfashioned garden classic or something, native, good insect plant and not really killable.

I read somewhat more and pondered it, so I think, I will do step 1, cutting back one side (and the top?) + thinning out just by eye. And if it really grabs me I build a batter to form the new growth in 2013.

Thanks a lot, bye, Lin

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 5:51PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Not to overdo the topic, but I think your plan to do half will work out great. If you cut the outermost stems back to about a foot or less and then cut a few center stems at two to four feet, your hedge should be fine in a year..... pretty much what others have already said.... I had an overgrown (12+ feet) hedge that came back and looked respectable again in just a couple months (at a nicer height of 6 feet) The same fast growth and trimming etc that brought on Ken's hate is what makes privet easy and fast hedges.

And the batter is also so more light hits the bottom.... since the top naturally wants to take over.
Use a string or light piece of bamboo as a trimming guide, the template sounds like it might be a bit too much.

Frank (who misses his hedge)

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 9:14PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

as always.. i was simply suggesting that the OP look outside the privet box... should she wish to stay inside of it.. fine with me ...

if you are going to prune.. do so properly ...

selectively choose branches deep with in ... and prune properly at a branch node ... opening large areas where light can get into the interior ... this will allow the new buds that break .. to start growing inside ... the key is that you have to prune back 3 to 8 inches further back.. than where you will want the shrub to ultimately be ...

and then.. by fall.. you can remove more branches... opening more spaces.. and giving the previous areas more room to grow ...

if you simply shear it back 6 or 8 inches.. you may end up with more problems than you started with

i fear the words alone fail in describing the process .. maybe others can improve on such

check out the link ...

live your privet dreams.. and good luck


Here is a link that might be useful: not too bad ... to bad he didnt show how it looked when he was done

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 10:20AM
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Hi there, Ken, thanks for he link. Lurk a lot at the GW and love your swift answers, often pointing to some crucial aspects. And I will do the pruning and thinning out properly. I sometimes give workshops on pruning and always despair when being confronted with a sheared, not pruned, shrub.
And I have to fess up, I am a kind of tool person, got some nice Felco stuff (saws, secateurs), plus last year a pair of hedge clippers (manual) by Fiskars, got them for myself after the birth of my second child. Actually last season I just managed to have a go with them at the hedge exactly once, being busy with the little ones most of the time.

And I recon, 5 yards of hedge isn't really that much, kind of a pet hedge, so even if it grows quickly, its still doable. Cant find my notes, but I think I clocked the time needed for pruning plus cleaning up with under an hour.

and privet dream, funny that you mention it:
a while ago I was in Denmark, and we had a look at a patch of old allotments, founded in the early/mid 20th century. And they weren't the regular rectangles for maximum use of space, but ovals or egg shape strewn about on a giant lawn. The ovals were bordered/lined by breast high privet hedges in mint condition: foliage/leaves really tiny by constant pruning, and the top not square but rounded and somewhat pointed.

Well, looking forward to pruning the privet soon (snow drops started flowering already), perhaps I manage some before-after-snaps,

bye, Lin

ps: found even a website about the allotments with 2 clicks, scroll down a little bit for nice pics

Here is a link that might be useful: oval privet alottments

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 5:08PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I hope you do take a few before and after pictures, they're always fun to look at.

You inspired me to take a little trip down memory lane and log into the old photobucket account. Here's the overgrown hedge shortly after we purchased the "house"

Here's the following spring after I went along the base and chopped the whole near side down to stubs and the center down to about half height. (I gained about 5 feet along that side of the yard once the bushes were trimmed back!)

The next spring I wacked back the neighbor's side (he loved me from that day on), and here's a picture two or three years later after it had grown back.....
hmmmm, several of the other pictures I looked at showed a non-trimmed hedge. I guess i didn't keep up with it as much as I thought.

I think I need to plant a privet hedge here at the new house, and after seeing the allotment link ( I love the oval hedges), I might do a curved hedge.

Oh and thanks for the youtube link. I wasted at least an half hour looking at random hedge and landscaping videos.....

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 10:07PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i like those last two pix. where a random pile of lumber turned into a glorious deck .. lol ...

i also like the patience kato showed .. i understand it was simple to get angry enough to go out there and .. as you said ... wack it back ... but it takes a lot of faith .. to understand.. that it will take a few years to turn back into a nice hedge ... the wack is an investment in the future ...

and that faith.. is what a lot of the posts from newbies lack ... and look to us to provide ...


    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 9:44AM
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I currently have a 7' tall privet hedge surrounding my corner property. I want to cut it back to about 4-5' so I don't have to use a ladder to trim it. I read everyone's post about structures and what-not, but was wondering if I could just cut the hedge down to the 5' level and have the new growth of spring replace the cut-off tops?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 11:42AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


you should start your own post.. and add some pix ...

but the answer is NO ..

you would cut it a foot or two shorter.. so as to achieve the 5 feet ... with the new growth ...

and unless you are 7 feet tall.. you might want to rethink 5 feet ... using hedge trimmers AT shoulder level.. can be VERY DIFFICULT ...

if you need more info... we would need pix.. of the situation...


    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 11:50AM
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